Family and friends are mourning the loss of a prominent elder in the Mono Indian Tribe out of North Fork.
The family says 70-year-old Gaylen Lee, was shot and killed Saturday night after an altercation.
Madera County Sheriff’s Office say the suspect is 46-year-old Robert Eugene Moye Jr.
We spoke with Lee’s family who says not only was he a leader in the Mono Tribe, but say he was a well-respected man in the North Fork community.
“To watch your hero be taken away from you there’s nothing you could do about it, I wish I could have, it didn’t happen that way,” says Michael Lee Sr., the victim’s nephew.
Lee reeling from heartache after the violent loss of his uncle. He says a loved father, brother, leader and friend to many.
“It’s just like somebody grabs your heart and rips it out of your chest,” Lee expressed.
Madera County Sheriff’s Office says Lee was shot and killed by this man 46-year-old Robert Moye Jr.
Sheriff Jay Varney says Moye was living on tribal land for some time but over the last few months, Varney says family members had felt uncomfortable with Moye’s behavior.
Then on Saturday, around 2:30 p.m., Varney says they received a call of shots being fired near the 33000 block of Mission Drive in North Fork.
Varney says they do not believe at that time Moye was shooting at anyone, but says a deputy went to check it out and was unable to locate anyone.
Then hours later, around 9:20 p.m., the sheriff says Lee’s family noticed Moye driving recklessly in their shared driveway.
Varney says when Lee and two family members tried to confront Moye, he says that’s when Moye pulled out a rifle and opened fire.
The sheriff says Moye even reloaded the magazine to his rifle.
“The deputy did go to where the suspect had fled and recovered him, did not immediately recover gun but did shortly after,” says Varney.
Varney says they also found an active marijuana grow and butane oil lab.
Friends and family say Lee’s death is a great loss to many in the community.
Oakhurst District 5 Supervisor, Tom Wheeler, describing Lee as an educator, author of a book, and one who wanted to pass down his tribal heritage.
“He was so respected in the community, friendly, compassionate, peaceful man that there was,” Wheeler said of his friend.
Lee just lost his 93-year-old mother on the Fourth of July and now the family is left to deal with double heartache.
The family says they plan to hold a public memorial service for both Lee and his mother at a later date.