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Tuba City man facing drug charges after serving for murder

LOS ANGELES

A Tuba City man is facing federal drug charges just a few months after serving a federal sentence for involuntary manslaughter.

Eagle Begay was also charged with being a felon in possession of a firearm. He is currently in custody in Prescott.

Begay’s original charges stem from an incident that occurred on July 22, 2017, at his home. On that night, two friends, Dylan Fred Benally and Emmanuel Leslie, were staying overnight. All three were members of the Native Militia and Begay was the team leader.

Benally later agreed to plead guilty to involuntary manslaughter and gave this account of what happened that night. He said that he and Leslie often spent time at Begay’s house.

“Begay sold marijuana from his home,” Benally said.

Because of this it was not unusual for people for come to the house. On that night, he said he fell asleep. A little later, Begay woke him up and gave him a gun. He saw that Begay and Leslie were also armed and were wearing ballistic vests.

The three went outside as a car approached the house.

“Very soon after he saw the vehicle, Begay yelled at the individuals (in the car) and told them not to move or he would shoot,” Benally said.

A short time later, he said Begay began shooting in the direction of the vehicle. He said Begay and Leslie fired several shots at the vehicle. He said he also fired at the vehicle. He added that he did not see anyone in the vehicle fire back.

As a result of the shooting, one of the persons inside the vehicle – identified as E.H. in court records – was killed and another person – M. Haskie – was wounded.

Within a week of Benally’s plea agreement, both Begay and Leslie also agreed to plead guilty, giving the same account of what happened that night.

In his sentencing memorandum, Begay said that about a month before that incident, he was at home with his significant other, Clarissa Benally, when someone broke down his front door and an unknown assailant forced his way into his home. The intruder was shot and killed.

Begay is dealing with PTSD.

After that incident, he said he began hearing rumors that friends and relatives of that man were planning to seek revenge and he had fear for his life. Since that night, he and Benally would pile up cinder blocks at their bedroom door in case someone tried to break in.

He claimed that the shooting was done in self-defense and he was operating under Arizona’s “Stand your Ground” laws.

He added that as he left the trailer that night, he looked at the monitor on his front door and saw a man with a gun. Police later found the Haskie car contained firearms.

Haskie, according to Begay’s memo, claimed they headed to the trailer next door where Begay’s stepmother left to buy cigarettes. During questioning, Begay pointed out it was after midnight and there were gas stations still open.

A federal judge later sentenced Begay to 33 months and gave credit for time served. Leslie got 24 months and Benally got 22 months.

On May 21, the federal government filed drug charges against Begay and Terrence Jesse Spencer, accusing them of being in possession of cocaine and Begay was accused of being a distributor.

Begay was also charged with being a felon in possession of a gun and ammunition.

According to court records, federal authorities received a tip in April that Begay was selling marijuana, cocaine and acid out of his garage. By then Begay had served his sentence and had been released to go home, although he was still under supervised probation.

FBI agents then arranged for undercover informants to make several buys of the drugs. Spencer, according to court records, was involved in one of those buys.

During the first visit to Begay’s garage, the undercover buyer reported he saw a handgun and an AK-style weapon in the garage. Begay offered to sell him a 9mm handgun for $900 and that was done several weeks later.

Ironically, when he was charged with involuntary manslaughter, Begay in his memorandum to the federal judge in that case stressed that as a member of the Native Militia, his group had strong regulations prohibiting members from using or selling hard drugs.

He said that any member found violating that rule would be thrown out of the group.


About The Author

Bill Donovan

Bill Donovan has been writing about the Navajo Nation government since 1971 and for the Navajo Times since 1976. He is currently semi-retired and is living in Torrance, California, and continues to report for the Navajo Times.

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