Rustling victim charged with assault claims self-defense

TEEC NOS POS, Ariz.

Jerry Moon knows what it is like to have your entire life turned around by cattle rustlers.

portrait in cowboy hat

Submitted
Jerry Moon

In April of 2015, he had a nice herd of cattle and was enjoying his life as a rancher in Teec Nos Pos. Today, he has no cattle and is facing federal charges of assault with a deadly weapon. It all began in March of 2015. “All of the ranchers in my area were being hit by cattle rustlers at the time and no one was doing anything to stop it,” he said.

That March, he lost two steers to rustlers who came in during the dark of night. The next month, he lost a heifer. There wasn’t much he could do at the time to get his livestock back but he joined with other ranchers in his area to make officials aware of the problem. Their efforts soon bore fruit as members of the Northern Navajo Agency Grazing Committee passed a resolution that month 17-0 asking the Navajo Nation Council to address the problem of cattle rustling by increasing the penalty for livestock theft and increasing the number of resource enforcement officers.

“The cattle rustlers and horse thieves know livestock theft laws are not stringent and rustlers are rarely prosecuted due to a large number of cases being investigated by a small number of rangers and resource enforcement officers,” said the resolution. Tribal range enforcement officials, however, pointed out that because of understaffing large portions of the Navajo Reservation were left unprotected from cattle rustlers at night and over the weekend.

Moon also began watching over his remaining herd more but in October of 2016 rustlers struck again when he was away from the ranch. A total of 14 head were taken this time. He said a middleman in Waterflow, New Mexico, acquired the cattle by forging signatures on a bill of sale and the following day a deputy livestock inspector gave him approval to sell the cattle at a Cortez auction. When the cattle arrived in Cortez for sale, Moon said another buyer noticed some irregularities and reported his concern to another deputy livestock inspector who in turn contacted the tribe’s resource enforcement office. But before any official inquiry took place, said Moon, his cattle had been sold and he was out some $15,000.

Moon continued to complain to whomever would listen and he sent letters to tribal and congressional officials demanding that they take some kind of action to protect Navajo ranchers from rustlers. Those concerns were still very much on his mind on June 27, 2017, when a criminal investigator for the Navajo Police Department, Louis St. Germaine, came to his house and said he had been hearing reports that Moon was threatening to kill anyone who tried to steal any more of his cattle. Moon denied making any such threats but promised St. Germaine that he would comply with his requests not to make these kinds of threats in the future.

As he left, St. Germaine went to talk to one of Moon’s neighbors whom he wanted to interview in connection with Moon’s complaints. He talked to the man and advised him to have no contact with Moon and he agreed. A little less than half an hour after he left the area, however, he heard reports that a shooting had taken place at Moon’s ranch.

When he got back to the ranch, he found tribal police officers already on the scene. He was told, according to federal court records, that Moon had been arrested for shooting a man in the foot. It turned out that the man had been with the person that St. Germaine had just talked to and who had agreed to stay away from Moon. The other man had walked over to Moon’s ranch to talk to him and when he refused to leave when confronted by Moon, Moon reportedly shot him in the foot.

Moon claimed that he shot in self-defense. He said the man was told to leave and instead came through his gate and kept coming. The man said he stayed on the other side of the gate. Moon was later arrested by the FBI and charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. A jury trial is scheduled April 9 in federal court in Prescott.

Moon said that after he was released on bond, he was forced to sell off the other 26 head of cattle he had. As he waits for his trial, the cattleman who no longer has cattle said he remains as frustrated as ever about the lack of protection provided by the tribe for ranchers. “Something has to be done,” he said.


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