Man indicted in shooting of Navajo police officer

AP News
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Posted: Oct 14, 2014 10:04 PM

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. (AP) — A man has been indicted in the shooting of a Navajo Nation police officer in a small reservation community where a tribal officer was killed three years ago in the line of duty.

A federal grand jury on Tuesday indicted Raymond Herder on charges of assault with intent to commit murder, and possessing, brandishing and discharging a firearm. Authorities said Herder shot Officer Joseph Gregg in the face Saturday with a 12-gauge shotgun.

"When a police officer is shot, we encourage immediate prosecution to send a strong message we will show no mercy to such crimes," tribal President Ben Shelly said. "When you do something wrong, you are going to be prosecuted."

Gregg was responding to a report of a domestic disturbance at a home in Kaibeto, about 75 miles north of Flagstaff in the same town where tribal police Sgt. Darrell Curley was killed in 2011. Curley also was responding to a domestic dispute. Victor Bigman, whose two sons were fighting and drinking, shot Curley four times as the officer tried to arrest his sons, prosecutors said. Curley died after returning fire and wounding Victor Bigman, who is serving 35 years in prison after pleading guilty to second-degree murder.

On Saturday, Gregg opened fire with his service weapon after Herder brandished the shotgun in the doorway of the home, said tribal spokesman Deswood Tome. An exchange of gunfire left both with head injuries.

Gregg was listed in good condition Tuesday, Tome said.

Herder barricaded himself inside a home after the shooting with an unknown number of children inside. He later was taken to a hospital where he was scheduled to undergo surgery Tuesday to remove pellet fragments from his head, said Cosme Lopez, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's Office in Arizona. Federal court documents do not list an attorney for Herder.

Tome said the shooting highlights the danger that Navajo police officers face when patrolling large swaths of the 27,000 square-mile reservation, sometimes alone. Fewer than 300 officers respond to roughly 250,000 calls per year, Shelly said recently. The ratio of officers per 10,000 people is far less than half that of similar non-reservation-based rural areas in the U.S., he said.

"There's always a lack of law enforcement personnel, and that tends to be a huge challenge," Tome said.

Coconino County Supervisor Lena Fowler said tribal members in Kaibeto and throughout the reservation are in need of more than an increase in the police force. She has invited tribal officers, and people who work in substance abuse prevention programs, behavioral health, social services and other areas to a meeting Wednesday in Tuba City to talk about what resources are available.

"We have got to do something, this is not healthy," she said. "I don't want us to get to the state where we think 'this is just another shooting.' I want to be able to address it now and do it as a whole community. The healing has to come from the community. How do we do that?"