The Red Nation
April 02, 2016

Navajo Woman Killed by Police: Justice Needed

Nima Agah

A 27-year old Navajo woman was shot five times and killed by a Winslow, Arizona police officer last Sunday, March 27th.

Loreal Juana Barnell-Tsingine was confronted and killed by a police officer for allegedly shoplifting. According to Winslow police, she was brandishing scissors towards the officer, which was deemed a “substantial threat.”

In an official press release, the Winslow Police department stated, “at this time, the subject displayed a weapon which presented a substantial threat to the officer. The officer discharged his weapon resulting in the unfortunate death.”

While the Winslow Police department only vaguely mentions her carrying a “weapon”, Loreal’s family members claim that she was only ever armed with a pair of scissors.

Loreal’s unwarranted death is certain, but police justifications for using such an extreme degree of force to respond to her alleged small-scale crime are not so clear. The Arizona Department of Public Safety’s Major Crimes District has detectives beginning to conduct an investigation on what actually happened between Loreal and the police.

While a proper investigation of Loreal’s death may be able to provide truth and clarity in this situation, a genuine investigation is unlikely given the history of disproportionate Native oppression by police and state authorities. Native deaths are often overlooked and dismissed compared to other ethnic and cultural demographics.

Compared to other racial groups, Native Americans are most likely to be killed by law enforcement. Natives between the ages of 25-34, 35-44, and 20-24 account for three of the top five groups most likely to be killed by a police officer, according to the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice.

For such a highly disproportionate rate of police deaths, awareness regarding Native American police deaths are nearly non-existent outside of Native communities and local media.

Native Americans make-up about 0.8% of the population, yet account for 1.9% of police killings, while African Americans comprise thirteen percent of the population, yet account for twenty-six percent of police killings.

In an official press release, the Winslow Police department stated, “at this time, the subject displayed a weapon which presented a substantial threat to the officer. The officer discharged his weapon resulting in the unfortunate death.”

While the Winslow Police department only vaguely mentions her carrying a “weapon”, Loreal’s family members claim that she was only ever armed with a pair of scissors.

Loreal’s unwarranted death is certain, but police justifications for using such an extreme degree of force to respond to her alleged small-scale crime are not so clear. The Arizona Department of Public Safety’s Major Crimes District has detectives beginning to conduct an investigation on what actually happened between Loreal and the police.

While a proper investigation of Loreal’s death may be able to provide truth and clarity in this situation, a genuine investigation is unlikely given the history of disproportionate Native oppression by police and state authorities. Native deaths are often overlooked and dismissed compared to other ethnic and cultural demographics.

Compared to other racial groups, Native Americans are most likely to be killed by law enforcement. Natives between the ages of 25-34, 35-44, and 20-24 account for three of the top five groups most likely to be killed by a police officer, according to the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice.

For such a highly disproportionate rate of police deaths, awareness regarding Native American police deaths are nearly non-existent outside of Native communities and local media.

Native Americans make-up about 0.8% of the population, yet account for 1.9% of police killings, while African Americans comprise thirteen percent of the population, yet account for twenty-six percent of police killings.

Compared to other racial groups, Native Americans are most likely to be killed by law enforcement.

Unlike police deaths frequently faced by African Americans, Native American police deaths fail to spark the same level of local organizing, media attention, and national recognition that movements such as #BlackLivesMatter have attained.

Native American victims of police brutality need the same level of support and solidarity as other minority groups facing an unjust struggle in the face of our nation’s hyper-aggressive, “shoot first ask questions later” police state, which disproportionately targets minority groups. Solidarity is one of the strongest tools that can be utilized within and across diverse social movements.

According to Native Lives Matter, a report published by the Lakota People’s Law project, investigations into deaths, excessive violence, and immoral treatment of Native peoples are neither taken seriously or critically compared to other racial groups.

Consider the cases of Allen Locke and Sarah Lee Circle Bear, both Native people who were treated in violent and neglectful manners by the police. Locke was shot the day after his participation in an anti-police brutality march in Rapid City, South Dakota. Sarah Circle Bear died following her complaints about experiencing excruciating pain while in jail, which were dismissed and ignored, leading to her death.

Allen, Sarah, and Loreal’s deaths are not isolated incidents. The gross mistreatment and killing of Loreal represents another life lost to a racist and oppressive police force.

The tragic loss of Loreal to a police confrontation is deeply saddening, but is unfortunately unsurprising, given the vast history of intense mistreatment and excessive violence towards Native peoples.

The mistreatment of Native peoples by law enforcement is unacceptable. Make your voice heard and demand justice for Loreal, her family, and every other victim of the growing police state.

#Justice4Loreal

You can support Loreal’s family here: https://www.gofundme.com/lorea...

Read the full Native Lives Matter report Justicefor Lorealhere: http://www.docs.lakotalaw.org/...

Image by Apache artist Douglas Miles.