Arizona tribal cop arrested for fatal hit-and-run, accused of ‘sickening’ cover-up

An Arizona tribal police officer has reportedly been arrested for a hit-and-run that left a 30-year-old woman dead.

According to Phoenix station KTVK, on Thanksgiving Day former White Mountain Apache Police Department officer Josh Anderson allegedly struck Iris Billy, a 30-year-old mother of two, with his police cruiser and then left the scene, leaving her to die.

“The deadly collision happened at about 3:30 a.m. … on State Route 73 at milepost 355 near Pinetop-Lakeside. That’s about 2.5 miles south of the Hon-Dah Casino on the Fort Apache Reservation,” the station reported Monday.

“In a Facebook post a few hours after the crash, police said the unknown vehicle fled the scene and had not been located. In a follow-up message that was posted on Friday night, the department announced that an arrest had been made but provided no other details. Both posts have since been deleted,” according to the station.

During an investigation, officers with the White Mountain Apache Police Department determined that Anderson’s work cruiser had damage to it that was “consistent with a collision with a pedestrian.”

“They started to recognize there was a police car that was there (at the scene) that had some damage on it, but again, in rural Arizona, our cars get torn up sometimes because officers go to the forest,” Navajo County Sheriff’s Office chief deputy Brian Swanty explained.

“But as the investigation continued, there was more and more indication saying something just isn’t fitting here. Who would ever think it was the police car involved that’s now back on scene? That is just not normal,” he added.

Moreover, they determined Anderson had been on duty when the crash occurred. Even worse, after leaving the scene of the crash, it turned out he later returned to it ostensibly to help investigate what had happened. He also “made next-of-kin notifications to Billy’s family,” according to KTVK.

He basically acted like he hadn’t caused the crash and was just a good officer doing his job.

Following Anderson’s arrest, he was booked on a litany of charges, including assault, aggravated assault, aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, aggravated assault causing serious physical injury, criminal negligence, reckless driving, interference with an officer, death caused by a vehicle, and leaving the scene of a fatality collision.

“The sheriff’s office said Anderson, who was a 20-year veteran of the department who’s well-known across the reservation, resigned immediately following his arrest. The case has now been turned over to the FBI, which will eventually turn its findings into the U.S. Attorney’s Office for review,” KTVK notes.

In a statement, the Navajo County Sheriff’s Office claimed this was an “isolated incident” and that Anderson’s behavior doesn’t reflect the character of the White Mountain Apache Tribe and their own police force.

“This is an extremely sad time for the family of the victim, the men and women at the White Mountain Apache Police Department, and the White Mountain Apache Tribe. This event is an isolated incident and is not a reflection of the fine police officers that serve and protect the citizens of the White Mountain Apache Reservation every day,” the office said.

“The White Mountain Apache Police Department acted in a swift, transparent, and aggressive manner to find the facts and document the incident. Their professionalism and vigilance throughout the investigation resulted in the ability to gather evidence and facts surrounding the death of Iris Billy,” they added.

As for Billy’s family, they can’t get over what Anderson did.

“It is very disturbing, sickening and heartless. Whatever he did to her, he came back to the scene and helped investigate. And he was one of the four officers that came to my parent’s house to break the news to them,” her sister, Phylene Burnette, told the station.

“We were expecting her home that morning. They [her children] still need her. She was the sole parent, she was everything to them. To know it was someone in our local police department, emotions are all over the place. It’s sadness and anger, like why? He needs to stay in jail,” she added.

The case has since been turned over to the FBI, while Billy’s family meanwhile has launched a GoFundMe for her children.

Vivek Saxena

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