Police Blotter: False report prompts Rez-wide search for wounded officer
A call to the Chinle Police Department dispatch office on the night of July 14 prompted a reservation-wide search for a Navajo police officer possibly shot in the head.
The six districts that make up the Navajo Nation Police Department immediately began calling all of their officers — on duty and off duty — to verify they were OK, said the department’s Chief, Phillip Francisco, on Tuesday morning.
“In a panic, we activated ourselves internally and accounted for every single officer to make sure they were on call,” said Francisco. “First, all of the officers in Chinle were OK. Then the officers that were on duty in Kayenta.”
The 31-year-old Rock Point, Arizona, man, whom the chief said would not be identified until the matter is adjudicated, told police the officer was shot at a party in the Kayenta area. After an exhaustive process of verifying all of their officers were accounted for, Francisco said the man admitted he lied to them.
“At the end was that he made up the information. At that point, he was placed under arrest for falsification,” he said.
Francisco added it wis illegal and unacceptable to make false reports like this and cause panic for officers’ families and the police department.
“If your’e making this kind of stuff up, we’re going to arrest you,” he said.
Men plead guilty to kidnapping
By Bill Donovan
Special to the Times
LOS ANGELES — Two area men are facing a possibility of life in prison after pleading guilty earlier this month to kidnapping a man and tying him to a tree trunk on the Navajo Reservation.
Brandon Largo, 27, of Crownpoint and Preston John, 23, are presently being held in federal custody until a formal sentencing is held.
Their arrest stems from an incident that occurred on September 3, 2018.
The victim of the kidnapping told police that he had received a text from a friend asking him if he had time to help her move that day. He agreed and met up with the woman later that day.
The two then drove and picked up Largo and John. He drove them south on State Highway 602. At some point, they turned onto a dirt road and he continued driving until he was told by Largo to stop.
At that point, he said he noticed that Largo had put on a mask. Largo had a long chain and he decided to put the chain around the neck of the victim who was told to continue driving. He did so until the car stalled on a hill.
He said he was still chained and soon found his arms and legs were bound by duct tape. A little later, he said his face was covered with a scarf and duct tape was used to secure it tightly. Once the scarf was placed over his head, he said he heard the action of a pistol cycle behind him.
He said later he thought at that point that he was going to die, so he did not fight back. He then heard Largo exit the vehicle. Largo came back shortly and grabbed the chain around the victim’s neck to pull him from the vehicle.
He said he was then led to a nearby tree. He was tied to the tree using the chains and the duct tape. Largo, John and the woman who asked him for help then got back in the car and sped away.
The victim said he managed to remove the binds and immediately headed back to Gallup. Once he got there, he asked that the police be called.
Police immediately began looking for the victim’s car and found it at the Economy Inn. Police also found inside the vehicle the woman who had asked the victim help her move. Later they also found largo and John and arrested them.
Man gets 20 years for second-degree murders
By Bill Donovan
Special to the Times
LOS ANGELES — A federal court judge last week sentenced Michael Yonnie to 20 years in federal prison for the second-degree murders of two men in 2014.
Yonnie, 28, pled guilty to the charges on March 20 after more than nine trial dates had been cancelled or postponed. The case languished in the federal court for five years as the judge tried to determine whether Yonnie was mentally capable of committing second-degree murder, in part because of thr senselessness of the two crimes.
The first murder occurred on July 18, 2014 as the first victim was walking with his girlfriend — Yonnie’s mother — on the Torreón Mission Road. They were planning to go to a rodeo in Dulce, New Mexico, later that day.
Yonnie later said he became upset when he saw the man with his mother. According to court documents, he attacked the man with a knife and killed him.
He then reportedly ran from the scene and went about a mile alway to a house where a man and woman were inside. He asked the man where his son was and getting no response, reportedly attacked the man and ran away from that scene back to his home a short distance away.
At the same time, Yonnie’s mother had called the police and then went back to her boyfriend, whose body was lying on the ground.
The wife of the second victim and her two sons wrapped the second victim in a rug and placed the rug in their car, planning to drive him to a nearby hospital. But along the way, they saw medical technicians working alongside the body of the first victim.
The mother and her two sons stopped their car to get the medical technicians to help them out. The technicians came and took a look at her husband and said there was nothing they could do. He died at the scene of the first murder.
When Navajo police showed up at Yonnie’s home later that day, Yonnie quietly walked out of the house and threw his knife on the ground. When police searched his home, they found a list of people that Yonnie was reportedly planning to visit next .
Two years after he was charged with the murders, the judge in the case held a meeting with the attorneys for both sides and explained why he still had problems with the case.
Yonnie had originally been charged with two counts of first-degree murder which a court appointed expert said he had problems with “given the psychotic disorder that was present and the progression and expansion of that disorder from his arrival in New Mexico to the time of his arrest.”
He added that due to this disorder, it was problematic that Yonnie would have been able to meet the standard of first-degree murder.
That issue was debated for the next three years until another expert, Dr. William Foote, had a chance to meet with Yonnie and evaluate his competency.
In Foote’s opinion, Yonnie was mentally capable to negotiate a plea agreement in which he would plead guilty to two counts of second degree murder. That agreement as well as the death of the main witness in the first murder resulted in the 20-year sentence.
Yonnie also had no criminal record, which played a part in that decision as well.
Court records said the families of the two victims were told of the plea agreement and said they wanted the longest sentence possible.