A tribal police officer was shot and killed during a traffic stop in Whiteriver, Arizona, on Thursday, the Navajo County Sherriff’s Office (NCSO) said in a statement.
The fallen officer was later identified as Adrian Lopez Sr., 35, of the White Mountain Apache Police Department (WMAPD) at a press conference on Friday. Lopez had joined the department this January and was previously an officer in the Bureau of Indian affairs. Lopez leaves behind a wife and a child.
The suspected shooter, Kevin Dwight Nashio, 25, stole the slain officer’s vehicle and was pursued by multiple police vehicles through the Fort Apache Indian Reservation into the Hawley Lake area in Eastern Arizona. The pursuit went on for approximately 40 miles through the reservation, according to NSCO Chief Deputy Brian Swanty in a press conference on Friday.
Swanty further stated that a “rolling gun battle” with Nashio ensued and described the pursuit as a “chaotic event” due to the amount of dust in the air and flashing lights. As Nashio and the officers were exchanging gunfire between vehicles, the suspect crashed his vehicle into a tree near the lake and engaged in a shootout with police officers where he was “shot and killed.” A second officer was injured during the shootout on the ground.
On behalf of the White Mountain Apache Tribe and Governing Body, the Navajo County Sheriff’s Office has been requested to release the following information: pic.twitter.com/aEd3hAEP5I
— Navajo County Sheriff’s Office (@navajo_s) June 3, 2022
The injured officer, later identified as Sgt. Lonnie Thompson, 29, was airlifted via helicopter to a Phoenix-area hospital. Thompson’s condition was considered not “life-threatening but could certainly be debilitating,” according to Swanty.
Nashio had been known to the WMAPD, but Swanty did not divulge if he had previously been arrested. Swanty also confirmed they are still investigating what the traffic stop was about.
The NSCO stated in its press release that the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) would take over leading the investigation.
“None of us had seen anything of this nature. I can’t imagine what those officers were going through during this event,” Swanty said during Friday’s press conference.
“This is a time of mourning for the White Mountain Apache Tribe,” Kasey Velasquez, chairman of the Fort Apache Indian Reservation, also stated at the press conference.
The WMAPD experienced a similar tragedy recently as “Officer David Kellywood, 26, was killed in February 2020 while responding to a report of shots fired outside a casino,” the Star Tribune reported via the Associated Press. “He struggled with a suspect who then shot him. A second officer fatally shot the suspect.”
You can follow Ethan Letkeman on Twitter at @EthanLetkeman.