Begaye: Navajo Nation Will Not Rest Until We Have Justice in Winslow Shooting
Navajo President Russell Begaye is demanding a federal investigation into the March 27 shooting death of Loreal Tsingine in Winslow, Arizona.
Tsingine, 27, was pronounced dead on the scene after a police officer shot her five times during an altercation that began with a reported shoplifting. The police officer, 26-year-old Austin Shipley, claimed Tsingine presented a substantial threat when she brandished a pair of scissors.
Family members and eyewitnesses claim Tsingine did not threaten officers and that police used excessive force. Shipley, a three-year veteran of the Winslow Police Department, is on administrative leave while the Arizona Department of Public Safety conducts a criminal investigation.
But Begaye wants federal intervention. In an April 6 letter addressed to U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch, Begaye called on the U.S. Department of Justice to enforce federal law in a case he said exhibits “discriminatory practices against tribal members.”
Citing a history of excessive violence and discrimination in Winslow, Begaye requested federal oversight to help protect the civil rights of tribal members. Because Winslow is outside of the Navajo Nation’s territorial jurisdiction, a federal investigation is necessary to hold the police department accountable for its actions.
“We feel that, unless the U.S. gets involved and holds a federal hearing, that there won’t be justice,” Begaye told ICTMN. “An officer shot a young woman, a member of the Navajo Nation, five times. For sure, we don’t want the police department investigating itself, or for the responsibility of the investigation to be solely with the state.”
Begaye’s letter was one of two Navajo leaders submitted to the federal Justice Department. The Navajo Nation Council, the tribe’s 24-delegate legislative branch, also requested an independent, federal investigation into Tsingine’s death.
In an April 7 letter also addressed to Lynch, the council demands that the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division investigate the shooting and “the longstanding and deep-seated concerns of unlawful police stops, use of excessive force and other coercive activities” committed against Navajo citizens by the Winslow Police.
“Our Nation’s people have lived with questionable border town law enforcement practices directed at Native people for many generations,” the letter states. “It is clear the death of a young Navajo lady who was 95 pounds and 5 feet tall does not fit the alleged shoplifting incident.”
The Arizona Department of Public Safety, charged with investigating the Winslow Police Department, has released minimal information about the incident. Citing the ongoing investigation, DPS spokesman Raul Garcia declined to comment on case-specific questions.
“When our investigation is complete, we will return our report to the Winslow Police Department,” he said. “If there are charges recommended, we can forward those charges directly to the appropriate county attorney’s office, or to the attorney general.”
Garcia said the investigation could take “weeks or even months” to complete, and that the department’s Major Crimes Division is still in preliminary stages of its inquiry.
Begaye, who sits on the Attorney General’s Native American Issues Subcommittee, said the Nation will not rest until it sees justice for Tsingine.
“We want justice served – whatever that means,” he said. “The federal government has a trust responsibility to address what really happened, to do a thorough investigation, to leave no stone unturned.”
You need to be logged in in order to post comments
Please use the log in option at the bottom of this page