ROSEBUD, S.D. (KELO) — Just days before Thanksgiving last year, Matthew Haukaas was pulled over by police in Rosebud. Nobody saw or heard from the young father of three until his body was discovered in a creek nine days later.
What happened to Matt in between the police stop to when his body was found is still not known and his family wants answers from local and federal authorities.
According to Matt’s sister, Addie Haukaas, after her brother was pulled over, he ran from the vehicle and an officer chased after him for a short time.
A few days after the traffic stop, Addie said her family became worried that nobody had heard from Matt. She called the jail and even tried to process a money order, thinking he could be in holding.
“And they said he wasn’t in there,” Addie said.
Once a week had passed, Addie and her siblings really began to worry.
Addie and her sister drove around searching for Matt when they had time, but they didn’t find anything. Eventually, they decided to file a missing person’s report. Addie went to the Rosebud police and spoke with an officer, giving him all the information that she had.
“He wouldn’t you know, just, go ghost or anything. He wouldn’t just fall off the face of the earth,” Addie said.
After filing the police report on December 2, Addie and her family began searching the area around where Matt was pulled over. They searched at the top of the hill near the Rosebud Elementary School and eventually found one of Matt’s shoes.
As they continued to search on December 3, Addie said they learned on Facebook about a body found in the valley near where they were looking. As they drove down the hill, they noticed tribal law enforcement near the houses at the bottom of the hill. Addie said some officers tried to keep them away from the creek, but they were able to make it to the edge.
“He was laying in the creek and it was like they were trying to keep us out of there,” Addie recalled.
Addie and her family were told the cause of death was drowning and Matt didn’t have any visible trauma on his body. While showing KELOLAND News where her brother’s body was found, Addie questioned how he could have made it from the top of the hill to the bottom of the creek with no injuries as it is almost a vertical drop with no clear path down from where he was pulled over.
The case was turned over to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and Addie and her family anxiously awaited answers on what happened.
KELOLAND News reached out to the FBI on Matt’s case.
“A full investigation was conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Investigation was completed and submitted to USAO office. The FBI case is closed,” said Cyndi Barrington, Public Affairs Officer for the FBI division in Minneapolis, in an email to KELOLAND News on Thursday, August 11.
Aileen Crawford with the United States Attorney’s Office said that as no federal offense occurred, no charges were filed.
Despite the case being closed, Addie and her sister, Julie, do not feel they have answers about what happened to Matt. They’ve been in contact with Ollin Law in Los Angeles, who is working to investigate the case.
Ollin Law is a firm that specializes in human rights and justice litigation focusing specifically on police departments and prisons.
“We spoke to the family and they were feeling like they were being stonewalled there by the local agencies not wanting to share information and police reports. We told them that we would need these documents in order to thoroughly evaluate the case,” attorney Salomon Zavala said.
The law firm has been filing Freedom of Information Act requests and going through available documents to help the family determine what happened to Matt.
“The case is wrought with all sorts of indicia of negligence of maybe even, you know, police cover up, but just definitely at the very, very minimum, very sloppy and shoddy police investigation with respect to what happened to him,” Zavala said.
While in Rosebud, KELOLAND News met with tribal law enforcement. They declined to discuss any specific cases, open or closed, with our crews.
Gino Ollin with the law firm said that it appears to be “open season” in Indian Country with the number of cases involving violence, drugs and Missing and Murdered Indigenous People.
Right now, the firm is providing support to the Haukaas family and gathering as much information as possible on the case to see whether it warrants a lawsuit or further action.
Remembering Uncle Matt
In the months since his death, Addie has felt angry at her brother’s death. But she wants the world to remember him the way their family does: A funny and kind man.
“He was well-respected not only in our community but our whole rez,” Addie said.
Julie Haukaas misses her “other half” as she was extremely close with her brother.
“It sucks, man, like me and my brother we were, were like a yin and yang. He called me panda,” Julie said.
After Matt’s death, Julie decided to look up Matthew 6:14 in the Bible as it was the date of Matt’s birthday, June 14. As a religious man, they wanted a verse to remember him by.
“For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you don’t forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”Matthew 6:14
Reading that gave Julie chills.
Both sisters have found comfort in the words and carry their memories of Matt with them every day, passing them along to his three sons and many nieces and nephews.
“I’ll always live with the question of why my baby brother died,” Addie said. “I pray no family ever has to deal with what mine has. It totally broke our family.”