STURGIS — The mom of a Sturgis teen injured in an assault Tuesday in Sturgis said her daughter is scared, unable to sleep and emotionally traumatized by the incident.
Ursla Ward confirmed that her daughter, a freshman at Sturgis Brown High School, was assaulted by several other girls about 4 p.m. Tuesday near the Sturgis Community Center.
Sturgis Police Chief Geody VanDewater and Meade School District Superintendent Jeff Ward said the two agencies have teamed to investigate the assault.
“(She) was brutally dragged from a car and beaten by girls who were supposed to be her best friends,” Ward said.
But most disturbing to Ward was that other people stood around and watched the beating, some cheering and laughing. Others shot video with their cellphones.
One six-second video shows two young women yank Ward’s daughter from the front seat of a vehicle. They push her up against the SUV and each rears back and punches her in the face. Ward’s daughter then crumples to the ground.
She said once her daughter regained her composure she drove back to the high school and called a teammate on a Spearfish club soccer team who drove to Sturgis to help.
Another parent called Ward then took the girl to the emergency room at Monument Health Sturgis Hospital. Ward was out of town working when the incident happened.
Once Ward reached Sturgis, she hailed down a police officer, told him what had happened and asked him to accompany her to the hospital.
Ward said her daughter suffered bruises, but no hemorrhaging and had no concussion.
“She spent most of last night and good part of today in shock. She slept with me all night crying, trembling and shaking. She is emotionally traumatized,” Ward said late Wednesday.
Ward said her daughter had been bullied before about five years ago, and again last Friday night when there was an altercation between her daughter and some other girls at Spearfish.
It all stems from jealousy over a boy, Ward said.
Who may be at fault in this situation could be difficult to determine, and Ward said there are always multiple perspectives to an issue.
“But nothing ever warrants this type of behavior,” she said.
Ward hopes that both the police and school officials take quick and decisive action on the matter.
“They need to be leaders. We cannot tolerate this,” Ward said.
VanDewater issued a statement Wednesday via social media saying the Sturgis Police Department was aware of the video being shared around social media of an assault.
“We are currently investigating the incident. This is an on-going investigation and it involves juveniles so we will not be releasing any details, VanDewater said.
VanDewater did say the integrity of the case had been jeopardized by all the social media posts surrounding the assault.
“We do have suspects, and we are working closely with the school district,” he said.
Superintendent Simmons said the physical and emotional safety of children in the Meade School District are the district’s priorities.
“We are working on investigating the incident and putting the time in that is necessary to get to the bottom of this situation,” he said.
And, he added, it would be foolish and naïve for the school district to think that just because the incident happened off school grounds that they shouldn’t be involved.
It has caused a significant disruption to the environment at Sturgis Brown High School, Simmons said.
“It has taken away teachers’ ability to teach and students’ ability to learn,” he said. “It will take a tremendous amount of effort and time to get this situation resolved.”
Ward said she was flooded with a myriad of emotions when she watched the video of the beating.
“I was furious and then I was quite sad,” she said.
Simmons said he, too, was saddened and disturbed by the video.
“I’m heartbroken when I see our children involved in violent acts,” he said.
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