Dalton Walker
Indian Country Today

The Tohono O’odham police officer killed this week while trying to apprehend a suspect on the southern Arizona reservation was a beloved school resource officer and father of 11, tribal and school officials said Friday.

Officer Bryan Brown, a 19-year veteran of the department, was fatally injured Thursday after responding to reports of a public disturbance by an armed and erratic driver in the small community of Why, according to a release. The suspect attempted to flee but was taken into custody by Tohono O’odham police, with help from U.S. Border Patrol agents, authorities said.

For the past 10 years, Brown had served as a school resource officer for the tribe’s Baboquivari Unified School District. On Facebook, the school district posted a message from Superintendent Edna Morris about Brown’s passing.

“He will always be remembered for his kindness, loyalty, integrity and ability to connect with our children,” Morris wrote. “Everywhere he was, children would run up to him to give him hugs and acknowledge him. It was clear to me that he was beloved by so many.”

Ha:san Preparatory and Leadership School posted a similar message on its Facebook page, along with a photo of Brown.

“On behalf of the Tohono O’odham Nation, we offer our deepest condolences to the family, friends and colleagues of Officer Bryan Brown,” Chairman Ned Norris Jr. said in a statement Friday. “Today, we not only commemorate his tragic passing but honor and remember him as he lived. We are grateful for his selfless dedication to serving and protecting our communities. His commitment made us all safer.”

Brown was born in Washington state and served in the U.S. Army for eight years. He is survived by his wife, seven children, four step-children, eight grandchildren, seven siblings and his father.

“In this time of great sorrow, please keep Officer Brown’s loved ones in your hearts and your prayers,” Vice Chairwoman Wavalene Saunders said in a statement. “Please also think of his fellow officers who continue to put their lives on the line for us every day. We are grieving this loss together as a Nation, and we are thankful for the outpouring of support and condolences from across the state.”

On Thursday, the tribe issued a release with some details about the incident. The U.S. Border Patrol also responded to the incident. The Federal Bureau of Investigation is working with the police department in the investigation.

The Tucson Daily Star is reporting, citing court documents, that the suspect was “high on meth” and stole Brown’s police vehicle after Brown got out of his vehicle and approached the suspect. The suspect drove off before turning around and hit a marked Border Patrol vehicle and ran over Brown, according to the report.

Gov. Doug Ducey ordered flags at all state buildings be lowered to half-staff Friday. Ducey offered his condolences to the tribe and police department.

Police departments across Arizona offered condolences on social media to the tribe, police department and Brown’s family. The Gila River Police Department and Salt River Police Department, sister O’odham tribes to Tohono O’odham, shared messages on Facebook.

Why is on the western edge of the reservation and about 120 miles west of Tucson. 

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Dalton Walker, Red Lake Anishinaabe, is a national correspondent at Indian Country Today. Follow him on Twitter: @daltonwalker Walker is based in Phoenix and enjoys Arizona winters.

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