Published March 31, 2016
WINSLOW, ARIZONA— David Villaescusa, a former corrections officer with the Arizona Department of Corrections, stayed up all Sunday night awaiting confirmation of the death of his cousin, Loreal Tsingine, 27, who he helped raise since she was 10.
“I took her in after her father died. Her mother was an alcoholic and died when Loreal was 19. She lived with me off and on since she was ten. Even now, she would come to my house to do laundry. She called me, dad,” said Villaescusa.
Mingling in the crowd with other members of the public, he did not immediately identify himself as being a relative of the young mother, who was reportedly shot five times by Winslow Police Officer Austin Shipley on Easter Sunday afternoon.
Shipley was one of two officers who responded to a reported shoplifting of beer from the Circle K in Winslow. The shoplifter was described as a Native American female wearing gray sweatpants and a white top.
Two blocks from Villaescusa’s house, the two officers attempted to apprehend Tsingine.
According to the police press release, while attempting to take the subject into custody, a struggle ensued. The subject displayed a weapon which the responding officer perceived as a substantial threat. The officer discharged his weapon resulting in the death of 27-year-old Loreal Tsingine.
“She had a pair of scissors that she used to cut her hair split-ends,” states Villaescusa. “She stood only five feet tall and weighed less than 100 lbs. Shipley, on the other hand, is over six feet tall and weighs over 200 pounds. I don’t think he had to shoot her.”
Villaescusa maintains he overheard the other officer tell backup officers that Shipley got “trigger happy.”
“I had to wait until 4:00 a.m. before the police told me the person killed was Loreal,” Villaescusa told Native News Online.
Tsingine’s death is being investigated by Arizona Department of Public Safety, which is standard operating procedure for a police department the size of Winlow’s.
According to Villaescusa, a private citizen videotaped the deadly shooting with his smartphone.
“I watched the video. She never raised those scissors towards the officer. It has been reported she stole a case of beer from the Circle K. I did not see any beer in the video,” says Villaescusa.
Villaescusa says the video has been sent to law enforcement. The private citizen does not want publicity.
Raul Garcia, spokesman for the Arizona Department of Public Safety told Native News Online, he could not comment on whether or not there is a videotape of the deadly incident.
On Wednesday, Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye called for an independent investigation into the shooting death of Tsingine by Winslow police officer Shipley, who has been placed on leave.