Officer Michael Lee was ‘a protector of his community’

Kalle Benallie

PORTRAITS FROM THE PANDEMIC

Officer Michael Lee held various roles during his nearly 30-year career with the Navajo Police Department.

He served as a patrol officer, enforced sex offender laws and helped with information technology. He also worked closely with the community and lent a hand organizing many annual Native American Toys for Tots events over many years.

Lee died Friday morning of COVID-19 in Phoenix, according to the department. The agency described his passing as its “first officer line of duty death as a result” of the virus.

“We are devastated and heartbroken,” Chief Phillip Francisco said in a statement. “Officer Lee was a husband, a father, a son and a protector of his community. We ask the public to join us in remembering his commitment and contribution to his community and to keep his family in your thoughts and prayers today.”

Lee’s body was transported from Banner University Medical Center in Phoenix to Rollies Mortuary in Gallup, New Mexico, according to tribal police. The Arizona Department of Public Safety, New Mexico State Police Department and local municipalities assisted with the approximately 280-mile procession on June 19.

“We thank the medical professional and security personnel with Banner Medical for their assistance as well as our partner law enforcement municipalities in Phoenix, AZ for honoring and assisting in Officer Lee's escort,” said the Navajo Police Department in a Facebook post.

Lee began his law enforcement career in 1990 at the Navajo Police Academy in Toyei, Arizona. He worked in the district of Window Rock, Arizona, for seven years and remained in the district of Chinle, Arizona, for 22 years.

Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez and Vice President Myron Lizer offered their condolences to Lee’s family, friends and colleagues in a statement.

"It's a sad time for the entire Navajo Nation and, to Officer Lee’s family, we offer our prayers. Our police department lost a truly honorable and distinguished person,” Lizer said. “Take comfort in knowing that your loved one is now in our Creator's hands."

Nez also said they are issuing a proclamation to order all flags on the Navajo Nation to be flown at half-staff to honor Lee.

“Officer Lee fought on the front lines to combat coronavirus, and we are grateful for his dedication to our community. His steadfast commitment to protect and serve will be remembered and honored," Nez said.

Lee is survived by his wife and children. Details on his memorial services will be announced. 

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