FARMINGTON — The FBI is investigating a St. Patrick's Day incident involving a fired San Juan County Sheriff's deputy who beat an American Indian in the head with a flashlight.

Dale Frazier, a nearly five-year veteran of the Sheriff's Office, was captured on video striking Donovan Tanner, 22, in the head and neck at least five times with his department-issued Maglite flashlight. Images captured on the deputy's in-car camera depict Frazier slamming Tanner onto the patrol car face up and holding him down with the Maglite on Tanner's neck.

He struck Tanner twice in the side of the face while he was on the hood of the patrol car before hitting the man several more times after he fell to the ground.

Frazier was fired April 22, following a more than three-week internal investigation in which he remained on paid administrative leave.

An FBI spokesman confirmed the federal agency was looking into the incident, but he declined to comment on the specifics of the investigation.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Elizabeth Martinez also declined to confirm or deny whether there was an ongoing investigation, per agency policy, she said.

The incident captured the attention of the Navajo Nation Human Rights Commission, which claimed the beating was a "clear demonstration" of police brutality against American Indians by law enforcement in the Farmington area.

Leonard Gorman, executive director for the commission, was not available for comment Tuesday.


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Tanner filed a civil lawsuit April 21 against the county, Frazier, Deputy Terry McCoy and Farmington Police Officer Misty Taylor, in which he cited numerous civil rights violations that were motivated largely by race.

The county settled with Tanner for $250,000.

Frazier filed a grievance appealing his termination and Tanner is expected to testify today in the hearing, County Attorney Doug Echols said.

Despite the ongoing federal investigation, Frazier continues to make himself available to testify in cases that he was involved with before he was terminated, Chief Deputy District Attorney Dustin O'Brien said Tuesday.

Frazier had 34 open cases pending when he was placed on leave after the flashlight beating.

"We anticipate he may make a claim that he has a Fifth Amendment right not to testify depending on what issues are raised," O'Brien said of the state's ongoing criminal cases involving Frazier. "But as of now, the courts have been limiting what he can be asked about that is not related to that particular offense."

Elizabeth Piazza:

epiazza@daily-times.com