APNewsBreak: Officer in fatal shooting was disciplined twice

AP News
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Posted: Apr 08, 2016 7:59 PM
APNewsBreak: Officer in fatal shooting was disciplined twice

WINSLOW, Ariz. (AP) — The Arizona police officer involved in a deadly shooting that sparked protests by Navajo Nation leaders has been disciplined twice in his three years in law enforcement, including for calling a girl a disparaging word and unnecessarily using his stun gun on a teenager.

The Arizona Department of Public Safety is investigating the March 27 shooting of Loreal Tsingine in Winslow, which borders the reservation. Police say she struggled with officer Austin Shipley when he tried to arrest her and threatened him with scissors before he fired five shots. Critics, including members of the Navajo Nation, have called the shooting excessive and asked the Justice Department to investigate race relations in the town.

Shipley's personnel file shows a mix of praise and criticism since he was hired by the Winslow Police Department in 2012. The Associated Press obtained reports that detail what led to two disciplinary actions.

In 2014, Shipley received four letters of commendation for helping a woman change a tire, stopping an impaired wrong-way driver, assisting with a building fire and showing compassion to a grieving family.

His first discipline came in 2013 when the mother of a 15-year-old girl complained that Shipley slammed her daughter against a squad car and made a "rude, ugly comment," records show. Shipley acknowledged responding harshly and was suspended, but the department didn't find evidence of excessive force.

He received another one-day suspension and was put on six months' probation this year for using his stun gun on a teenage girl, striking her in the back. Shipley wrote in his report that she repeatedly ignored his commands. Shipley said she possibly had a weapon, but police found no indication of that after reviewing body camera video.

"She never made any abrupt movements toward Officer Shipley that suggested she had a firearm or any weapon, she never engaged him in a threatening manner," police reported.

The report also found Shipley lied about others acting aggressively toward him and lied about them throwing bottles toward him. He had responded to a report of a fight at a park.

Shipley remains on standard, paid administrative leave for the March shooting. A cell phone number listed for him was disconnected, and a call to a number listed for his parents went unanswered Friday.

In the March shooting, Shipley responded to a report of shoplifting at a convenience store and found Tsingine walking nearby. Minutes earlier, Ryanle Benally said he saw Tsingine grab a pack of cigarettes, miniature liquor bottles and a hot dog without paying.

Benally wanted to teach his stepson a lesson about shoplifting, so they followed Tsingine expecting her to be arrested. He said he heard Shipley and Tsingine yelling before Shipley grabbed her by the wrist and took her to the ground. Shipley yelled "stop resisting" repeatedly before he shot Tsingine, Benally said.

"She did shoplifting, but I thought they were just supposed to arrest her, she's supposed to go to jail and then to court like all other normal people," he said. "We just witnessed something that was wrong. That wasn't supposed to happen to her."

Neighbors say a crowd gathered and loudly questioned Shipley's actions. "Why did you have to shoot her? You didn't have to kill her," Denise O'Quinn recalled them saying. Her home is near where flowers, candles stuffed animals and liquor bottles mark the spot where Tsingine was shot.

Tsingine, who grew up in Teesto on the Navajo Nation, was remembered this week in funeral services for her affectionate hugs, contagious life, and ever-smiling face, said a cousin, Ty Yazzie. Family and friends say although she lived a tough life and had run-ins with law enforcement, she didn't deserve to be killed and they want answers.

"Truthful answers, that's it," Yazzie said. "We understand if it was true that she had a pair of scissors and she was trying to attack him, if that's the truth, we understand that. If she didn't have scissors and he shot her, that's the part I don't get."

Court records show Tsingine had been arrested multiple times, including once last year when she grabbed at an officer's gun as he tried to arrest her in Sanders in eastern Arizona. The Apache County sheriff's deputy who responded said Tsingine gave a false identity and birthdate and later clenched her fists and acted aggressively, according to the report. She pulled at the deputy's pistol after he pinned her against his patrol vehicle, the deputy wrote. He eventually handcuffed her and booked her into jail.