Bishop Tribe supports officer; Inyo County has response

– Press release from the Bishop Paiute Tribe

BISHOP, CA- February 12, 2015 – The Bishop Paiute Tribe would like to take this opportunity to state its support of Tribal Police Officer Daniel Johnson.


The Bishop Tribe has maintained a police department since 2009 and its mission is to ensure public safety to the reservation residents and visitors. The incident leading to Officer Johnson’s arrest occurred on December 24, 2014, after he responded to a tribal member’s call for protection in a disturbance by a non-Indian individual who is ordered by both the tribal and state courts to have no contact with the tribal member.

Officer Johnson was acting under tribal authority and was carrying out his duties as a Tribal Police Officer for the Bishop Paiute Tribe at the time of the incident. The Tribe wishes to thank Officer Johnson for his past and continued service to the Tribe and recognize his commitment to the safety and well-being of the Bishop Paiute Reservation and all of its residents.

The Tribe and the Tribal Police Department have worked earnestly in the past with the Sheriff’s Department to ensure the public safety on the Bishop Reservation. It is unfortunate and regrettable that the Inyo County Sheriff’s Office and District Attorney has taken the unprecedented actions against Officer Johnson and fails to recognize the inherent Tribal sovereignty of the Bishop Paiute Tribe (including the authority bestowed to our Tribal Police Department).

The Bishop Paiute Tribal Police Department continues its commitment to public safety and the protection of all citizens and residents of the Reservation and surrounding communities.

For more information please call the Bishop Tribal Office at (760) 873-3584 or go to


From Inyo County District Attorney Tom Hardy

Response to Bishop Paiute Tribe Press Release of February 17, 2015:

On or about January 5, 2015, the District Attorney filed a criminal complaint alleging three felony charges and one misdemeanor charge against Mr. Daniel Johnson. Specifically, he is charged with violating Penal Code section 244.5(b), assault with a stun gun; Penal Code section 236, false imprisonment; Penal Code section146a(b), falsely representing himself to be a public officer; and Penal Code section 242, simple battery.

The charges are based on allegations that Mr. Johnson used unlawful force on the person of another, and was the result of an investigation conducted by the Inyo County Sheriff’s Department.

The District Attorney’s office reviewed the investigation reports with the same degree of scrutiny that it would apply to any case submitted to it, and determined that sufficient legal cause existed to file the case and to proceed in court.

Mr. Johnson is, of course, presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. Pursuant to an Act of Congress, State law enforcement authorities in the State of California are obligated to investigate and prosecute crimes alleged to have been committed on reservation lands in the state, including the Bishop Paiute Reservation.

The Inyo County District Attorney takes its obligation to provide criminal justice services to all citizens of Inyo County, including all tribal members and reservation residents, very seriously. As we all know from recent events around our nation, no one, including peace officers employed by federal, state, and local agencies, are immune from investigation and prosecution of alleged criminal acts.

The charges against Mr. Johnson will proceed in court and he will receive all of the protections accorded to anyone charged with a crime. Because of Congress’s grant of criminal jurisdiction to California state authorities, this case has nothing to do with tribal sovereignty. The District Attorney absolutely respects the sovereignty of the Bishop Paiute Tribe, and all of the federally-recognized tribes in our County.

The office will continue to work with all stake-holders to ensure equal access to justice for everyone in Inyo County.


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13 Responses to Bishop Tribe supports officer; Inyo County has response

  1. JaneE February 19, 2015 at 10:50 am #

    Even if the original confrontation with the tribal member did not take place on tribal lands, it is easy to see why the tribal police and not the local sheriff was called. And the DA’s release makes it sound as if it were on tribal lands. And if they were on tribal lands, I don’t see how the tribal police officer could be impersonating anything; he is a member of law enforcement in his own jurisdiction.

    I don’t know if Officer Johnson will be convicted, but if he is, the issue of authority to arrest non-tribal members on tribal lands needs to be settled by a higher court. If you go to Mexico or Canada, you get arrested by Mexican or Canadian police; you don’t get a pass because you aren’t a citizen. I think the same should apply to the sovereign lands of a tribal government.

  2. this smells February 18, 2015 at 5:24 pm #

    Thanks DT,

    So as some have stated some real simple questions need to be answered.

    Was this incident on tribal lands

    Is the officer a native and does he belong to the tribe. And does it really matter. I can’t imagine that a tribe cannot hire a non native to protect themselves.

    Very interesting

  3. Desert Tortoise February 18, 2015 at 3:49 pm #

    Tribes have full authority over native Americans on tribal lands and states have no jurisdiction whatsoever to enforce any kind of laws against native Americans on tribal lands. USC 1152 grants the Federal Govt jurisdiction over non-Indians on indian lands. In general states are thought to retain authority over crimes committed by non-Indians against other non-Indians on indian lands, but their authority in crimes between Indians and non-Indians on indian land is a bit less clear, though USC 1152 suggests Federal and not state authority to prosecute.

    Is the tribal officer a Native American? Is he a member of this tribe? If the answer is no to both then it might be a case of the county asserting it has authority over a crime committed by one non-indian against another non-indian on indian lands, but seems to ignore the acts were those of a badge carrying LEO in the line of duty.

    This ought to make a very interesting court case, one well worth following.

    • RandyKeller February 19, 2015 at 11:03 am #


      You’ve got it just about completely wrong. The Sheriff has criminal authority over everyone on tribal lands. Only on the civil side is authority limited.

      • Desert Tortoise February 19, 2015 at 2:58 pm #

        Tribal police can enforce tribal criminal law on tribal lands. They do not enforce California criminal law, that is up to outside law enforcement agencies to do. Tribal police operate under BIA auspicies and are sworn peace officers.

    • JD February 19, 2015 at 1:20 pm #

      You are completely wrong!!!! The Federal Government passed a law known as PL 280 that gave “concurrent criminal” jurisdiction to California over crimes that occur on reservation land. The key word is “concurrent”; all tribes have an inherent right to police tribal lands. In PL 280 states the if the offender is native then it does not matter if the victim is native or non-native the tribe and the state have concurrent jurisdiction over the offense. Furthermore, if the crime is related to domestic violence then the tribe has jurisdiction over all offenses committed on reservation land even if the offender is non-native. As clearly stated in the article a tribal police officer was enforcing a tribal protection order. He responded to a call for help by a Tribal Member who resides on reservation land. The tribal officer was enforcing the laws of the tribe and was given the authority to do so by the tribe. For the DA to say this is not a sovereignty issue is ludicrous to say the very least. All this case is, is nothing more than an attempt by the sheriff’s office and local government to exert power and control over the local tribe. By telling them what they can and cannot do on tribal land and if that is not a sovereignty issue then I don’t know what is!!!!!

  4. this smells February 18, 2015 at 9:53 am #

    There has got to be way more to this story. Officer Dan Johnson is no rent a cop. Daniel Johnson is a 20 year veteran of law enforcement. Holds POST training certificates honored as police officer of the year by San Bernardino chamber of commerce. Served as tribal police officer San Manuel, Morengo, Colorado River Indian tribes.
    Johnson is no slouch to tribal police work.

    Will look forward to more on this.

  5. Badfinger February 18, 2015 at 8:53 am #

    Since tha Tribal Council now aproved medical marijuana growers, and commercial Hemp growing on the rez, the Tribal Police now have more responsibility to protect tribal members and their crops, God bless America ☺

  6. BIG Rick O'Brien February 17, 2015 at 5:42 pm #

    This is SOOOOOOO incomplete…where’s the REST of the story ? Who and why did he use his taser, and aren’t peace officers able to do so in the course of their sworn duties ? What is this penal code section, falsely representing himself to a public officer ? Is he not a public officer also ? Sounds like there’s a little friction between ICSO and the tribal cops.

  7. MK February 17, 2015 at 5:31 pm #

    Sounds very strange to me. Is this guy really a police officer of the Paiute Tribe? As I understand it to be Yes..
    Mayber this peace officer was not in a area under the jurisdiction of the Paiute .

    Maybe the suspect was fleeing , I would think that the Tribe has sovereign rights. Something Stinks!

    I don’t get it. Am I the only one here that does not know?

    Sierra wave news crew – So are we just going to get Press releases and Obituaries from now on?

    • Bob Todd February 17, 2015 at 10:43 pm #

      As I sit here and watch the Westminster Dog Show … was just thinking …

      The two obits were people who have lived here for decades … I realize you’re meaning your remark in a larger sense, but it just seems mean.

      And, as for the Sierra Wave news crew, uh, that was Benett. The four full-time employees – who all have other duties than writing news – have all been pulling together for the last five years under difficult circumstances.

      I didn’t see the tribal and DA press releases today on any other media … so you’re criticizing us for getting out information that came to us today and two obits of loved people. That seems harsh to me.

      Sierra Wave Media will have more on the tribal situation … that kind of story involving law enforcement and a DA doesn’t happen in a just few hours.


      Bob Todd

      PS I think Benett would have loved this retort

      • MK February 18, 2015 at 8:28 am #

        My comment was in no way meant to be mean.
        I have no idea what has been going on in the back office or understand the dynamic’s since Benett’s passing. The whole community is missing her including myself.

        I thought I asked a very reasonable question. I think as a news agency that it could have been asked bout the Tribal officer some additional information other than posting some potentially self serving press release from a agency. How much time would that take to have asked was this on tribal lands. Was the tribal officer in uniform. did the Tribal officer have a badge. That’s it nothing more.

        And yes Benett probably would have loved this story.

    • Trouble February 18, 2015 at 6:31 am #

      MK- Your opinion is a little bit funny to me. I was thinking almost the complete opposite. To be far I had heard how sick Benett was almost a year ago.

      I’m actually surprised how good of job the small staff has been able to do considering what they have been thru.

      Dog Show? Really!


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