ST. MICHAELS, Ariz. - After hearing testimonies from Navajo citizens about police brutality in Farmington, N.M. and surrounding areas, Navajo human rights officials observed police brutality against a Navajo man in Farmington for themselves.
San Juan County Sheriff's Deputy Dale Frazier is presently under investigation for alleged use of excessive force against Donovan Tanner, who is Navajo. The video, which was recorded on Deputy Frazier's in-car dashboard video camera, has since gone viral on the Internet.
"To me, there's a strong indication from the video that Deputy Frazier immediately suspects the Native American is [immediately] at fault," stated Leonard Gorman of the Navajo Nation Human Rights Commission (NNHRC).
In the video, the first exchange began when Deputy Frazier appears to issue a directive to someone off-camera, possibly Tanner, with a dictatorial tone.
Tanner explained to Deputy Frazier he didn't know who hit him during an incident against him and his friends at the Three Rivers Brewery on March 17. Tanner stated, "We don't know who's who. They just kept pushing ..."
Tanner stated how he and his friends were seemingly singled out at the brewery and then asked to leave after giving his account of events. He explained that another witness who works at the brewery could give her account, too.
Deputy Frazier then attempted to restrain Tanner, who was off camera for about a minute until another officer eventually intervened and restrained Tanner with his body against the police car while Deputy Frazier secured Tanner with handcuffs.
Tanner was told to leave the brewery, and the video revealed he was led to believe he was being questioned as a witness. Instead, Tanner was charged with resisting arrest and disarming a police officer, but nowhere in the video does it show the police officer being disarmed.
Since then, charges against Tanner have been dismissed, according to Tanner's attorney, Arlon Stoker, and as reported in the Farmington Daily Times.
"This incident gives more credence to these complaints and the people's testimonies about the mistreatment by law enforcement in the Farmington area," Gorman said. "[T]his is one incident that ... speaks volumes for those individuals that presented testimony for similar mistreatment by [Farmington] law enforcement."
Racially charged events against Navajos in Farmington led the Navajo Nation Council to establish the NNHRC in 2006.
That year, Clint John was fatally shot by a non-Navajo police officer in Farmington, which led people to question the state of affairs between Navajos and non-Navajos. In that incident, the in-car camera was off and the officer was cleared after an investigation.
"It's evident that police brutality is ongoing without much acknowledgement. It is not just a past event," Gorman said.
The NNHRC recently issued a human rights campaign educating citizens to call the police, and because of Clint John's fatal outcome, to also remain a witness to give an account of events.
Lauren Bernally-Long of the NNHRC succinctly stated, "Capturing an incident on video is also important."