Pine Ridge Man Sentenced to Life in Federal Prison for Killing Three People
For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, District of South Dakota
RAPID CITY - United States Attorney Alison J. Ramsdell announced today that Chief Judge Roberto A. Lange, U.S. District Court, has sentenced a Pine Ridge, South Dakota, man convicted of three counts of First Degree Murder, three counts of Discharge of a Firearm During a Crime of Violence, and one count of Possession of a Firearm and Ammunition by a Prohibited Person. The sentencing took place on December 14, 2023.
Elijah West, age 26, was sentenced to life in prison on each count of First-Degree Murder and an additional ten years for each firearm charge, all to run consecutively. In total, West received three life sentences plus an additional 30 years’ custody. West was also ordered to pay a $700 special assessment to the Federal Crime Victims Fund.
In the evening hours of January 4 into the early hours of January 5, 2022, West entered a trailer near Wounded Knee, South Dakota, where a group of people had gathered around a kitchen table to visit. West briefly spoke with the group before he removed a firearm from his waistband and, completely unprovoked, fired upon and killed three innocent people. West then ordered a fourth person at gun point to find him a ride to a separate residence in Manderson, South Dakota. After arriving at that residence, West left with another individual. As soon as West left, the party called 911 to report the shooting. West was arrested in the early hours of January 5, 2022, and law enforcement recovered the murder weapon in his possession.
West was indicted by a federal grand jury in January of 2022 and was found guilty on all charges by a jury following a five-day jury trial in Rapid City in September 2023.
“This case stands out as a particularly heinous example of human depravity,” said U.S. Attorney Alison J. Ramsdell. “The defendant committed unspeakable acts of violence for which no sentence would ever be sufficient, but we hope these three life sentences, which must be served consecutively, give the victims’ families some measure of closure as they grieve the senseless loss of their loved ones. We are grateful to our partners at the FBI and the Oglala Sioux Tribe’s Department of Public Safety for their relentless investigative efforts.”
"It is our duty to bring justice and answers to grieving Tribal communities,” said FBI Minneapolis Special Agent in Charge Alvin M. Winston Sr. “The investigation of West, and his life sentences, stand as a testament to the collaboration and dedication of the FBI, the Oglala Sioux Tribe Department of Public Safety Criminal Investigation Division, and the United States Attorney’s Office to bring justice to victims of violent crimes in Indian County. The FBI and its partners will investigate and hold accountable those who show such a callous disregard for innocent lives."
This matter was prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office because the Major Crimes Act, a federal statute, mandates that certain violent crimes alleged to have occurred in Indian Country be prosecuted in Federal court as opposed to State court.
This case is part of Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN), a program bringing together all levels of law enforcement and the communities they serve to reduce violent crime and gun violence, and to make our neighborhoods safer for everyone. On May 26, 2021, the Department launched a violent crime reduction strategy strengthening PSN based on these core principles: fostering trust and legitimacy in our communities, supporting community-based organizations that help prevent violence from occurring in the first place, setting focused and strategic enforcement priorities, and measuring the results.
This case was investigated by the FBI and the Oglala Sioux Tribe Department of Public Safety Criminal Investigation Division. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Sarah B. Collins and Benjamin Patterson prosecuted the case.
West was immediately remanded to the custody of the U.S. Marshals Service.
Updated December 15, 2023
Project Safe Neighborhoods
Indian Country Law and Justice