WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. (ABC4 News) – The Navajo Nation is mourning the death of one of its police officers to COVID-19. The Navajo Police Department confirmed this is the first law enforcement death as a result of the virus.
Navajo Nation leaders said Officer Michael Lee died of COVID-19 Friday morning.
“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,” said Police Chief Phillip Francisco.
Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez and Vice President Myron Lizer offered their condolences to the family and colleagues of Officer Lee.
“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,” said President Nez, who noted that he and Vice President Lizer would also issue a proclamation to order all flags on the Navajo Nation to be flown at half-staff in memory of Officer Lee.
Officer Lee who is described as a “truly honorable and distinguished person” began his law enforcement career for the Navajo Nation Police Department in Toyei, Ariz., in October 1990. He served for 29 years and was with the Chinle Police District at the time of this death. Officer Lee is survived by his wife and children.
The Navajo Nation was hit especially hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. Earlier this year, the Nation was in the top three largest COVID-19 hot spots in the country, trailing only behind New York and New Jersey. So far, more than 300 people have die of the virus since the pandemic began.