Gunman leaves two-state trail of chaos

CHINLE

A suspect in a domestic violence incident left a trail of mayhem between Little Water, N.M. and Red Valley, Ariz., Thursday that ended with himself and a Navajo Nation Police officer dead, two officers wounded and two police cars disabled, according to information released Friday by the Navajo Nation President’s Office.

Justin Fowler, 24, of Littlewater and Navajo Nation Police Officer Alex Yazzie both died from gunshot wounds during the incident. Officers Herbert Frazier and James Hale were hospitalized, each with a gunshot wound to the leg.

Ages and addresses of the officers were not available by press time.

According to the President’s chief of staff Deswood Tome, Navajo Nation Police Officer Anderson Dez responded to a domestic violence call at 2:15 p.m. near the Little Water store. Fowler’s brother, Jordon Fowler, reported Justin Fowler was beating his wife, Rayana Ramone, and mother, Cecelia Begay, with a pistol.

By the time Dez arrived from Shiprock, Justin Fowler had left the scene and was sitting in his car along U.S. Highway 491, Tome said. Fowler then discharged his weapon, an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle, at Dez, but Dez took cover behind his vehicle and was unharmed. Fowler then fled the scene in his vehicle.

Dez called for backup and the police had set up a mobile command center at Little Water to prepare for a manhunt when at 8:20 p.m. Fowler, “in an apparent taunt,” appeared in his vehicle at the command center and made a U-turn, Tome reported.

Police Lt. Phillip Joe and several other officers got into their vehicles and pursued Fowler, who turned up Navajo Route 13 headed to Red Valley.

About five miles south of the Red Valley Trading Post, according to Tome, Fowler — who was wearing a bulletproof vest — got out of his car and fired at the police vehicles, disabling the one driven by Joe.

Fowler then got back in his car and resumed his flight toward Buffalo Pass, but about 11 miles south of the post, he abandoned his car and, as the officers got out of their vehicles, began firing at them. Police returned fire, fatally wounding Fowler, but not before he had shot and killed Yazzie and wounded Frazier and Hale.

Frazier and Hale were transported to local medical facilities from which Hale was airlifted to the University of New Mexico Hospital. A Northern Navajo Medical Center receptionist said Frazier was not at the hospital when the Times called Friday afternoon.

More than 30 officers from five police districts — Shiprock, Crownpoint, Window Rock, Chinle and Kayenta — responded to the incident.

The FBI and Navajo Department of Criminal Investigation are investigating the incident.

President Ben Shelly, who learned of the incident while in Santa Fe attending a session of the New Mexico House of Representatives, issued a statement sending condolences to Yazzie’s family, as did the Navajo Nation Council.

“I’m saddened to learn that our Nation has lost one our finest law enforcement officers while he was protecting us,” said Council Delegate Edmund Yazzie on behalf of the Law and Order Committee. “I encourage the entire Nation to pray for our officers and their families.”


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Categories: News

About Author

Cindy Yurth

Cindy Yurth is the Tséyi' Bureau reporter, covering the Central Agency of the Navajo Nation. Her other beats include agriculture and Arizona state politics. She holds a bachelor’s degree in technical journalism from Colorado State University with a cognate in geology. She has been in the news business since 1980 and with the Navajo Times since 2005, and is the author of “Exploring the Navajo Nation Chapter by Chapter.” She can be reached at editor@navajotimes.com.