The 30-year-old victim leaves behind two sons, 9 and 10 years old, while the on-duty officer who allegedly fled the scene after striking the woman was ultimately arrested after damage on his police car proved consistent with hitting a pedestrian.
The family of a woman killed in a hit-and-run accident on Thanksgiving Day in Arizona had no idea that one of the police officers who arrived to share the devastating news was responsible for her death.
Josh Anderson, 49, a Native American tribal police officer for 20 years with the White Mountain Apache Police Department, was arrested the following day after the Navajo County Sheriff’s Office conducted an investigation of his vehicle.
The accident itself happened at 3:30am on Thanksgiving on the Fort Apache Reservation on State Route 73 about 2.5 miles south of Hon-Dah Casino. The vehicle that struck and killed 30-year-old Iris Billy fled the scene.
Anderson then responded to the scene after it was called in and also made next-of-kin notifications to her family.
“It is very disturbing, sickening and heartless. Whatever he did to her, he came back to the scene and helped investigate,” Billy’s sister Phylene Burnette told Phoenix station KTVK. “And he was one of the four officers that came to my parent’s house to break the news to them.”
Burnette said that Billy leaves behind a twin sister and two young sons, 9 and 10 years old. “We were expecting her home that morning,” said Burnette. “They still need her. She was the sole parent, she was everything to them.”
“To know it was someone in our local police department, emotions are all over the place,” Burnette continued. “It’s sadness and anger, like why? He needs to stay in jail.”
The Navajo County Sheriff’s Office handled talking to the press about the matter at the request of the tribal chairman and police chief, but it was the White Mountain Police Department who started to uncover the truth of that fatal accident.
“They started to recognize there was a police car [at the accident scene] that had some damage on it, but again, in rural Arizona, our cars get torn up sometimes because officers go to the forest,” said NCSO Deputy Chief Brian Swanty.
He acknowledged that it was hard for anyone to wrap their mind around the idea that the perpetrator of the hit-and-run accident that killed this woman would return to the scene. “That is just not normal,” he said.
Nevertheless, a sergeant for the WMPD went to Anderson’s home to inspect his car, where he recognized damage consistent with what might be seen if one were to hit a pedestrian.
“I can’t imagine that scenario there at all, Next of kin are probably one of the worse assignments to be given let alone knowing you had something to do with it, I can’t imagine that,” Swanty told the press. “Had he stopped, rendered aid like the rest of us would be required to do, we wouldn’t be speaking today.”
Anderson was arrested that evening at his home and booked into White Mountain Apache Adult Detention Facility. He faces multiple tribal charges, per an NCSO press release, including assault, aggravated assault, aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, aggravated assault causing serious physical injury, criminal negligence, reckless driving, interference with an officer, death caused by a vehicle and leaving the scene of a fatality collision.
“This is an extremely sad time for the family of the victim, the men and women at the White Mountain Apache Police Department, and the White Mountain Apache Tribe,” reads the press release, which was shared on both department’s Facebook pages. “This event is an isolated incident and is not a reflection of the fine police officers that serve and protect the citizens of the White Mountain Apache Reservation every day.”
The WMPD has turned the investigation over to the FBI, per the NCSO press release. “The findings of the FBI will be submitted to the United States Attorney’s Office for review and consideration of major crime charging,” the release reads.
The family has set up a GoFundMe page entitled “Justice for Iris.”