- By Native News Online Staff
WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. – The Navajo Nation is mourning the death of Navajo Police Officer Michael Lee, who passed away on Friday morning from COVID-19. The Navajo Police Department confirmed Lee is the tribe’s first law enforcement officer to pass away as the result of COVID-19.
The Navajo Indian Reservation has been hit hard by COVID-19. On Friday evening, the Navajo Nation reported 6,894 COVID-19 cases and 330 related deaths since March 17, 2020.
"On behalf of the Navajo Nation, we offer our heartfelt condolences and prayers to Navajo Police Officer Michael Lee’s family, friends, and colleagues. Officer Lee fought on the front lines to combat coronavirus and we are grateful for his dedication to our community. His steadfast commitment to protect and serve will be remembered and honored," Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez said.
He also said he and Vice President Myron Lizer would issue a proclamation to order all flags on the Navajo Nation to be flown at half-staff in memory of Officer Lee.
A 29-year veteran of the Navajo Police Department, Officer Lee served with the Chinle Police District at the time of his death.
Officer Lee began his law enforcement career for the Navajo Nation Police Department in Toyei, Ariz., in October 1990. Officer Lee was a patrol officer, a Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA) officer, and a supporter of the department's information technology component. During his first seven years with the police department, he served within the Window Rock district and dedicated his remaining years to the Chinle district.
"It's a sad time for the entire Navajo Nation and, to Officer Lee’s family, we offer our prayers. Our police department lost a truly honorable and distinguished person. We also pray for the people of Chinle and surrounding communities, who welcomed Officer Lee throughout his time in service to that region. Take comfort in knowing that your loved one is now in our Creator's hands," Vice President Lizer said.
"It is with great sorrow that the Navajo Police Department announces the passing of Officer Michael Lee. We are devastated and heartbroken. Officer Lee was a husband, a father, a son, and a protector of his community. We ask the public to join us in remembering his commitment and contribution to his community and to keep his family in your thoughts and prayers today," Police Chief Phillip Francisco said on Friday.
Officer Lee is survived by his wife and children. Memorial service details will be forthcoming.
More Stories Like ThisNative News Weekly (May 15, 2022): D.C. Briefs
Native Bidaské (Spotlight) with Carlisle Indian School Project Leader Gwen Carr
Indigenous Women on Roe v. Wade
Truth and Healing Commission on Indian Boarding Schools Bill Advocated for in Washington, D.C.
Alaska’s First Investigator Focused on Missing and Murdered Indigenous People is a Veteran of the Troopers
Do you appreciate a Native perspective on the news?
For the past decade-plus, we’ve covered the important Indigenous stories that are often overlooked by other media. From the protests at Standing Rock and the toppling of colonizer statues during the racial equity protests, to the ongoing epidemic of Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women (MMIW) and the past-due reckoning related to assimilation, cultural genocide and Indian Boarding Schools, we have been there to provide a Native perspective and elevate Native voices.
Our news is free for everyone to read, but it is not free to produce. That’s why we’re asking you to make a donation this month to help support our efforts. Any contribution — big or small — helps us remain a force for change in Indian Country and continue telling the stories that are so often ignored, erased or overlooked. Most often, our donors make a one-time gift of $20 or more, while many choose to make a recurring monthly donation of $5 or $10. Whatever you can do, it helps fund our Indigenous-led newsroom and our ability to cover Native news.
Donate to Native News Online today and support independent Indigenous journalism. Thank you.