A couple took road rage to a new level when they threw rocks the size of basketballs and cinder block halves at a state trooper pursuing them for speeding on the Fourth of July.
It was a blazing working holiday for an Arizona Department of Public Safety trooper. He was traveling in his patrol car in the Navajo Nation near Kaibeto when he saw a red Toyota Tacoma truck speeding almost 20 miles over the limit down State Route 98, court documents state. It
The trooper, known only in a criminal complaint as “J.B.,” approached the rear of the truck when a woman in the passenger’s seat, identified later as 25-year old Jessica Benally, started chucking cinder blocks from the bed of the truck at his patrol car, according to documents. It was as though the trooper had driven into a vehement, nonconsensual dodgeball game.
When the trooper turned his lights on, he says a man on the driver’s side, 27-year-old Kendale Johnson, grabbed a rock and got in on the bizarre stoning.
The trooper estimated Benally and Johnson threw 20 to 30 halves of cinder blocks and rocks “the size of basketballs” from the back of the truck bed at the patrol car while driving an estimated 80 or 90 mph, according to the complaint.
The trooper slowed his patrol car, keeping a safe distance from the truck.
Now, you might think this story ends with the truck of rocks waving the white flag of defeat in the middle of the road, but you’d be wrong.
The truck took off again, heading west on State Route 98, before turning off onto a dirt road toward the Kaibeto Trading Post.
The trooper waited at mile-marker 332 for other officers to assist him with this literal rocky horror show of a pursuit.
Soon, Navajo Nation police officers responded and found the vehicle at the end of a wash that veered off from the dirt road. Benally and Johnson fled from the truck on foot but were soon located at a nearby house.
A backpack with a Sig Sauer 9mm magazine and numerous rounds of ammunition calibers inside
Police also found a handgun on a nearby hillside.
Benally and Johnson were taken into custody by Navajo Nation police. They’ve both been charged with assault with a dangerous weapon.
This is just a drop in the bucket for a place where culture prospers, but crime runs rampant. FBI statistics from 2013 showed the Navajo Nation had 42 homicides, surpassing cities with larger populations, such as Boston and Seattle.
In an interview with Arizona DPS officers on Wednesday, Benally said Johnson picked her up in the truck in Shiprock, New Mexico, a few weeks before the incident. Benally admitted to smoking marijuana and suspected Johnson and his friend had smoked methamphetamine on Independence Day.
Benally said she’d spotted the patrol car following them that day as she and Johnson were riding together. Johnson became nervous, she said. Obviously, the only logical thing to do was throw rocks out of the back of the truck to attempt to hit the bottom of the patrol car and the oil pan, she told investigators.
She told FBI officials Johnson hadn’t thrown any rocks, though the trooper’s statement contradicted her. Johnson also denied throwing rocks during an interview with the FBI.
Johnson didn’t own the truck involved in the incident but said the owner’s nephew had given him the keys to it weeks earlier. Johnson denied this but later acknowledged that he hid the backpack with ammunition and the handgun. He advised he’d hidden numerous other stolen guns in the same area.
Johnson explained to officials that he’d committed numerous home burglaries and stolen guns a week before the incident because of “pressure from an ongoing feud,” according to the complaint.
The criminal complaint said Johnson had multiple inconsistencies with his story when he spoke with detectives.
Multiple shell casings from various calibers of guns were located inside the cabin of the truck involved in the pursuit. Two fresh bullet holes were found in the truck, one inside the driver’s door and another on the roof of the truck.
The truck was registered to an owner in New Mexico, but his name was redacted from the court documents. When officials attempted to contact the owner, his brother said the truck had been stolen a few weeks before the incident.
The Phoenix bureau of the FBI is investigating the incident, but an FBI spokesperson could only refer the Phoenix New Times to court documents.
Arizona DPS spokesperson Bart Graves deferred questions to the Navajo tribal police, due to the ongoing investigation. The Navajo police did not return several calls from the New Times.
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