Shooter remembered as talented artist, ‘nice guy’

SANOSTEE, N.M.

While the family of slain Navajo Nation Police Officer Alex Yazzie was preparing a funeral for an expected several hundred mourners from all over the country, another family was at their local chapter house borrowing a backhoe to dig a simple grave for a simple service.

The details of Yazzie’s funeral made the front page of area newspapers.

The time and place of the service for Justin Fowler, the man who shot Yazzie to death in an exchange of gunfire the night of March 19, were being kept private, according to Fowler’s brother, Jordan, as he prepared to leave the Tse AlNaoztii Chapter House after making arrangements for the backhoe Tuesday afternoon.

Fowler, polite but obviously distraught, declined to comment further, saying his mother would send a prepared statement to the Times.

While Yazzie’s family received consoling posts from hundreds of strangers after the shooting story was posted on the Navajo Times’ Facebook page, only a handful of posts extended thoughts and prayers to Justin Fowler’s family. Some posts questioned Fowler’s upbringing.

But here in Fowler’s home chapter, folks were closing ranks around a local family, and there was no judgment for a young man they described as a talented beadworker and a “nice guy.”

Artist, radio talk show host and former Navajo Nation presidential candidate Cal Nez of Salt Lake City hails from Sanostee. He said he knows Fowler’s family and, as their Ta’neeeszahnii clanmate, feels badly that their private tragedy has to be hashed out publicly on social media.

“People are responding from their emotions, and that’s understandable,” Nez said in a telephone interview. “We need some time to let everybody just chill out.

“Whatever made Justin snap,” Nez continued, “the story is far deeper than the surface crap people are reacting to.”


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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.