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Reservation danger? Insiders claim mass resignation of police officers on Moapa Indian Reservation

Posted at 10:44 PM, Aug 27, 2019
and last updated 2019-08-28 02:30:14-04

LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — Insiders are painting a dark picture of the situation that lead to the mass resignation of nearly a dozen officers from within the Moapa Band of Paiutes Indian Reservation.

13 Investigates has learned nearly 12 officers resigned from the force on Friday.

Insiders say it leaves the reservation with just 1 officer.

"It's very dangerous, very dangerous," said one insider with knowledge of the situation.

"I've had phone calls from people saying they are carrying around guns because they are afraid," added the insider whose identity 13 Investigates has agreed to keep confidential.

Those with close knowledge of the situation tell 13 Investigates there is a laundry list of issues among the tribal leadership and the police department, starting with adequate funding.

"We were told that we were self-generated and we have to have $1.4 million to survive, so we had to go out and write tickets," added the insider.

13 Investigates has learned tribal police focused on enforcement along a 9-mile stretch of Interstate 15 from around the Valley of Fire exit extending approximately 10 miles to the North.

In the past 12 months, the number of tickets handed out to drivers has been increasing.

Recently, the number of monthly tickets exceeded 500, which equates to more than $120,000 in revenue for the department and was on pace to exceed $1.5 million per year.

Insiders say that figure is enough to cover the policing budget for the Moapa reservation, however the tickets are issued in a civil form and not criminal.

The difference means a credit collection company is used to service the tickets and to collect the money.

Insiders say the public was intimidated to pay up, despite the department or tribal leadership from issuing any repercussions.

Insiders say the tickets ranged in price from nearly $300 dollars up to $1,500 dollars, mostly for speeding and not having registration.

13 Investigates has learned the funding feud was only one of the issues.

Insiders tell 13 Investigates the July 4 event known as Moapa Madness was chaos.

Multiple YouTube videos show a fireworks explosion on the reservation, including vehicles on fire.

One elderly man, Hector Rojas Moreno, was killed when a firework exploded near him causing a catastrophic injury to his skull.

Another person nearly had her arm severed by a firework.

"It should have been prevented, because if they had any planning, any safety officer for this planning, nobody would have gotten hurt," said the insider.

The same whistle blower says safety concerns brought to tribal leadership were not heeded.

An estimated 30,000 people showed up to the venue to launch high-powered fireworks during the event, where insiders say alcohol and marijuana were in abundance.

"When you put alcohol with drugs and some type of firework, something major is going to happen and it did," said the insider.

"And a person lost their life from this," he added.

Insiders tell 13 Investigates the relationship between police and tribal leadership had been falling apart for months.

One whistle blower says police on the sovereign nation had not arrested a tribal member for any reason in nearly a year, adding there was a lack of judicial infrastructure, critical posts not filled, a lack of an appropriate jail, and tribal leadership making judgment calls on matters such as domestic violence.

"The sovereign nation is nothing more than anarchy, basically they do what they want and nobody controls them, but them," added the insider.

13 Investigates inquired about the July 4 incident and concerns about the judicial infrastructure but a request for comment was not immediately returned.

13 Investigates asked tribal leadership about the mass resignation and a spokesperson released a statement:

The Moapa Band of Paiutes law enforcement agency is operated under a cooperative agreement with the United States and works in concert with off-Reservation state and local law enforcement agencies. From time to time, we have turnover in one or more of our law enforcement positions. Currently, we have an adequate staff of law enforcement officers, and appreciate the assistance of the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs ensuring law and order on our Reservation. We have no comment on specific, individual personnel matters.

The Moapa Band of Paiutes takes Law and Order seriously and ensures that its Laws are enforced, even handedly.
The Moapa Band of Paiutes, Tribal Administrator

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