At least 15 people were injured after an unlicensed drunk driver drove through a parade celebrating Native American culture in western New Mexico.
Jeff Irving, 33, was arrested late Thursday on charges including driving under the influence of alcohol, fleeing from police, and injuring two Gallup officers who tried to stop a parade participant and a vehicle. confronting.
In a statement, New Mexico State Police said investigators had no reason to suspect the crime was motivated by hate. New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said most of the injuries, including police officers, were minor.
Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez and his family were nearly crashed in their Chevrolet Tahoe as they drove down the parade route.The vehicle serves as the kickoff event for the 10-day Gallup Intertribal Ceremonial Centennial Celebration. We sped through downtown Gallup about 15 minutes after the nighttime parade started.
Court records show that Irving’s blood alcohol content was three times the legal limit for driving. Police said his license had been revoked or suspended on another DUI charge and the SUV was unregistered and uninsured.
Court records did not list an attorney for Irving who could speak on his behalf. state police said in a statement.
Crowds of thousands lined the parade route in front of businesses selling Native American jewelry, arts and crafts, much of the chaotic scene captured on video.
Social media videos showed people yelling for others to get out of the way and forcing parade participants to safety as SUVs zipped past the parade. One video showed a parade participant shouting obscenities at the driver and passengers of his SUV and being handcuffed to the ground.
According to the video, the children dancing the traditional dance were the first to see the SUV coming towards them. They screamed and ran sideways as the others tried to escape.
Images also showed blankets, shoes, banners and umbrellas left strewn across the streets and sidewalks as people fled.
Lujan Grisham said Friday the state will send additional police officers and a behavioral health crisis team to Gallup to conduct the remainder of the ceremony.
Nez said vehicles were coming toward him and a group of tribal officials marching in the parade. Thank you.
“Please pray for all who attended,” Nez said in a video posted to social media. I’m sorry to say it happened here in Gallup, New Mexico.”
Tonya Jim said he went to the parade with his parents, grandchildren and children. Her five-year-old granddaughter KaRiah was selected from the crowd to join the group of dancers. Shortly after, the car drove down the parade route, turned, and struck a man across the street who was sitting in a folding chair, she said.
“I’m glad that whoever was holding her hand kept holding her hand and ran with her to get her off the road. I don’t know who she is. I am grateful to her.”
Jim said he prayed over a cedar burn when his family got home and did a cigarette smoke prayer on Friday mornings to calm himself down.
“I bless my children, thank my creator that they are still with me, and pray for their families who have been hurt,” said Jim, a Navajo who lives in Fort Defiance.
During the riot, the SUV veered off the road, parked in a parking lot, and then tried to pull out again. It hit a parked car and backed into a police car, according to state police. Officers assembled in the vehicle and detained the driver, whom Irving identified as his brother, and two passengers, according to court documents.
Irving initially admitted to drinking at least a few bottles of beer after telling police he hadn’t been drinking, according to court documents. He hails from the small community of Pinedale and faces 21 charges, according to documents and police.
City, state, and tribal officials met on Friday, with some calling for more resources to address alcohol abuse. The rate while driving was above the US national average.
“I think there is always room for improvement,” said Capt. Erin Toadrena Pablo of the Gallup Police Department. “I don’t think anyone should look at it and say we’re doing the best we can. There are always other avenues.”
The nighttime parade is the highlight of a ritual celebration founded in 1922 as a way for traders to showcase the culture and arts of the region’s Native American tribes, said Kyle Thom, president of the Gallup Intertribal Indian Ritual Society. Stated.
Tom said the daytime parade will go ahead as planned on August 13th, the day before the event ends. Other events include dances, rodeos and juried art shows.
People travel to Gallup to participate in parades and events from the vast Navajo Nation that spans Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, and other tribal reservations. Nez, Tribal Councilors, and others expressed anger and disbelief over what had happened.
“It should be a celebration, but today was a difficult time for us,” said Nez.
Fonseca reported from Flagstaff, Arizona. Associated Press writer Susan Montoya Bryan of Albuquerque, New Mexico contributed to this report.