Moment of silence

Officer Curley honored by public, law officers

By Noel Lyn Smith
Navajo Times

CHINLE, July 7, 2011

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(Special to the Times - Donovan Quintero)

TOP: A Navajo Nation Police officer leads the way as officers from other agencies salute the late Sgt. Darrell Curley at his funeral Saturday in Chinle.

MIDDLE: Navajo Nation Police officers shoot three rounds into the air as they pay tribute Saturday to Sgt. Darrell Curley at a family burial site north of Fort Defiance.

BOTTOM: Members of the Haven family hold up signs and wave flags as a procession for fallen Navajo Nation Police Sgt. Darrell Curley passes by Saturday on State Highway 264 by Cross Canyon, Ariz.




Saturday's funeral procession for Navajo Nation Police Sgt. Darrell Cervandez Curley made its way from Chinle across the Defiance Plateau to its destination at the family burial plot in Fort Defiance.

It was a somber moment, much like the morning, which started with a funeral service at the Chinle LDS Church, details of which the family asked to keep private.

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Curley, 48, died June 26 of wounds suffered during a gunfight that broke out after he responded to a domestic violence call June 25 in Kaibeto, Ariz. His alleged assailant, Victor Bigman, also 48, was charged with first-degree murder June 28 in U.S. District Court in Flagstaff.

By 9 a.m. the church's parking lot was filled and vehicles began to park along U.S. Highway 191.

Two Navajo police officers occasionally stopped traffic to allow people to cross the busy road, which was lined with patrol units from each Navajo Nation police district as well as police departments from around the region.

Curley, a 25-year veteran of the Navajo police force, had served in Chinle, Fort Defiance and Tuba City.

After the service, which ended about noon, the funeral procession began its journey from Chinle to Fort Defiance, with 14 motorcycle patrol units leading approximately 300 vehicles. They traveled down U.S. 191 to State Route 264, and from there east to Navajo Route 12.

As the motorcade made its way through Kinlichee Chapter, people attending a family reunion stopped and stood along the highway. One of them, Cecelia Benally, held an American flag in her hand, and the corner of a large white banner that read, "God Bless You Curley Family."

"This is our way of supporting the family," Benally said, explaining that members of the Haven family paused in their family celebration to pay their respects to the fallen officer.

Another of the family's banners read, "We R praying 4 the Curley's."

As Benally watched the flow of vehicles, she said her son, Derek Benally, and her brother, Alfonso Haven, are both Navajo police officers and had worked with Curley.

"It's to honor all police officers as well," Benally said quietly.

Near Sawmill Road on top of the Summit another group stood with a large poster. A few yards away a Navajo man stood alongside his mountain bike and held his baseball cap over his heart.

As the procession made its way through Window Rock, people in the Bashas' parking lots and around the flea market watched the cortege respectfully.



Navajo police stopped traffic at the intersection of Highway 264 and Route 12 to let it pass as people at the street corners and in the First American Credit Union parking lot stood and gave it their attention.

At the reception at Nakai Hall after the burial, Hualapai Nation Chief of Police Francis Bradley Sr. watched as fellow officers, friends and family gathered. Bradley was the acting chief of police for Navajo until he retired in 2002.

"I've known Darrell his entire career," Bradley said, adding that he still cares about the Navajo police force.

"He (Curley) is still under my watch. They're still under my watch," he said.

As a way to comfort Curley's three children, Bradley told them stories about their father.

"The thing that gets overlooked is that he is a person," Bradley said. "He has family too."

As many of the officers did, Bradley was part of the group who escorted Curley from Flagstaff to Tuba City, Kayenta and Chinle for the church service.

"The honor they gave us, I was touched by that. I don't see that every day," Bradley said about the countless tributes along the way.

Apache County Sheriff's Deputy Albert Clark attended the service too.

"It doesn't matter what agency you work for, it is part of the brotherhood," Clark said.

Like Bradley, Clark also had worked with Curley.

"He was a dear friend of mine," Clark said.

Farmington Police Sgt. Donnie Kee was among eight Farmington police who paid their respects. Kee said Farmington officers were familiar with Curley and his brother, Navajo Nation Police Sgt. Marvin Curley, because both departments would sometimes attend training services together.

"We came out to honor him as much as we could - that was important to us," Kee said.

He said they understand what the Curley family and the Navajo police family are going through. Farmington police experienced a similar loss in December when a roadside bomb in Afghanistan killed Police Sgt. James Thode.

Thode, a member of the Farmington police for 14 years, was in Afghanistan with his National Guard unit.

During the reception, President Ben Shelly presented the Curley family with a letter of condolence from the Navajo Nation. In a short speech, he mentioned the need to increase funding for law enforcement and increase the number of Navajo police officers.

"I hope we learned our lesson today about what happened," Shelly said. "We don't want to see this happen again."

Other dignitaries in attendance were first lady Martha Shelly; Speaker Johnny Naize; Council delegates Nelson Begaye, Lorenzo Curley and Jonathan Nez; and former delegates Kee Allen Begay and Kee Yazzie Mann; Apache County Sheriff Joseph Dedman; McKinley County Sheriff Felix Begay; and representatives from Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer's office.

Among other law enforcement agencies at the service were representatives of the Arizona Highway Patrol, BIA Police, Bureau of Land Management Rangers, City of Maricopa Police, Coconino County sheriff, Flagstaff Police, Gallup Police, Gilbert Police, Holbrook Police, Hopi Police, Laguna Detention Center, Mohave County sheriff, Navajo County sheriff, Navajo Nation Corrections Department, Navajo Nation Emergency Medical Services, Navajo Nation Fire Department, New Mexico State Police, Page Police Department, Phoenix Police Department, Salt River Police Department, San Carlos Apache Police, Show Low Police Department, St. Johns Police Department, U.S. Border Patrol, U.S. Marshals Service and Zuni Police Department.

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