Sweetwater man killed, family beaten during home invasion
By Cindy Yurth and Donovan Quintero
A Sweetwater, Arizona, man was killed and his entire family wounded during a home invasion last Friday that may have been based on a long-running family feud.
Navajo Nation Police said three men were arrested on tribal charges and the case has been turned over to the FBI for investigation on federal charges. A juvenile is still at large.
Quinton Halloway, 25, of Sweetwater, identified the deceased as his grandfather, Milton Wagon Sr., 64. Halloway said he was working a seasonal job in Colorado when he got a call early Friday morning from his grandmother, Pauline Wagon, saying four men had kicked down the door to the family’s home and beaten up the entire family, then drove off in the Wagons’ car. Halloway rushed home to find his grandfather dead and the rest of the family in the hospital.
Piecing together the story from family members, he said he was told that three men known to his family as Shonovan Curley, Armondo Whiterock and Evan Begay, stormed into the home at about 4:45 a.m. while the family was asleep. The juvenile arrived later, according to Pauline Wagon. Police did not confirm the identities of the men they arrested.
The men first stormed into Halloway’s two teenaged nephews’ room and began to beat the boys up, Halloway said, with one of the men accusing one of the victims of “messing” with his girlfriend. Hearing the ruckus, Halloway’s grandparents tried to intervene and the men turned on them, Halloway said.
Milton Wagon then ran to the home of his daughter, Sharon Wagon, calling for help. “My aunt didn’t know what she was getting into,” Halloway said. “She ran to our house.” One of the intruders then stabbed Sharon Wagon in the back with a knife, according to Halloway, then began beating her with a bat.
When Milton Wagon tried to protect her, they began beating him again. “They made my nephew and grandma sit in the living room and watch as they beat him,” Halloway said. “For two hours, they terrorized my family. Then they got in my grandpa’s car and drove away.”
Pauline said her husband, bleeding and knocked to the floor, kept trying to get up and fight with the men.
“With his last breath, he was trying to protect his family,” she said, her voice breaking.
Halloway said the car was found wrecked and vandalized a short distance away. The intruders thought they had taken everybody’s cell phone, Halloway said, but Halloway’s five-year-old brother, who had run into a bedroom and locked the door, found a phone and gave it to Pauline, who called the police. The Wagons and Halloway’s two teenaged nephews were transported to the hospital. Pauline Wagon said she was taken by ambulance to Northern Navajo Medical Center while the boys and Sharon were transported by helicopter to San Juan Regional Medical Center in Farmington.
Pauline said the rest of the family was treated and released but Sharon remains in the hospital with “critical” injuries.
However, it could have been worse, said Pauline. “They had bats, they had knives, they had a machete,” she said. “I didn’t think I was going to make it out of there. I thank God my little grandson was smart enough to go in a room and lock the door. They didn’t do anything to him.”
While he’s not sure what the perpetrators’ motive was, Halloway said some of the men were part of a family that lived just “over the hill” from his relatives and the two families had been “holding a grudge” against each other “for a long time.” However, he said, he had witnessed his grandparents being kind to the men when they were growing up.
“We fed them and clothed them and helped them a lot,” he said, “and this is how they repay us.”
Halloway said he’s struggling with anger against the suspects right now — “I’d love to have them feel what my family is feeling, mentally and physically,” he said. “But I’m just going to let the Lord take care of it. Hopefully justice will prevail and they’ll be put away.”
Pauline said she’s not sure how the family will recover from the trauma. “We can’t sleep,” she said. “We sleep with one eye open.”
Halloway added that the family has received an outpouring of support from their small community that has made the tragedy more bearable. “I’d just like to thank everybody who has been there for us with donations or an encouraging word,” he said, adding a quote from the late rapper Nipsey Hussle, “This pain is temporary for you; for the pain is over for me! Do not cry for what will always be in your heart.”
Milton Wagon’s funeral is scheduled for 10 a.m. Friday at Desert View Funeral Home in Shiprock.