WINSLOW, Ariz. - A Winslow man who was inside the Circle K when 27-year-old Loreal Tsingine allegedly stole items and walked out of the store, said he witnessed the final minutes of her life.
"I just thought that they were going to take her in and take her to jail," said Ryanle Benally. "That’s it. I didn’t think her life was going to be taken, she would be shot that many times. You know? It was sad."
Benally says he had just finished up installing drywall with his 15-year-old stepson at a home directly across the street from the Circle K. The pair went inside the store and were standing in line when they saw Tsingine.
"She went behind the (cashier's) counter, she grabbed a pack of cigarettes and then she went to the liquor and grabbed some shooters," Benally said. "And she went to where the hot dogs were at and she grabbed a hot dog and started eating it in the store."
After a few minutes, Tsingine exited the store, according to Benally. Moments later, a police officer entered the store asking where the woman went.
Benally and his stepson left the store, saw a police car drive through the intersection and walked around the corner of the store thinking they were about to see an arrest.
"I said, 'Let's go see what happens to that lady, this is what happens when you steal, I want you to see it,'" Benally said.
The two trailed Tsingine from a distance, but had a clear view up the sidewalk where she was walking. Benally said a police car pulled ahead of her, stopped and an officer got out. Seconds later, another police car pulled up.
"The officer got out of the police car and he grabbed her by the wrist and threw her over his body," Benally said.
The officer then pinned the woman face down on the ground with his knee on her back and began yelling, "stop resisting," according to Benally.
"We were walking and I said, 'Look, they’re going to arrest her,' but that didn’t happen," he said.
According to the Department of Public Safety, who is conducting the investigation, one officer shot at the woman five times during an altercation while trying to take Tsingine into custody because she fit the description of the shoplifting suspect.
DPS also stated the woman was armed with scissors at the time, which the Winslow Police Department said was a substantial threat to the officer.
Benally ran to the scene and said he was offering to help Tsingine.
"I told the officer, "I know CPR, I can help her," but he told me step back, sir, and he pushed me," he said.
Benally said he stayed at the scene and told a Winslow [olice officer he witnessed the shooting and wanted to make a statement, but the officer did not act.
A short while later, Benally said he approached a Navajo County Sheriff's officer and told him he was a witness. That officer brought over an officer with the Winslow Police Department who, Benally said, took down his information and said he would contact him soon.
Hours later, Benally said he had not heard from the police department and called to ask about making a statement, but was told over the phone that all officers were busy at the moment.
A fourth attempt was made several hours later when Benally made another phone call to the department, but a statement was never taken.
12 News reached out to the Winslow Police Department for a response to Benally's claims and also clarification on their current policy regarding taking witness statements.
Winslow police Chief Stephen Garnett declined an on-camera interview with 12 News and deferred all questions to DPS.
The department issued this response:
"Statements, written or spoken are an integral part of any investigation. As a general practice, we attempt to collect statements from all persons involved in any incident, especially witnesses. And since the Department of Public Safety is the only investigative authority in this shooting, I respectfully ask that you refer him to DPS. To avoid all perceptions of bias, we are not involved in any way in this investigation. Thank you for your help in this."
DPS did respond to 12 News' inquiry about Benally's claim and looked into the issue, later sharing DPS detectives in Winslow made contact with him and received a statement.
The officer involved in the shooting, who has not been named, was placed on administrative leave pending the outcome of the investigation.