Michael Nakai pleads guilty to assaulting officer during traffic stop



FARMINGTON — An Arizona man has admitted to kicking a Navajo Nation officer in the face near Shiprock as the officer attempted to arrest the man for driving under the influence of alcohol.

Michael Nakai, 33, of Red Rock, Ariz., pleaded guilty Thursday in Federal Court in Albuquerque to assaulting Navajo Nation Division of Public Safety officer who had been commissioned by the Bureau of Indian Affairs' Office of Justice Services as a special law enforcement officer, according to a U.S. Department of Justice press release. 

Nakai kicked the unidentified tribal officer in the face during a traffic stop on Oct. 9 south of Shiprock along U.S. Highway 491, according to the criminal complaint.

The officer was trying to secure Nakai in the back of his patrol vehicle when the incident occurred. 

The officer fell backward and hit his head on the pavement, causing him to lose consciousness for a short period of time, according to court documents. He was transported to the Northern Navajo Medical Center in Shiprock for treatment. 

The traffic stop was initiated after the officer received reports of a white pickup truck driving erratically on Navajo Route 36 outside of Shiprock.

Nakai's vehicle was observed by the officer driving westbound on Navajo Route 36 swerving into oncoming traffic. That caused a vehicle in the eastbound lane to drive onto the shoulder of the road to avoid a collision, according to court documents.

The officer pulled Nakai over near the intersection of Navajo Route 36 and U.S. Highway 491 and observed Nakai that mumbled his speech and also smelled of alcohol while undergoing a sobriety test.

When the officer attempted to arrest him, Nakai swung his arm at the officer and tried to flee on foot.

The officer chased Nakai alongside U.S. Highway 491 and then tackled him, placing him in handcuffs.

Nakai could face a maximum sentence of 20 years in federal prison. A sentencing hearing has not been scheduled.

Joshua Kellogg covers crime, courts and social issues for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4627.

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