Crime Spree on the Reservation

The first bullet entered Brian Patrick Lindsay's head and tore through his tongue.

The 20-year-old Subway sandwich shop clerk grabbed his face and collapsed near the cash register. As he lay on his back, he was shot five more times at very close range, and then he was kicked by one of his assailants.

But Pat Lindsay did not immediately die on the evening of May 15, 1994.
After his attackers had grabbed sandwiches, sodas and chips and a bank bag that contained $100, they had fled the eatery at the Scottsdale Pavilions shopping center. Somehow, the injured clerk knew they were gone and pulled himself up to the telephone. He dialed 911. Because his mouth was gushing blood, Lindsay had difficulty making himself understood.

"Help me, I been shot," he tried to say.
"I can't understand you, sir," the 911 operator responded.
"Help me, help me," Lindsay moaned, his voice nearly drowned out by country-western ambient music in the background.

"Are you alone, sir?" the operator asked.
"I been shot," Lindsay tried to say a second time. "Help me."
He was silent, then moaned: "Help me. I been shot. Please."
"What's your name, sir?" the operator asked.
"Pat Lindsay. Help me. Help me," he said.
"Please," he said.

Lindsay gripped the telephone receiver for almost five minutes, until police and firefighters arrived at the popular shopping center on the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community just east of Scottsdale.

By nodding to questions, Lindsay was able to convey to a firefighter that his attackers were Native Americans. He died a short while later.

No one who knew the amiable Northern Arizona University engineering student could fathom who would want to kill Lindsay. He was a Christian boy. He worked hard in school. He seemed to get along with everyone. At the time of his death, he had just begun his summer job at Subway. He'd worked there during previous summer breaks and on vacation.

People on the reservation were shocked by the senselessness of the murder. What sort of person would gun down an innocent Anglo kid while he was fixing an order of meatball sandwiches?

No one realized at the time that Pat Lindsay's murder would mark the beginning of a two-year crime spree that included murder, drive-by shootings, death threats, beatings, arsons, fire-bombings and robberies on the once-tranquil Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community.

Pat Lindsay's killers were not easy to find. They left little physical evidence at the crime scene--only the bullets in Lindsay's body from an unknown gun and a few fingerprints that no crime lab could identify. There were no witnesses. Lindsay had been working alone on the late shift. There had been no customers in the shop.

But a maintenance worker who was hosing off sidewalks near the Subway had seen three Native American men dressed in baggy, "gangsta"-style clothes enter the Subway around the time Lindsay was killed.

A few minutes later, a different man who worked at a music shop near the Subway had seen three Native American males in baggy clothes leave the sandwich shop and get in an old Plymouth driven by a fourth man.

A few days later, the music-shop employee noticed the same old Plymouth near Scottsdale Pavilions and reported the license number to tribal police.

Tribal police detectives interviewed the car's owner, Riley Briones Jr., a known member of the East Side Crips Rolling Thirties, a gang that had sprouted up on the reservation around 1993. Briones, who lived on the reservation, told police he frequently went to the Pavilions late at night to pick up his girlfriend, who worked at one of the shops.

The Subway murder remained unsolved for nearly a year.
Then tribal police received an anonymous tip on the reservation's silent-witness phone line. The tip led police not only to Pat Lindsay's killers--including Riley Briones Jr.--but into the frightening world of the East Side Crips Rolling Thirties, a gang made up almost entirely of young men and teenagers who lived on the reservation, got high on crystal meth and cheap beer and terrorized their community of about 9,000 residents with violent, deadly crimes.

The Indian gang had been formed by Riley Briones Jr. and others in 1993 and had no apparent connection to the original Crips, a Los Angeles street gang.

But the Pima gangsters were every bit as destructive to the social fabric of the reservation as the L.A. Crips were to Compton. Besides committing violent crimes, various members of the East Side Crips Rolling Thirties plotted to kill their own relatives and one another. They divided families, pitting brother against brother, father against son. They sired children out of wedlock, moved into the homes of the terrified parents of their girlfriends and, in one instance, arranged for a Crip to seduce the 14-year-old sister of a rival Blood gangster so the girl would disgrace her brother by birthing a Crip baby.

KEEP PHOENIX NEW TIMES FREE... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Terry Greene Sterling