Man in custody on robbery charges

May 23, 2013

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W INDOW ROCK - Michael James was charged in U.S. District Court in Flagstaff Monday with bank robbery for allegedly stealing $15,226 from a local credit union.

According to the criminal complaint filed in federal court, James walked into the First American Credit Union at the corner of Navajo Route 12 and Arizona Highway 264 at about 11:05 a.m. on May 17 and brandished a gun and demanded that the tellers give him all the money they had in their drawers.

Approximately 10 minutes later, a bank employee indicated to responding law enforcement officers that she saw James walking near the bank.

He was arrested for public intoxication by officers from the Window Rock Police Department but at the time was not charged with any offenses related to the robbery.

James was taken to the Window Rock Adult Detention Center and during the pat-down search, $180 in cash was removed from his pocket and fifty $100 bills were found inside his right shoe.

He was given two breath alcohol tests that showed a blood alcohol level of 0.132 and 0.143.

In interviews with law enforcement officials, James admitted to being intoxicated but denied involvement in the robbery.

After FBI agents and criminal investigators from the Navajo Department of Criminal Investigations arrived at the credit union, they reviewed surveillance video of the robbery.

The surveillance video showed James walking into the bank then sitting down.

After some time, James approached a teller station then went one-by-one to each station, brandishing a silver and black pistol and using a brown paper bag to collect the money.

They later conducted a broader search of the area surrounding the credit union and located a pistol on the east side of the Arizona Department of Economic Development building.

The pistol appeared to match the pistol that was held by James and observed in the surveillance video.

On May 18, a Navajo police officer found more than $9,000 in a brown paper bag in the back of his patrol vehicle then recalled James had been in the vehicle.

The amount was collected and sealed as evidence.

In addition to the federal charge, James faces tribal charges of armed robbery and unlawful use of a deadly weapon.

Navajo police officials in the past have said bank robberies on the reservation are rare - about one a decade or so - because there are so few escape routes and police are able to set up roadblocks in minutes in every direction.

Places like Gallup and Flagstaff see more bank robberies because once the bank is robbed, the robbers are able to get onto Interstate 40 within a couple of minutes and be miles away before police get to the bank.


Sobriety checkpoints scheduled for Central Agency

CHINLE – Chinle Police District will be conducting saturation patrols and field sobriety checkpoints throughout Central Agency of the Navajo Nation for the month of May, according to a news release from District No. 5 Navajo Police Department.

During this operation, officers will be enforcing seatbelts, child restraints, cell phone, speeding, etc. Officers will be aggressively seeking drunk drivers. If you drink and drive, you will be arrested.

Chinle Police District congratulates all graduates from Chinle High School and surrounding high schools.

"Graduates, please make a smart choice of not driving drunk. If you are celebrating and get intoxicated, please call someone that is sober to drive you home," the release states.

Police seek help in identifying homicide victim

GALLUP – In other police news, Gallup police are trying to identify the victim of a homicide that occurred more than a week ago in the city.

The victim's body was discovered at about 7:30 a.m. in a truck behind the Golden Desert Motel on the west side of town. The victim had been dead for more than a week and because of the condition of the body, police have not been able to determine the person's race or age range.

The body has been taken to Albuquerque for an autopsy and medical examiners there are hoping to lift fingerprints, which may give police the name of the victim.

Gallup gets 25 months for assaulting girlfriend

GALLUP - An assault during the 2102 Northern Navajo Fair in Shiprock last October has led to a Gallup man to getting a 25-month federal prison sentence on Tuesday.

Derek Yabeny, 27, had pleaded guilty to assault resulting in serious bodily injury and abandonment or abuse of a child. That second charge was dismissed as part of the plea bargain.

According to the criminal complaint, on Oct. 7, 2012, Yabeny assaulted his girlfriend, who is the mother of his two-year-old toddler.  At the time of the assault, the victim was carrying her infant daughter. The victim sustained two orbital fractures as a result of the assault.

In pleading guilty, Yabeny admitted to striking the victim with his fists while they were on the fairgrounds.

Yabeny was ordered to also undergo counseling for domestic violence and substance abuse.

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