Tuba City police officer killed on duty; two brothers arrested

By Cindy Yurth and Cassandra Raye Chee
Tséyi' Bureau

CHINLE, June 28, 2011

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Two Kaibeto, Ariz. brothers, and their father, have been charged with murder in connection with the shooting death Saturday of Navajo Nation Police Sgt. Darrell Curley.

Johnson Bigman, 25, and Tyson Bigman, 21, were each charged with criminal homicide, criminal mischief, disorderly conduct and accomplice liability, according to Navajo Nation Judicial Branch spokeswoman Karen Francis.

Their father, Victor Bigman, is reportedly in critical condition in an area hospital, suffering from gunshot wounds inflicted during the scuffle that killed Curley. The Federal Bureau of Investigation has filed a complaint accusing him of first-degree murder in connection with Curley's death. (View a PDF of the formal complaint here. 640 KB, requires the free Adobe Reader.)

According to the complaint, Curley responded to a fight at the Bigman residence late on June 25. He and his partner were attempting to subdue Johnson and Tyson Bigman when Victor Bigman fired at them. Both officers were injured. Curley, 48, died of his wounds the following morning at Page Hospital.

His partner, Officer Vernon Begay, was treated at the hospital and released.

A bail hearing for Johnson and Tyson Bigman is set for 1:30 p.m. Friday in Tuba City District Court.

Acting Navajo Nation Chief of Police Dwayne Billsie said Monday the incident is being investigated jointly by the Navajo Nation Police and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Investigating officers in Tuba City did not return phone calls.

President Ben Shelly has ordered that flags on the Navajo Nation be flown at half-staff through June 30 in Curley's honor. Shelly issued the following statement:

"Vice President (Rex Lee) Jim and I are truly saddened to learn about the tragic loss of Sgt. Darrell Curley. We ask all Navajo citizens to join us in prayers for his wife Pauline and their three children, his parents and siblings, and Officer Vernon Begay and his family. Sgt. Curley was one of our finest and a commendable police officer of the Navajo Nation, who had the experience and courage to serve and protect our citizens. Our thoughts and prayers also go out to the Kaibeto community, Tuba City District and the Navajo Police Department. Every day police officers uphold the law to safeguard our life and property from harm. We appreciate and thank all our Navajo police officers at all seven police districts for their dedicated service and hard work."

Curley was from Chinle but had been assigned to the Tuba City Police District. A 26-year veteran of the force, he is survived by his wife Pauline and three children as well as his parents and siblings.

About 300 people turned out Monday evening for a meeting at the Chinle Community Center to support the family, including President Shelly. Curley was praised as a good father to his three children, a natural leader, the consummate police officer and a devout member of the LDS Church.

His funeral is set for 10 a.m. Saturday, July 2, in the Chinle LDS Ward. There will be a viewing starting at 8 a.m. Burial will be at the family plot in Fort Defiance, followed by a reception at Nakai Hall in Window Rock.

According to the Officer Down Memorial Page, Curley is the ninth Navajo Nation officer to lose his life in the line of duty since the force was established. Prior to Curley's death, the most recent was Winsonfred A. Filfred, who died in an automobile accident April 2, 1999.

Developing story: Please check back soon. More details will be published as they become available.

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