Navajo official mum on Amber Alert task force

Steve Garrison
stgarrison@daily-times.com
A Navajo Nation Police Department vehicle and mobile command center as seen earlier this month during Law Enforcement Day at the Shiprock Police Department.
  • The Navajo Nation has created a task force to create an emergency alert system on the reservation.
  • The new task force will need to figure out what work has already been done on an alert system.
  • Right now, Navajo police have to contact New Mexico State Police to issue an Amber Alert.
  • The tribe's head of public safety spoke before the council's Law and Order Committee on the effort.

FARMINGTON — The Navajo Nation's executive director of public safety provided scant details today regarding a task force created in the aftermath of Ashlynne Mike's murder to develop and implement an Amber Alert system on the reservation.

Jesse Delmar said in an interview that much of the work necessary to establish an emergency alert system on the reservation was accomplished before he became executive director of the Division of Public Safety, but the program was never completed.

However, when asked about the project, he said he was not certain specifically what work had been done to establish the system or whether funding existed for the project. He said the task force would meet weekly beginning Thursday to determine those facts.

"That is what we are trying to evaluate," he said. "We will know more when we meet on it."

Currently Navajo police must contact New Mexico State Police to issue an Amber Alert.

Delmar presented information this morning to the Navajo Council's Law & Order Committee regarding the task force. Committee Chairman Edmund Yazzie did not respond to calls seeking comment about the meeting.

Riders who were part of a funeral procession for Ashlynne Mike pause at the roadside memorial on May 6 in Lower Fruitland.

Navajo President Russell Begaye established the task force May 9 in response to the abduction and killing of 11-year-old Ashlynne Mike.

Mike and her younger brother were abducted the afternoon of May 2 from a location near her home in Lower Fruitland and transported to the Shiprock pinnacle, where the 11-year-old girl was sexually assaulted and beaten to death with a tire iron.

Although the FBI was alerted to the kidnapping by about 9 p.m. May 2, according to two law enforcement officials, the bureau did not request that New Mexico State Police issue an Amber Alert notification until after midnight.

The notification was eventually sent at 2:30 a.m. May 3, about 10 hours after the girl went missing. Mike's body was found near the Shiprock pinnacle later that day and Tom Begaye Jr. was arrested and charged in connection to the girl's death.

Navajo police Capt. Ivan Tsosie previously told The Daily Times the Navajo Division of Public Safety received a $330,000 federal grant in 2006 to implement the Amber Alert system on the reservation, but the project was never completed and the funds reverted back to the U.S. Department of Justice in 2011.

Tsosie said the tribal government received another grant for $357,000 in 2011 to fund the project, but the project remains incomplete.

Delmar said he he did not know what happened to those funds, but that would be another issue for the task force to address.

"We will determine that," he said.

He said the task force is currently composed of members of the Navajo Nation Department of Natural resources, Division of Public Safety, Telecommunications Division and Department of Information Technology.

He said more members would likely be added in the future.

Steve Garrison covers crime and courts for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4644.