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Mar 23, 2011 12:02 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Shinnecock Indian Nation Leaders Upset Over Recent Arrests

Mar 23, 2011 12:02 PM

Shinnecock Indian Nation leaders this week sharply decried a recent car chase that ended at a beach on the reservation, where a large crowd had gathered, and resulted in the arrest of four tribe members days later.

Shinnecock representatives accused Southampton Village Police of disrespecting the tribe by not calling off the chase, acting “lawlessly,” interrupting a cultural gathering—and, they say, thereby causing panic—and brushing off questions from tribal leaders.

The fallout from the chase, which occurred late Friday night, March 4, has reopened lingering sore feelings between the tribe and neighboring governments and law enforcement agencies. Tribal leaders are now asking for more dialogue and respect from the outside, while police officials this week defended their handling of the incident.

According to police, Officer James Moore tried to pull over Robert L. Eleazer at about 11 p.m. on March 4 on Tuckahoe Lane in the village for driving without license plates. Instead of pulling over, however, Mr. Eleazer sped off. This week, police revealed that while trying to elude police, Mr. Eleazer, who had a shotgun in his vehicle, was jettisoning plastic and paper bags with unknown contents along the way. When the chase ended on Little Beach Road, he tried to run away, and a large, “unruly” crowd of about 15 people, which police said swelled to about 50 people, interfered with the arrest and helped Mr. Eleazer escape. One member of the crowd tried to drive the car away.

Mr. Eleazer, along with Awan J. Gumbs, 30, Terrell L. Terry, 35, and Charles B. Randall, 43, all were arrested on March 9 at police headquarters. Mr. Randall, who police said jumped in the car and tried to drive it away, turned himself in to police, while the other three were taken into custody when they arrived to meet with parole officers.

“We are damn upset about it,” Tribal Trustee Lance Gumbs said in an interview on Tuesday at the reservation. Mr. Gumbs—whose son Awan was charged with resisting arrest and obstructing governmental administration in connection with the incident—claimed that police should have aborted the chase for safety reasons when they crossed onto tribal land. He noted that the reservation’s narrow streets and lack of street lamps do not mix well with high speeds. Further, he claimed that police violated their own policy by not doing so.

Village Police Chief William Wilson Jr. said this week that he understands the Trustees’ position, but defended his department’s handling of the situation.

“While I understand the feelings of tribal members, we’re not in a position to not enforce the law when someone flees onto reservation property. It’s not the police officer’s fault that Mr. Eleazer decided to flee. It’s not the police officer’s fault that Mr. Eleazer was armed with a shotgun,” he said. “That officer handled himself with professionalism.”

According to Trustee Gumbs and Trustee Gordell Wright, police interfered with a meeting of the Shinnecock Warrior Society, which was meeting at the beach at the time. The group seeks to promote cultural identity and spirituality in the tribe’s men.

When police showed up, the founder of the society, Mr. Terry, identified himself as a member of the Tribal Council and asked what was going on, but was brushed off, the trustees said. Mr. Gumbs, who said he was called to the scene shortly afterward, said the police officer hopped out of his patrol car and brandished what was thought to be a gun, stirring panic in a peaceful crowd. The officer was actually holding a Taser, which he eventually used on Mr. Eleazer when he tussled with the officer, police said. Mr. Terry was charged with obstructing governmental administration.

“Obstructing? Obstructing what?” said Lance Gumbs. “If anything, the Village Police obstructed a tribal meeting that was going on up here. If anything, they obstructed a government official from finding out what the problem was up here. Were they supposed to move out of [the officer’s] way and part like the Red Sea?”

Typically, New York State Police have jurisdiction on the reservation; however, any police agency is authorized to enter the reservation while in pursuit of a criminal suspect or if asked to assist another police agency. Mr. Gumbs said he wasn’t upset that Village Police entered the reservation, but he thought the chase should have ended once they did for safety reasons.

He and Mr. Wright also said they do not condone what the defendants did and do not believe that fleeing onto the reservation should allow someone to escape justice. “It’s not like everybody thinks, ‘If I make it onto the rez, I’m safe.’ That’s not the attitude that we have,” said Mr. Wright.

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Please give us a break. What do they think that they can break the law and are immune to the laws of the land?
By maxwell (169), speonk on Mar 24, 11 12:11 PM
1 member liked this comment
If they cannot abide by the laws outside of the reservation then maybe they shouldn't leave. Those involved in the incident give the Shinnecock Nation a bad name when in fact there are many good people who live there.
By Lloyd Braun (3), Southampton on Mar 24, 11 1:24 PM
2 members liked this comment
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By johnnyhampton (81), Southampton on Mar 24, 11 9:47 PM
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By typical (63), southampton on Mar 25, 11 8:25 AM
maybe we should steal and commit crimes on thier land then leave the reservation and claim immunity, I bet that would make them change thier views,
By typical (63), southampton on Mar 25, 11 8:25 AM
2 members liked this comment
Hanging around the train station, throwing bags out the windows, come on. We're talking about drug dealers using the Shinnecock Nation as a shield against law enforcement (again). The tribal leaders should be upset with the residents of their reservation who are further tarnishing the Shinnecock's image with their nonsense, not law enforcement officers trying to keep the residents of the Hamptons safe. Clean up your act and there won't be any police activity on the res to worry about!
By firecat911 (8), Hampton Bays on Mar 25, 11 12:17 PM
2 members liked this comment
Is this thee-day festival still scheduled to start on August 5th?

http://www.27east.com/news/article.cfm/Southampton/376343/Three-Day-Arts-and-Music-Festival-To-Take-Place-This-Summer-At-Shinnecock-Indian-Reservation?message=subscribed

Dan's Paper's has a new article on this festival, which one might have assumed was a spoof. Maybe not? [no URL posted, as 27east does not allow this]

With camping at the Elks Grounds?

This could get complicated IMO.
By PBR (4921), Southampton on Mar 25, 11 1:01 PM
Please... we are supposed to obey no trespassing laws....unless we bring our money for festivals or cigarettes. I wouldnt give one cent!
By squeaky (291), hampton bays on Mar 25, 11 3:15 PM
151 comments?

You must be drunk, granting majority status, to a few individuals.

Then again, that really is "typical" "American" behavior, isn't it?
By Mr. Z (11376), North Sea on Mar 26, 11 3:50 AM
Mr Z you just love to hear yourself talk. Try to keep your comments relevent , your insults mean nothing to me. If thats all you have to say in regard to my comment, keep it.
By squeaky (291), hampton bays on Mar 27, 11 12:26 PM
3 members liked this comment
Not really.

Sorry for calling you out, on a rotten comment. I've admittedly been a bit moody lately, however, I'm kind of surprised you didn't specify the type of penny you wouldn't give.

But, I wouldn't want to read anything into your comment...
By Mr. Z (11376), North Sea on Mar 28, 11 11:16 PM
The Shinnecock Indian reservations are sovereign nations since their recognition by the federal government. Now that casino money is on the horizon, the Shinnecocks will have the authority and finances to hire tribal police as has been the case for generations in, for instance, the Navajo Nation.

I doubt that the Shinnecocks want to promote their territory as a haven for criminals but I hope that they have a different attitude towards substance abusers than that of the community that surrounds ...more
By highhatsize (4038), East Quogue on Mar 25, 11 1:20 PM
1 member liked this comment
So Highhat you are saying it is ok for some to break laws? I don't see where having a Tribal Police Force will change anything unless it works in conjunction with SHTP or other law enforcement.

By bb (884), Hampton Bays on Mar 25, 11 1:23 PM
to bb:

Briefly, the milieu that creates the situation where Shinnecock Indians are repeatedly pursued at high speed on reservation property will be transformed once the Shinnecocks are the authors of their own destiny. Once the forces of law and order on the reservation are US rather than THEM, the community will solidify behind responsible Indians trying to insure the peace and stability of their community. Currently, the Indians know that what STPD officers are after when they enter ...more
By highhatsize (4038), East Quogue on Mar 25, 11 1:57 PM
HHS, a minor point -- according to the article, here it was a Southampton VILLAGE police officer chasing the suspect. SH Town PD was not involved, and traditionally it has been mainly NY State Troopers who were authorized to enter the Reservation (under NYS state law I imagine?).

Are you saying that under federal law, no non-tribal police are allowed to enter a federally recognized Indian Reservation except in active pursuit of a felony suspect, per your comments above?

Is this ...more
By PBR (4921), Southampton on Mar 25, 11 3:26 PM
1 member liked this comment
My question is who exactally will be tribal police? They cant seem to control the crime themselves now! Except to allow criminals to" run for the border."
By squeaky (291), hampton bays on Mar 25, 11 3:14 PM
1 member liked this comment
Clearly the Tribal leaders were not defending the criminal who disrespected not only the SH village but also their own Nation. That is not what this article is saying. Tribal leaders are in fact defending the Sovereignity of the Nation. Could SHVP or SHTP pursue a criminal out of their own jurdisication? NO!!! Yes your right highhat that when the tribe does have its own police force instances like this will be handled with the Tribal police. Until than the outside police force needs to respect the ...more
By NativeWoman (18), southampton on Mar 25, 11 3:37 PM
NativeWoman, I believe that SH Village PD and SH Town PD ARE authorized under state law to pursue an active suspect into other (non-Indian) jurisdictions. This authorization may not permit all pursuits into the new federally recognized Shinnecock Nation, but I am guessing that federal law does permit some pursuit under exigent circumstances, subject to certain limitations such as HHS has suggested.

If you could cite sources which summarize the federal law on this, it would be appreciated. ...more
By PBR (4921), Southampton on Mar 25, 11 3:53 PM
1 member liked this comment
Perhaps the local Police Departments would respect the tribe's sovereignity if it's members would respect the U.S. laws while they are "visitors" in our country. The police did not say, "hey lets go harass the shinnecock," quite the contrary, three chases this year already have stopped at the border of the reservation, due to respect for the tribe. How many free passes should the members of the tribe be given?
By AlwaysLocal (292), southampton on Mar 28, 11 5:40 PM
2 members liked this comment
@ PBR The State police along with Tribal Security would "police" the event.
@ Squeaky - A Tribal police force is set up thru the BIA and requires training and education in federal & Tribal laws just like any other police force.

People PLEASE stop being so disrespectful because you chose not to educate yourself on issues you don't understand!!!
By NativeWoman (18), southampton on Mar 25, 11 3:46 PM
No disrespect intended or given IMO. Will the tribal police force be in place before the August 5th festival including all the BIA training and education to which you refer? Thank you.
By PBR (4921), Southampton on Mar 25, 11 3:55 PM
1 member liked this comment
Perhaps NativeWoman youy should learn the laws yourseld. The police were within their authority when following the vehicle into tribal land. And, by the way the answer to your previous question, "Could SHVP or SHTP pursue a criminal out of their own jurdisication?" The answer is yes, they are allowed to, providing it is for a crime or violation within their jurisdiction that they had witnessed (and an attempt was made to apprehend the suspect within their borders) they can chase someone into the ...more
By AlwaysLocal (292), southampton on Mar 28, 11 5:33 PM
3 members liked this comment
Would be nice if the Press actually did some, ya know, journalism and provided explinations on the laws allowing or forbiding different police departments from entering the reservation. It's been my understanding that only the State was allowed on the property because there is no Tribal Police. The reason these idiots race back to the rez is because they're under the impression that they can't be pursued.
By Nature (2966), Hampton Bays on Mar 25, 11 4:09 PM
3 members liked this comment
Unless Shinnecock Indian members hold the status of "diplomatic immunity", they are responsible for obeying the laws of a nation upon whose soil they trod upon.

Unless I am mistaken, the tribe has NO objection to these men being prosecuted for the crimes they committed on American soil.

Get over yourselves ("Americans"), and let the good people of this Nation represent whom, and what it is. Totallym, and completely tyypical of a bunch of sensationalist "Americans" to give majority ...more
By Mr. Z (11376), North Sea on Mar 26, 11 3:31 AM
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By PBR (4921), Southampton on Mar 26, 11 1:31 PM
I assure you all, there are members of the Shinnecock Indian Nation that do not condone the activity of evil doers,be them Indian or non-Indian within boundries of our community! I also assure you that the issue here is jurisdiction and not an attempt to shield these individuals from facing the consequences of their bad choices! The soverign and jurisdictional issues will be addressed as we move forward with our government development processes, but never in the defense of criminal activity!! ...more
By fedrec (1), sothampton on Mar 26, 11 9:03 PM
2 members liked this comment
to PBR:

Nice try, PBR but you should know better than to try to post relevant information on a "newspaper" site.

I also was unable to find any uniform regulations regarding police jurisdiction on Indian reservations. What knowledge I have comes from reading novels whose locale is the Navajo Nation. (Sandi Ault & Aimee & David Thurlo) I don't know if their depiction is accurate but I suspect that it is. In those novels, there are Feds, BIA officers, state cops, local cops and ...more
By highhatsize (4038), East Quogue on Mar 27, 11 10:10 AM
Thanks HHS. Yes, the URL deleted by the editors was IMO informative on the topic under discussion, and was not from Long Island from what one could tell. Go figure.

So much for an open and informed discussion, which at times must of necessity refer to other sites. At a time when the Press is encouraging paid membership, such squelching of debate sends readers away IMO, even the paying ones. A shame.
By PBR (4921), Southampton on Mar 28, 11 10:30 AM
8k run & 3 mile walk, Agawam Park, Southampton Rotary Club fundraiser