Two police officers shot and killed a sword-wielding man Sunday night in east Casper.
The man was 36 years old, according to the Natrona County Coroner’s Office. The office will not release other identifying details until the man’s family is notified.
At 11:36 p.m. Sunday, police officers responded to a call from the Loaf ‘N Jug on Centennial Court, where the clerk said a man “had come into the store wielding a sword and had threatened her and physically assaulted her,” the Casper Police Department said in a statement. The clerk did not suffer injuries that required immediate medical care.
About three minutes after the call, police officers confronted a man with a sword near the intersection of East 15th Street and Trojan Drive, according to the statement. That area is about two-tenths of a mile from the gas station.
“During that contact, two Casper Department Officers fired their service weapons at the male subject,” the release said. “The Officers subsequently rendered medical attention to the male subject, who succumbed to his injuries and died at the scene.”
The man, who was alone at the time, was pronounced dead around 11:50 p.m. according to the coroner’s office.
The two officers were uninjured and placed on administrative leave, the release said. The officers’ names will be released at a later time, the department stated.
The Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigation is examining the shooting. A person answering the phone Monday morning at DCI said the agency would not comment and referred a Star-Tribune reporter to the Natrona County District Attorney’s office.
District Attorney Mike Blonigen declined to comment on the facts of the case, but confirmed he was working with DCI. After the investigation is complete the district attorney’s office will decide whether to press charges, Blonigen said. If prosecutors decide not to charge anyone involved, his office will issue a letter explaining its findings.
Casper Police Chief Keith McPheeters said Monday afternoon he has a responsibility to respect the DCI investigation and declined to provide more information about the incident.
Following police shootings, it is typical procedure for the Casper Police Department to hand over investigations to DCI, according to a police department statement. DCI agents interview the officers who were involved. Those officers are placed on administrative leave until investigations are complete.
Fort Caspar Museum could close each winter, despite pleas from local history buffs who recently implored a Casper city official to leave the facility open year-round.
The city needs to reduce its spending because annual appropriations from the state Legislature are in jeopardy, Parks and Recreation Director Tim Cortez explained to about 40 people who gathered Friday night at the museum for a public meeting about its future.
“We are at the mercy of the Legislature,” said Cortez, adding that all city departments are being asked to cut back on expenditures.
The director said the city is considering only keeping the museum open from the beginning of April to the end of October, which is expected to decrease annual expenditures by $167,000. About 76 percent of the museum’s foot traffic occurs during this period.
But multiple speakers said closing the facility during the winter months would be a mistake.
“We [museum workers] need this time to get other things done,” said Mel Glover, the superintendent at the Wyoming Pioneer Memorial Museum in Douglas.
Staff and volunteers explained that they use the slower season to maintain the property, care for artifacts and create new exhibits.
Johanna Wickman, the vice president of the Fort Caspar Museum Association, said visitors will stop coming if the exhibits aren’t new and exciting.
“If the museum starts to slip, it will take years to get out of that hole,” she said.
It would be beneficial for the city to invest in the museum because it supports the tourism industry, Wickman said, and Casper needs to diversify its economy away from oil and gas.
About 25,000 people annually visit the regional history museum, which features a reconstructed 1865 military post, as well as exhibits on prehistoric people, Plains Indians, ranching, the energy industry and frontier Army life.
Con Trumbull, the president of the museum’s association, also felt it would be a mistake to cut funding from a thriving facility. Fort Caspar receives international visitors and was listed two years ago as one of the top 10 museums about the West by True West Magazine.
“This is a prime example of how groups should operate,” he said, adding that the association undertakes many fundraising efforts to help support the museum.
Multiple speakers also questioned why the city was capable of finding money for other projects, such as the new lodge at Hogadon Basin Ski Area.
Cortez thanked everyone who attended and assured the crowd that he would relay all concerns back to the city.
“We obviously feel your level of passion,” he said.
City officials recognize that the facility offers valuable services to citizens, City Manager Carter Napier previously told the Star-Tribune. But Napier said the city needs to consider various options for cutting spending to reduce Casper’s reliance on state funding.
Napier said Monday he hadn’t looked over the report from Friday’s meeting, so didn’t have anything to add to his previous comments.
Wyoming’s local governments have limited means of raising funds, which leaves them largely dependent on appropriations from the state Legislature. Given that the state’s boom-or-bust economy relies heavily on the energy market, local leaders are often uncertain about the level of funding they can expect to receive.
The state generally allots $105 million for city and county governments, but many municipality leaders are worried this funding might be reduced due to the weak energy market.
Even if local governments receive the money this year, Napier explained that it’s a never-ending cycle.
“In 12 months, we will have the battle again,” he said.
WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump declared Monday he's willing to take on the National Rifle Association over gun legislation, but Republicans who control Congress aren't so sure. They prefer to consider only modest changes to firearms limits in response to the mass shooting at a Florida high school.
Congress returned to work Monday without following Trump's lead on any of the major initiatives he has tossed into the debate since the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Despite public calls for stricter gun laws, Republican leaders have largely kept quiet after the shooting which left 17 dead and ushered in another phase in the gun debate, prompted in large part by the activism of the young survivors.
Over the weekend, Trump spent time talking to Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, and the White House is inviting lawmakers from both parties for meetings this week. But Trump's ideas to arm many teachers, lift the minimum age for buying assault rifles to 21 and impose stricter background checks were falling flat.
"You guys, half of you are so afraid of the NRA," the president said Monday at a meeting with the nation's governors. "There's nothing to be afraid of. And you know what? If they're not with you, we have to fight them every once in a while. That's OK."
Instead, Senate Republicans are hoping to consider more modest legislation from Sens. John Cornyn, R-Texas, and Chris Murphy, D-Conn., to strengthen the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS). The "Fix NICS" bill, similar to one approved last year in the House, would penalize federal agencies that don't properly report required records used to determine whether someone can legally buy a gun.
While speaking to a roomful of governors at the White House on Monday, Trump, who's been highly critical of the law enforcement response to the Florida school shootings, said he would have rushed in, unarmed, if he'd been there.
"You don't know until you're tested, but I think I really believe I'd run in there even if I didn't have a weapon, and I think most of the people in this room would have done that, too," he said.
His session with the governors, in Washington for their annual winter meeting, was heavily focused on finding ways to address the massacre of 17 students and teachers in the school shooting.
Trump said anew that he was disappointed in officers who didn't stop the gunman, calling their performance "frankly disgusting."
Scot Peterson has been called a coward and worse for failing to act during the massacre. The criticism intensified Monday as Trump blasted the deputy and other officers who were there, saying they "weren't exactly Medal of Honor winners."
Peterson's attorney, issuing his first public statement about the attack, said it was "patently untrue" that the deputy failed to meet sheriff's department standards or acted with cowardice at the scene of the Feb. 14 assault. He resigned after Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel said he felt sick to his stomach over his deputy's failure to intervene.
"Let there be no mistake, Mr. Peterson wishes that he could have prevented the untimely passing of the 17 victims on that day, and his heart goes out to the families of the victims in their time of need," attorney Joseph DiRuzzo said in the statement.
The sheriff's account of Peterson's actions that day was a "gross oversimplification," the attorney said.
The sheriff's office declined comment, explaining that Peterson's conduct is being investigated by its internal affairs division.
Peterson's statement said he and a security specialist ran to the scene at first word of the shooting, a report that mistakenly said firecrackers were being set off near one building. He then heard gunshots "but believed that those gunshots were originating from outside of the buildings."
Earlier Monday, gun control supporters on the steps of the Florida's Capitol kept up their protests. Former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine, now a Democratic candidate for governor, led more than 1,000 people rallying for a ban on assault rifles and criticizing the National Rifle Association for its proposal to arm teachers.
Senate lawmakers voted Friday to restore the budget for an environmental review board that risks losing funding over a controversial coal mine decision last fall.
Last week the House voted to withhold money from the Environmental Quality Council in its second year, but senators put the money back in their version of the budget.
Those who supported the cut argued that the Environmental Quality Council had lost its way. For evidence, they said the Council had denied a coal permit last year despite the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality approving the mining plan. The second-year funding would be evaluated after review.
Opponents said the Legislature shouldn’t be meddling in the decision of the Council, a seven-member board of volunteers appointed by the governor and approved by the Senate that hears appeals from industry and citizens on environmental decisions.
The elephant in the room concerning the funding is the proposed Brook Mine in Sheridan County. After state regulators gave preliminary approval to the mining plan put forth by Ramaco Wyoming Coal Company last year, landowners appealed to the Department of Environmental Quality. They argued the company had not done its due diligence in investigating environmental effects of mining in the area.
The dispute was passed onto the Environmental Quality Council, whose board decided in favor of the landowners and against the state regulators’ approval. The council instructed the company to improve the plan’s environmental protections before resubmitting it.
Lawmakers in the House criticized that decision multiple times last week.
Arguments on both sides of the debate were similar in the Senate on Friday to ones made by members of the House.
Sen. Cale Case, R-Lander, said nixing the funding was reactionary.
“There was a decision at the council last fall that made some people angry, and the anger bubbled up into the Appropriations Committee,” he said. “Mr. President, you and I both know that is probably not the best way to handle an appellate agency that has such an important role in our state.”
Defending the cut, Sen. Ogden Driskill, R-Devils Tower, said it was a way to review the council’s staffing, its role and its efficiency.
“This was not meant to be mean,” he said.
There are two budget bills in Cheyenne right now: one from the House and one from the Senate, both originating from the Joint Appropriations Committee. Lawmakers from the Appropriations Committee decided to zero-out the second year of the council’s budget, pending a review.
Each side of the Legislature has an opportunity to add or subtract from its version of the budget bill. The House and Senate’s combined version will be sent to the governor to greenlight funding for Wyoming in 2018 and 2019.
With the two sides in disagreement over the Environmental Quality Council’s budget, the issue will be handled in conference committee.
Sen. Bruce Burns, R-Sheridan, spoke up in the debate Friday, not to offer an opinion on the funding but to add context, he said. Lawmakers on the Appropriations Committee were considering whether to restore the Council to its original role as an arm of the Department of Environmental Quality, staffed by members of the department, he said.
“Now there is an argument to be made that that would staunch the independence of the EQC, and it’s a valid argument to make,” he said.
The landowner’s group that won an appeal to the Environmental Quality Council over the Brook Mine made that point in a Star-Tribune interview last week.
Shannon Anderson, a lawyer for the Powder River Basin Resource Council, argued that the funding cut was meant to intimidate the Environmental Quality Council and that placing the independent board under the Department of Environmental Quality challenged its ability to make decisions that check the choices of the Department.
Case, in arguing to restore funding Friday, pointed out that it is largely industry that appeals to the council, not environmental groups. Meanwhile, Driskill said the decision was not an attempt to kill the independent board, but to improve it.
“It will not go away,” he said. “It’s just a matter of how it is funded.”
The Senate voted 17 to 12 in Case’s favor.