Bureau of Indian Affairs Officer Unjustly Shoots Iraqi Vet in His Own Homeland

Frances Blackburn shared this post via CopBlock.org’s submit page.

Date of Interaction: December 23, 2013
Police Employee Involved: Jose Valdez
Police Employee Contact Information: Wind River Agency, Ft. Washakie, WY 82514 (307) 332-3112

On December 23, 2013, my 27 year old son Owen Brown, who was unarmed, was shot by a bureau of Indian Affairs Officer, Jose Valdez at approximately 1:00 AM. Prior to my son’s encounter with said officer, Jose Valdez had come to my home on numerous occasions. Owen did not know Officer Valdez prior to this incident. To my knowledge, Owen did not have an active warrant. Upon talking to FBI Agent Donati, he advised me that Owen did not have an active warrant. I asked him to please let Officer Valdez know as he is stalking our home. This conversation took place a week prior to my son being shot. Officer Valdez intimidated my family by telling myself, my children, and my sister, that Owen was wanted on a federal warrant and his exact words were, “He is a fugitive, and the marshals will come and get him, they will come and kick in your door and the doors of your relatives. They don’t care. It’s best if he turn himself into us, rather than the marshals.” He continued to park on C’Hair Lane, where we live and where the shooting occurred, for weeks prior to this incident. He stopped different cars that entered the premises for no reason, citing a tail light being out or the license plate light being out, yet never citing the drivers of the vehicles for said violations. He stopped my son in law three times in one day, asking him where his .45 weapon was. He also stopped my unlicensed 16 year old daughter that same day, being December 15, 2013. He did not issue her a citation for driving without a license or having expired tags.

On December 23, 2013, while monitoring my police scanner, I heard Officer Valdez do three vehicle registration checks in a row within a matter of minutes on C’Hair Lane. He realized that the vehicle he called in was Owen’s and continued to follow it into my residence on C’Hair Lane, without probable cause. It appears this officer was fixated on capturing my son. My nephew, Joseph Blackburn, 18 years of age, was driving and was sober. Where was the probable cause to run registration checks and stop the vehicle? After the shooting, in which Owen was wrong in resisting arrest and jumping in the vehicle, this action did not warrant him being shot. This officer has a reputation in the community of a retaliatory nature. He said to one young man, “If I see you driving again, you better hope your mom comes to save you,” and saying to the housing security officers, “If you work against us, we’ll work against you.” This particular incident shows Owen taking a swing at the officer and jumping in the car. Owen remembers, as do his three brothers who were witnesses, not moving the vehicle until after he was shot. He remembers putting the car in gear with his left arm. One can only surmise that this officer was not willing to let anyone get over on him, and began shooting at Owen. The FBI worked hard at finding the truth in what the officer said, not giving the same amount of effort to questioning Owen’s aunt who witnessed the incident and was questioned two days later.

It took the ambulance two hours to get a wounded man the eight miles to the hospital. I, his mother, a security officer with a police scanner, heard of the shooting at 1:00 am. I got to my home at 1:17 am and was met by two unfriendly non Indian Officers, BIA Officer Parnell and Riverton (border town city officer), and Police Officer Gilbert Peck, who cussed profusely at myself and family members. I got to the hospital at 1:30 am and my son was brought to the hospital at around 3:30 am. He laid in his blood with his wounds for two hours. Was my son’s life less valuable because it was an officer involved shooting?

Since the shooting, the family has been racially profiled by the city police department of Riverton, Wyoming. An email was intercepted in which myself, Owen’s mother, a supervisory security officer, and a child abuse investigator was called a gang leader.

I believe that the incident that happened related to my son being shot and the aftermath are racially motivated as well as motivated by other law enforcement personnel whose values and morals I question. Prior to the shooting, one FBI Agent told my son that Owen needs to be put away because he has PTSD and will get someone hurt. Is this the motivation that sent this corrupt officer after my son?

Where was the supervision for this overly aggressive officer, whom the community disliked for many legitimate reasons? Did they not see the harassment that he exhibited towards this family? Why, when there are at least 200 on the warrant list, did Officer Valdez seek out my child? Who will listen and ask these questions for me? With the press here in a racially biased community, it portrays my son as a monster. Yet, what about this Officer, who in a short amount of time became an officer that no one liked or trusted in this community? Why are the officers of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, who are non Indian, including the FBI, allowed to treat natives in this community, on our own homeland, unfairly and unjustly. Who will ask these questions for me? Where can I get answers? A few days after the shooting up until the present, when standing outside our home, the wi-fi settings read “NSA Surveillance Drone;” FBI Surveillance; and FBI Watchdog. What are they looking for in this home where two year old and eight year old children live, along with sixteen year old and twenty-four year old females, and myself, a well respected mother, all reside. Those setting appear only at our home. When driving away from the house, the settings disappear. Both the BIA and the Riverton Police Department also sought to make me lose my jobs, as they submitted documentation that was furnished to me. What was the reasoning behind that? I did nothing wrong.

I am seeking help in finding answers or if nothing else, media attention in bringing to light the wrong that was done to this young Iraqi vet and his family. Since then, with the help of a federally paid public defender (as is usually the case with Native people in Wyoming) who doesn’t care about the innocence of those he is supposed to defend, my son reluctantly accepted a plea bargain. This could have all been avoided if not for this over aggressive officer who does not deserve to carry a badge. Thank you for your time.

Frances Blackburn



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