WINDOW ROCK — The Navajo Nation is moving forward on a proposed memorial to honor the 14 Navajo police officers who have died in the line of duty since 1949.
Vice President Jonathan Nez and Jesse Delmar, executive director of the Navajo Nation Division of Public Safety, met with police officers March 8 to discuss the design and construction of a monument that will include the names of officers killed in the line of duty. The monument, to be built at Window Rock Tribal Park and Veterans Memorial, will allow families of fallen officers a central place to remember and honor their loved ones.
“This is a priority for this administration,” Nez said. “Families of fallen officers need to know that we recognize the officers’ service, especially those who gave their lives to keep the Navajo Nation safe. Families deserve a place locally, on the Navajo Nation, to memorialize these men and women who died while on duty.”
The proposed memorial would be the third to recognize fallen Navajo Police officers, but it would be the only one on the Navajo Nation. The National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial in Washington, D.C., includes the names of more than 20,000 federal, state and local law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty since 1791. The Indian Country Law Enforcement Officers Memorial, in Artesia, New Mexico, recognizes more than 100 Native officers who have died on the job since 1852.
“We need our own,” Delmar said. “This is something we have never had before, but something our families need here, in the Navajo capital. Families will appreciate knowing that their loved ones are remembered.”
For the last three years, Navajo officers have organized a Fallen Warriors Bike Run to honor their comrades in conjunction with National Peace Officers Memorial Day May 15. Established by a joint resolution of Congress and signed into law by President John F. Kennedy in 1962, National Police Week, held the week of May 15 every year, recognizes law enforcement officers across the country who died while on duty.
This year, local event organizers hope to include a ground-breaking ceremony for the Navajo Nation Law Enforcement Memorial
Active police officers and families of the fallen, in conjunction with the Office of the President and Vice President (OPVP), plan to seek council approval for funding from the Unreserved, Undesignated Fund Balance. OPVP is working on cost estimates and architectural designs, which may include pathways, flower gardens and pavilions in addition to a memorial wall that lists Navajo officers killed in the line of duty.
The Navajo Nation’s fallen officers are: Hoskie Thompson, died Oct. 21, 1949; Burton Begay (age 24), died Nov. 17, 1975; Loren Whitehat (age 30), died May 10, 1979; Roy Lee Stanley (age 27), died Dec. 5, 1987; Andy Begay (age 36), died Dec. 5, 1987; Hoskie Allen Gene (age 36), died Jan. 6, 1996; Samuel Anthony Redhouse (age 34), died Feb. 17, 1997; Esther Todecheene (age 24), died June 8, 1998; Winsonfred A. Filfred (age 22), died April 2, 1999; Darrell Cervandez Curley (age 48), died June 26, 2011; Ernest Jesus Montoya, Sr. (age 54), died Nov. 30, 2014; Alex K. Yazzie (age 42), died March 19, 2015; LeAnder Frank (age 41), died Aug. 30, 2016 and Houston James Largo (age 27), died March 12, 2017.
James Hale, one of two officers wounded during the March 2015 incident that cost Alex Yazzie his life, has spearheaded the annual memorial ceremonies and the push for a permanent monument at Window Rock Tribal Park. Hale, shot in the leg during the incident, subsequently lost the leg but returned to active duty with a prosthesis.
Hale is the grandson of Hoskie Thompson, the first known Navajo officer who died while on duty. Hale said he began advocating for a local memorial to honor all the fallen officers.
“Most other police departments have their own memorials to honor the officers from their departments,” he said. “A memorial on the Navajo Nation would be unique. It would honor our fallen officers who gave their lives. It would show them respect and allow us to remember them every year.”