Whiteriver, AZ – White Mountain Apache Police Department (WMAPD) Officer Adrian Lopez was murdered in the line of duty on Thursday night after being shot during a traffic stop.
The incident began at 7:11 p.m. on June 2, when Officer Lopez stopped a vehicle on East Fork Road in the downtown area of Whiteriver, Navajo County Sheriff’s Office (NCSO) Chief Deputy Brian Swanty said during a press conference on Friday afternoon.
At some point during the encounter, a physical altercation broke out between Officer Lopez and the driver, who was later identified as 25-year-old Kevin Dwight Nashio.
Chief Deputy Swanty said investigators believe Nashio fatally shot the 35-year-old officer during the confrontation, then stole his patrol car as additional WMAPD vehicles pursued him.
The chase continued on for 40 miles through an extremely remote, “rugged and rural” area of the Fort Apache Indian Reservation to the area of Hawley Lake, he told reporters.
In the midst of the “chaotic” chase, the officers were also involved in a “rolling gun battle” with the suspect, Chief Deputy Swanty explained.
“I can’t imagine what those officers were going through,” he said.
When they reached Hawley Lake, Nashio crashed the patrol car into a tree.
Yet another gun battle ensued, during which 29-year-old WAMPD Sergeant Lonnie Thompson was shot.
Officers returned fire, hitting and killing the gunman.
Sgt. Thompson was airlifted to a hospital in Phoenix, where he remained hospitalized on Friday.
Chief Deputy Swanty said Sgt. Thompson’s wounds are not believed to be life-threatening, but that “may certainly be debilitating.”
Investigators are still working to determine how many rounds were fired during the chaotic event.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is handling the ongoing investigation into the incident.
Officer Lopez began his law enforcement career in March of 2021, when he was hired by the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA), Chief Deputy Swanty said.
He joined the WMAPD in January.
Officer Lopez leaves behind his wife and his young child.
“Our hearts are broken,” White Mountain Apache Tribal Chairman Kasey Velasquez said during the press conference on Friday. “Last night, a wife lost her husband, children lost their father, our Tribe has lost a beacon of light …but we have not lost hope nor faith in the future of our White Mountain Apache Tribe and in the rule of law.”
Velasquez said Officer Lopez was “shot and killed in the line of duty, protecting our communities of the Fort Apache Indian Reservation.”
The tribal chairman ordered that all flags be lowered to half-staff in Officer Lopez’s honor until further notice.
“This is a time of mourning,” he said.
The Scottsdale PD is saddened by the tragic loss of the White Mountain Apache PD ofc killed in the line of duty last night. We send our condolences to his family & friends and the entire community. Our thoughts are with the injured officer as they work through recovery. pic.twitter.com/DE8N2DGVHu
— ScottsdalePD (@ScottsdalePD) June 3, 2022
Officers are arriving at the Pima County Medical Examiner's Office, where the body of a White Mountain Apache officer was brought about an hour ago. The officer was fatally shot in the line of duty last night. After this, his body will be taken home to Northern Arizona. @KOLDNews pic.twitter.com/6IR07rKfZD
— Shelby Slaughter (@Shelmarslaugh) June 3, 2022
Our thoughts and prayers go out to the White Mountain Apache Police Department, family and friends of the Officer killed in the line of duty last night. pic.twitter.com/EqnHWnHHGU
— El Mirage Police (@ElMiragePD) June 3, 2022
Our thoughts and prayers are with the family of White Mountain Apache Police Department Officer Adrian Lopez, both blood and blue. Thank you for your service.
Officer Adrian Lopez, your life mattered.