Some of the men seated around the conference table Saturday night have faces heavily covered with green, brown and black camouflage paint. Some have scarves tied around their heads or foreheads.
All are clad as if for war - decked out in camouflage of various colors and bullet-proof vests, with firearms and radio communication gear strapped to their sides.During the 6:30 p.m. briefing, their faces bear serious expressions as they listen intently to the Navajo Nation police commander review reporting procedures for the overnight operations in the manhunt for the two Colorado fugitives believed to be cop killers and suspected to be hiding near the river about seven miles west of this reservation town.
It will be another night without sleep. Another night of waiting and watching and wading through the thicket of vegetation along the banks of the San Juan River.
But they give a loud hoot and holler when Navajo Nation Police Chief Leonard Butler asks about their morale.
"Morale is good," one man shouts as others around him vigorously nod their heads.
"We'll be out here as long as they're out here," said Navajo police Sgt. Tim Lange, who is stationed out of Tuba City, Ariz.
Police have been on the trail of Alan "Monte" Pilon and Jason McVean since May 29, when they allegedly shot and killed a Colorado police officer while driving a stolen water truck. The men have successfully evaded police for nearly six weeks by fleeing across the high deserts and deep canyons of the Four Corners region.
The men are wanted on federal warrants for the murder of police officer Dale Claxton, for stealing a water truck in Colorado and for the attempted shooting of a U.S. Park Service employee near the Hovenweep National Monument.
Navajo Nation police picked up the lead in the search this week after disputes with federal agencies led San Juan County officials to back out.
So far, they seem to have had better luck than most in tracking the two men. At one point Thursday night, two officers got as close as 50 yards from the fugitives, chasing them on foot until the pair split up and disappeared into the brush, Butler said.
Saturday the search stalled a bit, with most leads coming up flat, he said. Even a raid on a riverside cabin, which police thought was a "solid" tip, was unproductive. No new tracks or other evidence of the fugitives' whereabouts were found, but leads continue to pour into the Navajo Police headquarters via phone.
Butler even got a letter Monday from someone claiming to know the fugitives and their location. That information is being evaluated by the FBI, he said.
Butler planned to step up Saturday's overnight operations, however, increasing his force to about 40 officers, including SWAT teams, instead of the eight officers who conducted only surveillance operations overnight Thursday.
"This will be an active and passive search," Butler said.
Tactical teams planned to put two search dogs into service overnight, including one dog, a German shepherd name Nick, who is trained to run toward gunfire. In addition, officers will implement a new radio system that scrambles communications for recreational scanner listeners or other eavesdroppers.
The Navajo leaders will decide sometime Sunday if they will continue search efforts beyond the weekend and if so, how those operations will proceed. Much of the decision hinges on Saturday night's productivity. But it is also tied to the Navajo Nation's budget.
Butler said Saturday that his office spent in excess of $116,000 on the initial search efforts near Bluff in early June. Expenditures in the weeks since then haven't been totaled, although he has asked tribal leaders to commit additional dollars to search efforts.
Butler had yet to get a response from tribal administration Saturday and said he has not specified an amount needed despite reports from Tribal Council member and San Juan County Commissioner Mark Maryboy that it will cost about $400,000 to continue the search.
Finding Pilon and McVean has become a matter of pride among Navajo officers. Butler said he thinks success hinges upon their knowledge of reservation lands. At least six of Bulter's officers grew up in Montezuma Creek and know the area well, he said.
He remains positive that the two fugitives remain in the area because when officers have tried to approach men they've spotted on the river, the men have fled.
"It's a matter of deduction," Butler said. "If it was ordinary campers, why would they be running from us. There would be evidence of a campsite, tents and sleeping bags. There would be no reason for law-abiding citizens to flee."
Butler made clear again Saturday that his officers are under strict order to apprehend the suspects peacefully if possible. There is no shoot-to-kill order, he said.
"They understand clearly the operating procedures," he said. "Our policy is that we identify ourselves as police officers. We don't want anyone to get hurt."