Shiprock auto theft, home invasion suspect in custody, Navajo Police says
The Navajo Nation Police apprehended Kendale Johnson and another suspect early Friday morning.
Johnson and another suspect were apprehended without incident in Red Mesa, Arizona.
Johnson was arrested on a federal warrant related to a 2020 weapons charge and will soon be in federal custody, according to the Navajo Nation Police.
On Wednesday night, Shiprock District officers and their partners pursued two different vehicles. Johnson is believed to have been in one of them.
The pursuits ended when the occupants abandoned the vehicles resulting in a foot search of the Shiprock area where five individuals were apprehended, according to the Navajo Nation Police.
“The last several months, there has been a rash of car thefts and home invasions in the Shiprock area,” Navajo Nation Police Chief Phillip Francisco said in an interview with the Navajo Times.
“Come to find out that it’s all kind of related,” he said. “So we have been trying to catch this particular gentleman who seems to be heavily involved with it.”
A task force was formed for these crimes, which led to the pursuit.
During this pursuit, suspects threw “homemade spike devices” at officers and two police units had their tires blown out. Another police unit was rammed by one of the suspects.
The arrest of the five individuals resulted from an effort by multiple agencies, including the San Juan County Sheriff’s Office, which provided aerial support; the Navajo Department of Emergency Management, which provided drone support; the city of Farmington’s K-9 unit; the Bureau of Indian Affairs; and state and federal officials.
In March, the Navajo Department of Correction abruptly shut down the Shiprock Correction Facility. This closure has left it up to Navajo Nation Police with the arduous task of transporting prisoners to the Kayenta or Crownpoint jails, adding an extra two hours to one call, leaving Shiprock with less officers to patrol the community.
Francisco said this crime spree is widely known, and it is believed that Johnson and other suspects have used the lack of law enforcement coverage as an opportunity to commit the crimes, as they have for the past few months.
“They seem to be organized, is what we think,” Francisco said. “They’ve been watching and monitoring police activity and knew the best times to take advantage of our depleted resources, which have been even more pronounced with the closure of correction center and officers having to transport hours out of district.”
Johnson’s girlfriend, Ranelle Rose Bennett, 33, of Hogback, New Mexico, has been missing since June.
The Navajo Division of Public Safety posted flyers to inform the public that she has been missing since June 15. She was last seen by her mother.
The flyers describe Bennett as standing 5-foot-2 and weighing 125 pounds. She has “Treasten” tattooed on her right inner forearm and a “B” tattooed behind her left ear. She was last seen wearing an orange tank top with black joggers/sweatpants.
It isn’t known whether or not Johnson has anything to do with Bennett’s disappearance, according to the Navajo Nation Police.