Investigation continues into Navajo Nation shooting

Noel Lyn Smith The Daily Times
The Daily Times

FARMINGTON — The investigation continues into last week's gun battle that resulted in the death of a Navajo police officer and the suspect, and left two other officers wounded.

FBI Special Agent Perryn Collier of the Phoenix field office said the investigation into the shooting is ongoing, as agents comb the area near Red Valley, Ariz., for shell casings and trace bullet trajectories.

"You want to be thorough, you want to be able to answer all the questions, and you want to ensure officer safety," Collier said on Tuesday, adding that another purpose of the ongoing investigation is to provide answers to the families and communities.

Justin Fowler, of Little Water, is suspected of engaging in the shootout with tribal police officers on the evening of March 19 at a location approximately 11 miles south of a trading post in Red Valley, according to a press release from the Navajo Nation Office of the President and Vice President.

Officer Alex Yazzie was shot and killed during the shootout, and Officers Herbert Frazier and James Hale were wounded, according to the press release.

Fowler, 26, was also killed in the shootout, according to the release.

In addition to providing answers, the shooting can also serve as a lesson, Collier said.

"You can't charge anyone, you can't bring back an officer that lost his life, but there are lessons that can be learned from this," he said.

Deswood Tome, Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly's chief of staff, said Tuesday that Frazier was treated and released from the Northern Navajo Medical Center in Shiprock, and Hale remains hospitalized at the University of New Mexico Hospital in Albuquerque.

Frazier, 41, has been with the Navajo police department for 13 years, and Hale, 48, has served 16 years with the department, Tome said.

Tome said he has been meeting with and providing assistance to the Yazzie family this week.

"They are very broken and still in emotional shock over the lost of Officer Yazzie," he said.

Tributes continued for Yazzie with the latest issued by Farmington Mayor Tommy Roberts, who authorized flags flown at half-staff from sunrise Tuesday through sunset on Friday, according to a posting on the city's Facebook page.

A viewing for Yazzie has been scheduled from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. Thursday at the Desert View Funeral Home in Shiprock.

A funeral service will be held at 10 a.m. Friday at the Piñon Hills Community Church in Farmington.

Dorothy Joe, Yazzie's oldest sister, has established the Alex K. Memorial Fund at the Bank of America.

The donation account is No. 439006376215.

Reporter Steve Garrison contributed to this story.

Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636 and Follow her @nsmithdt on Twitter.