Shiprock police captain placed on leave
Navajo Nation officials have refused to comment on the reason Capt. Ivan Tsosie was placed on administrative leave
FARMINGTON — The head of the Shiprock Police District has been placed on administrative leave, a lieutenant in the district confirmed this morning.
Navajo police Lt. Phillip Joe said today that Capt. Ivan Tsosie is on leave, making Joe the highest-ranking official at the Shiprock Police District.
Joe referred questions about Tsosie's employment status to Bobby Etcitty, the Navajo Nation's acting police chief.
Etcitty could not be reached for comment today. Neither Tsosie nor Jesse Delmar, executive director of the Navajo Division of Public Safety, responded to requests for comment.
Navajo Nation Council Delegate Edmund Yazzie, who is chairman of the tribal council's Law and Order Committee, said he learned last week that the police captain was placed on leave.
Yazzie said he did not know the reason for the decision, which he called an "executive issue," but he said it may be addressed at a committee meeting next week dedicated to discussing the Amber Alert system.
The decision to place Tsosie on leave came nearly a month after the murder of 11-year-old Ashlynne Mike near the Shiprock pinnacle
Tsosie was in charge of the Shiprock Police District on May 2 when the girl and her brother were abducted from near their home in Lower Fruitland and transported to the Shiprock pinnacle, where Ashlynne was sexually abused and bludgeoned to death.
Tom Begaye Jr. was indicted Thursday on charges of murder, kidnapping and aggravated sexual abuse in the incident.
Law enforcement officials have been scrutinized because of a perceived delay in issuing an Amber Alert for the girl. Begaye told investigators Ashlynne was still moving after he hit her in the head with a tire iron and left her to die, according to a criminal complaint.
New Mexico State Police issued an Amber Alert for Ashlynne at 2:30 a.m. May 3, about 10 hours after the children's disappearance.
In an email to The Daily Times on May 6, Tsosie said Navajo police officers requested that the Navajo Department of Criminal Investigations contact the FBI to issue an Amber Alert after police learned of the girl's disappearance on the evening of May 2.
"We do not know why the Amber Alert was not done until early that morning," Tsosie said in the email. "You would have to contact NDCI and FBI to answer that question."
The FBI has referred questions about the Amber Alert to the U.S. Department of Justice. Officials with the DOJ have not responded to those questions.
When reached by phone today, Douglas Joe, an investigator with the tribe's Department of Criminal Investigations, did not dispute Tsosie's timeline of events from that evening, but he said the U.S. Attorney's Office had asked him to refer questions about Ashlynne to the federal agency.
Robert Lowery Jr., a vice president at the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, previously told The Daily Times that the FBI did not alert his agency to the girl's disappearance until 12:20 a.m. May 3. The center then contacted state police and reported Ashlynne's disappearance, according to Lowery.
Tsosie also said in the May 6 email that Navajo police do not have access to the Amber Alert system. Currently, Navajo police must contact New Mexico State Police to issue an Amber Alert.
In response to Ashlynne's death, Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye created a task force on May 9 to develop and implement an independent alert system to notify residents on the Navajo Nation of abductions and other emergencies.
Steve Garrison covers crime and courts for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4644.