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Press Release

Tsayatoh Man Pleads Guilty to Federal Firearms Violation

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, District of New Mexico

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – Alexander M.M. Uballez, United States Attorney for the District of New Mexico, and Raul Bujanda, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Albuquerque Field Office, announced today that Rumaldo Peshlakai pled guilty to being a felon in possession of firearms and ammunition. Peshlakai, 43, of Tsayatoh, and an enrolled member of the Navajo Nation, will remain in custody pending sentencing, which has not been scheduled.

According to court documents, on Sept. 23, 2021, Peshlakai and Jane Doe were involved in a domestic dispute at a residence in Tsayatoh. Afterward, Peshlakai left the residence in Doe’s vehicle with their four children and multiple firearms and ammunition, driving into a wooded area near the residence. Peshlakai stated if any officers tried to stop him, he would shoot. An Amber Alert was issued for the four children in New Mexico and Arizona.

Officers from the Navajo Police Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation located the vehicle in the wooded area and identified footprints leading away from the vehicle. Inside the vehicle was an empty box of ammunition and a single round. Officers tracked the footprints for six miles to an abandoned housing area where it appeared another vehicle arrived and picked up Peshlakai and the four children. That evening, Peshlakai contacted NPD Dispatch and informed them the children were at a relative’s house. Peshlakai was not at the relative’s house and would not give his location but agreed to turn himself in to the FBI the next morning.

The children, who were unharmed, were recovered by law enforcement, and Peshlakai was arrested on Sept. 24. Law enforcement later traced Peshlakai’s steps over the six-mile walk and unearthed a gun case that Peshlakai had buried while evading police. It contained a rifle, two pistols, and ammunition. Additional investigation revealed that Peshlakai abandoned the vehicle and took the case, then buried and concealed the case while being pursued by law enforcement. In a later interview, he claimed not to know the location of any firearms and denied possessing them at all.

Peshlakai was previously convicted in 2001 of assault by striking, beating or wounding and assault resulting in serious bodily injury, and in 2006 for being a felon in possession of ammunition. As a previously convicted felon, Peshlakai cannot legally possess firearms or ammunition.

At sentencing, Peshlakai faces up to 10 years in prison.

The Gallup Resident Agency of the FBI Albuquerque Field Office and the Navajo Police Department investigated this case with assistance from the FBI Phoenix Field Office, United States Marshals Service, New Mexico State Police, Navajo Police Department, McKinley County Sheriff's Office and Bernalillo County Sheriff's Office. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Alexander F. Flores and Kimberly Bell are prosecuting the case.

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Updated August 10, 2023

Indian Country Law and Justice
Press Release Number: 23-178