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Luke Hagen, Forum News Service, Published October 24 2013

Suspect in horse shootings denies allegations of racism by Native Americans

LAKE ANDES, S.D. — The Johanneson name had already been in the news this week before a family member revealed that a dead body found Tuesday was on their land.

Also Tuesday, a court proceeding was held in the Charles Mix County Courthouse for Ray Johanneson, who is accused of shooting a neighbor’s horses.

When asked Thursday in an interview whether he shot the horses, he replied, “I won’t say. That’s for the lawyers to figure out.”

Johanneson is accused of shooting five horses — four of which reportedly died — on July 23 that belonged to his neighbors Lori Abdo-Smith and Charlie Smith. Johanneson is white, and Abdo-Smith is a member of the Yankton Sioux Tribe. Some Native Americans have alleged the crime was racially motivated.

Johanneson said he is not racist and noted that he has employed Native Americans on his farm.

“I’ve got nothing against any Native Americans or anybody else,” he said.

Johanneson said he’s been dealing with his neighbor’s horses on his property and has been trying to get something done about it for five years. He said the horses were roaming his property, including his cornfields, and were as far as five miles away from their home. He said he once received a call at 6 a.m. and found 27 horses in his cornfield.

“It’s just free rein, wherever they want to go,” Johanneson said. “During the summer they were always in the crops, and destroying the crops.”

He said he’s tried to talk to Abdo-Smith and Smith, who live south of him, but no one will come out of the house. He said he’s talked to Abdo-Smith once in the past three years.

During court proceedings Tuesday, Magistrate Judge Gordon Swanson set a January trial date. Johanneson faces five misdemeanor counts of killing or injuring an animal of another.

Attorney Tim Whalen pleaded not guilty on Johanneson’s behalf Tuesday.