An Arizona police officer's fatal shooting of a woman suspected of shoplifting a case of beer has sparked outrage.
Members of the Navajo Nation, whose reservation borders Winslow, Ariz., say 27-year-old Loreal Tsingine suffered discrimination and excessive force and are demanding that the officer's name be released.
Winslow police say Tsingine brandished a pair of scissors threateningly at the officer before she was shot five times Sunday by a Wislow police officer.
The altercation took place a couple of blocks away from a convenience store where a clerk had reported a theft, said Lt. Jim Sepi, a spokesman for the Winslow Police Department.
The officer approached Tsingine, who fit the clerk's suspect description, according to police: a Native American woman wearing gray sweatpants and a white top.
When the officer attempted to take Tsingine into custody, police say she fought back, brandishing the scissors. The officer felt a substantial threat, Sepi said, and shot Tsingine five times.
A witness to the shooting, said he saw Tsingine in the convenience store.
"She went behind the (cashier's) counter, she grabbed a pack of cigarettes and then she went to the liquor and grabbed some shooters," said Ryanle Benally, who was in the store with his stepson. "And she went to where the hot dogs were at and she grabbed a hot dog and started eating it in the store."
Benally saw Tsingine leave the store and the police arrive.
He expected to see Tsingine get arrested.
"I said, 'Let's go see what happens to that lady. This is what happens when you steal, I want you to see it,' " Benally said.
He and his stepson trailed from a distance and saw two police cars pull up to where Tsingine was walking.
"We were walking and I said, 'Look, they're going to arrest her.' But that didn't happen," he said.
Winslow Police Chief Stephen Garnett has asked the Arizona Department of Public Safety to conduct an investigation into the shooting.
The Department of Public Safety declined to comment on Tsingine’s actions, words or demeanor, until the case is investigated further.
A community saddened, concerned
Navajos and others have taken to social media to express their grief and anger in the shooting, many using the hashtags #JusticeforLoreal and #Justice4Loreal.
Andrew Curley, a member of Red Nation, a coalition of Native American and non-Native American activists, said an organic movement has formed to challenge what he called the police violence against Tsingine.
"Loreal is a victim of discrimination, and we want justice," said Curley. "We can all relate to this case because we have all been racially profiled by law enforcement. While we are saddened at (Loreal's) death, we're not surprised because we know that this is a systemic issue."
Curley said the group supported the independent investigation into the shooting and has asked the Navajo Nation to take a more active role in this case.
In a statement, Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye said: “We hear about these types of shootings happening across the country. If there is no legitimate justification for taking Tsingine’s life, then the Navajo Nation wants the fullest extent of the law to be taken in serving justice.”
Vice President Jonathan Nez posted the following statement on Facebook: "The Navajo Nation sends our condolences to her family during this tragedy. Significant numbers of Navajo citizens have expressed public outcry over this violence. We will continue to investigate."
Tsingine's family admits she had some mental health issues, but they didn't go into detail.
Organizers of a vigil scheduled for Saturday are demanding that the name of the officer involved in the shooting be released and that their concerns on police brutality against Native Americans be taken seriously."How many of us have drawn suspicion and have been unfairly harassed by the Flagstaff Police, Winslow Police or the state's highway patrol?" Curley said. "This could have been any of of us. We grieve the loss of a member of our community."
The officer involved in the shooting has been placed on administrative leave pending the outcome of the Department of Public Safety investigation.
The officer is a law-enforcement veteran of three years and was wearing a body camera at the time of the shooting, Sepi said.
In a police statement released a day after the shooting, Winslow police expressed condolences to Tsingine's family, the officers and the Winslow community.
Winslow is nearly 60 miles east of Flagstaff, Ariz.
Contributing: Charly Edsitty, KPNX-TV, Phoenix.