The acting police chief of the Tonto Apache Tribe was wrapped up in a lengthy standoff this weekend; however, he was on the wrong side of the call.
Samuel Lujan, 47, reportedly shot up his estranged wife’s car then holed himself up in his Heber home for five hours before surrendering to SWAT teams that included units from Payson.
Lujan ignored officers’ attempts to talk him out of the house, only coming out after police filled his trailer with a noxious gas.
Reportedly, Lujan’s wife had served him with divorce papers last week and he “apparently didn’t take it well,” said James Molesa, chief deputy with the Navajo County Sheriff’s Office.
On Sunday, after working the graveyard shift for the Tonto Apache Tribe, Lujan drove back to his home in Heber. Still in his uniform and driving an unmarked patrol vehicle, Lujan sought out his estranged wife.
He spotted her vehicle parked outside her sister’s home in the Heber-Overgaard area. At about 10 a.m. he shot into her vehicle 18 to 22 rounds from his department-issued assault rifle and .40-caliber pistol, Molesa said.
Lujan’s estranged wife and her family rushed to the home’s front window to witness Lujan’s fusillade. Lujan’s brother-in-law reportedly wanted to go outside with his hunting rifle, but the family convinced him not to leave afraid for his safety, Molesa said.
After shooting at the vehicle, Lujan reportedly got back into his patrol vehicle and quietly drove away.
Unsure where Lujan was headed, the Navajo County Sheriff’s Office called the Payson Police Department to ask Police Chief Don Engler to send officers to Highway 260 to watch for Lujan’s vehicle coming in to town.
Deputies then responded to Lujan’s singlewide trailer in the Heber-Overgaard area and found Lujan’s patrol vehicle crashed into his Subaru, his assault rifle sitting on the hood alongside a half-empty bottle of Jagermeister.
Through the open door to the trailer officers eventually spotted Lujan moving around inside.
Fearing Lujan had more guns inside, the Navajo County Sheriff’s Office called for additional help from the Department of Public Safety, Game and Fish, the U.S. Forest Service, the county’s regional SWAT team and eventually the Payson Police Department’s SWAT team.
Many of the officers knew Lujan, who had worked for the NCSO four years ago. He resigned from the office for undisclosed reasons, Molesa said.
At press time, the Roundup could not determine how long Lujan had worked for the Tonto Apache Police, but since the tribe’s police chief left recently, Lujan had been helping fill in as the interim chief. He was a sergeant with the Tonto Apache Police before that.
A person working at the Tonto Apache Police office Monday would only say that Lujan was now on leave.
Back at Lujan’s trailer Sunday, officers surrounded the home and using a PA system, tried to communicate with him for nearly an hour. Lujan didn’t pay much mind though, refusing to acknowledge their presence, Molesa said.
Officers then called Lujan on his cell phone and finally got him talking.
About 8 p.m., the NCSO called in the Payson SWAT team for additional help.
However, a domestic disturbance call in Payson on West Summit Street delayed the dispatch of the Payson team. In that case, a woman called police to say her husband had killed himself during an argument, Engler said.
After clearing that scene, seven Payson officers and Engler headed to Heber and provided additional help holding the perimeter.
By 11:30 p.m., after hours of negotiations on the phone, things with Lujan had stalled, Molesa said. Commanders decided to send in OC spray, a pepper-spray like chemical compound that irritates the eyes.
By 12:05 a.m., Lujan emerged from the trailer and officers arrested him without incident.
Deputies booked Lujan into jail in Holbrook on charges of domestic violence, criminal damage and aggravated assault. As the investigation continues, Lujan could face additional charges, Molesa said.