The man accused of firing several rounds inside Wyoming Medical Center last week entered the hospital through a back security door and shot at two hospital employees before being arrested in a tunnel somewhere beneath the hospital, a Casper police detective testified Thursday.
The testimony came during a preliminary hearing for 20-year-old Mitchell Taylor. Investigators suspect Taylor entered the state’s largest hospital early on the morning of March 4 while high on LSD and fired several gunshots before police found and arrest him.
He’s charged with two counts of aggravated assault, property damage and use of a firearm while committing a felony and is currently being held on a $500,000 bond. During Thursday’s hearing in Natrona County Circuit Court, he sat in an orange jail uniform next to his attorney, Joseph Cole.
A judge found there was enough evidence for the case to move forward.
Casper Police Detective Adrian White said Taylor drove to the medical center because he thought he was going to kill himself while high. Once there, he pushed open a security door in the back of the facility. Asked by Cole if the door was locked, White said, “No, not necessarily.”
After the hearing, hospital spokeswoman Kristy Bleizeffer was asked how a man on LSD could apparently enter through an unlocked security door without being detected. She said she could not comment, citing the open police investigation.
Bleizeffer said the “safety of our staff, physicians, patients and visitors remains our top priority.”
Bleizeffer and other hospital officials said after the incident last week that WMC would conduct a top-down review of its response. A spokeswoman previously said all doors but the ER entrance would’ve been locked at that hour and that Taylor would’ve had to call security to get in.
There are security guards within the hospital, though they are unarmed. The only metal detector in the building leads into the ER and is watched by the main guard station, though the device covers only half of the hallway.
It’s unclear how long Taylor was allegedly in the hospital before he was discovered by a housekeeper near a bank of elevators, White testified. Taylor allegedly asked the housekeeper, “What are you looking at,” before the employee ran and Taylor fired three shots. The housekeeper ran to a security desk and stayed there.
Taylor was next met by a physician who was leaving the doctors’ lounge, White said. Taylor was allegedly crouching by the elevators with the gun in his hand when the physician saw him, backed up and ran to the emergency department, which is near the radiology department that Taylor was said to be in. Taylor fired four shots after the doctor, White testified.
The first calls to police came in at 1:06 a.m. Taylor was eventually found in a tunnel beneath the hospital 20 minutes later. Police said he briefly attempted to escape before being tazed by officers. A 9 mm Springfield handgun was recovered and no one was injured.
The seven shots described by White matches a statement provided to the Star-Tribune by a witness who was in the ER at the time Taylor was allegedly in the hospital.
After he was tazed, Taylor was taken to the ER to be examined. He was then interviewed by police. He allegedly asked officers if he’d killed anyone. No, the police told him.
“That’s what I figured,” Taylor said, according to White’s testimony.
A search of his car, parked across the street from the hospital, turned up more 9 mm ammunition and a small amount of marijuana, White said. The detective told Cole that blood taken from Taylor had not been returned from the lab. Cole asked White if he thought Taylor was indeed impaired, from the detective’s experience as a police officer.
“He was high off of LSD,” White said.
As Cole asked White about the positioning of the handgun in Taylor’s hand, Taylor turned to the packed audience behind him, mouthed, “I’m f—-ed” twice and shook his head.
Cole asked Judge Steven Brown to lower Taylor’s $500,000 bond, given that Taylor had no prior criminal history and that the shooting at WMC was “the result of a bad acid trip.” Cole said a $25,000 bond was more appropriate.
Brown was unmoved and kept Taylor’s bond at $500,000. After the judge denied Cole’s request, Taylor audibly winced, twisted in his chair from side to side and pressed his fingers into his eyes. As he was led from the courtroom, he briefly turned back to the courtroom spectators before a sheriff’s deputy walked him out of the door.
A powerful blizzard kept government offices and schools shuttered across southeast Wyoming for the second consecutive day Thursday, as high winds and blowing snow continued to plague the area.
Much of the state’s highway system remained closed during the day as workers dealt with drifts as high as 10 feet, according to the Wyoming Department of Transportation. Roads began to reopen later in the day.
“Again I’ll say it — stay home, stay off the roads, and stay safe,” Gov. Mark Gordon said in a statement.
Central Wyoming fared better one day after a storm blanketed the area in more than a foot of snow.
Schools in Casper and Midwest reopened Thursday after Wednesday’s blizzard forced a Natrona County School District snow day for the first time in years.
Red Creek and Alcova schools were closed, however, and there was no NCSD transportation to and from Midwest School, on rural routes or State Highway 220.
City of Casper offices also reopened Thursday after plows worked through the night to clear streets.
“The arterial and collector streets have been plowed and are passable,” a city press release said. “The streets designated as school routes have all been plowed as well.”
Streets Manager Shad Rodgers said in the announcement that most residential streets that were not plowed were packed enough to be “mostly passable.”
The Casper Streets Division planned to focus on neighborhoods like Valley Hills, Wolf Creek, Sunrise and Goodstein on Thursday, as those areas saw more accumulation. Garbage pickup was also delayed by a day. Residential trash pickup had been canceled Wednesday.
U.S. Highway 20 reopened east and west of Casper, though the Wyoming Department of Transportation warned that drivers could encounter slick roads and black ice. Parts of interstates 25 and 80 also reopened.
In the southeast corner of the state, however, a number of institutions remained closed Thursday.
The University of Wyoming canceled all classes, labs and activities Thursday, with only the Washakie Dining Center, residence halls, the High Altitude Performance Center and the training table remaining open.
The UW tennis team’s match Saturday morning against Montana has also been canceled.
Laramie County School District 1, Laramie County School District 2 and Albany County School District were all closed Thursday. State offices in Cheyenne remained closed Thursday as well. A record 14 inches of snow fell at Cheyenne’s airport on Wednesday, according to the National Weather Service.
WHP Troopers and Dispatchers continue to work around the clock to answer calls for service as the blizzard continues to impact southeast Wyoming. For the latest road conditions check: https://t.co/DrhgflRWfA pic.twitter.com/ggwsGFeWLJ— Wyoming Highway Patrol (@WYHighwayPatrol) March 13, 2019
“We need people to stay safely at home until this storm subsides so snow plow crews can clear streets and parking lots unhindered,” Gordon said in the statement.
“The safety of our people is my first consideration; we will get our state offices open and working at full speed again as soon as it is safe to do so,” he added. “As this storm subsides, I implore people to stay off the roads and out of the way so storm cleanup across the state can proceed unhindered.”
Preliminary measurements from the National Weather Service in Riverton said that 13.6 inches of snow fell on Casper/Natrona County International Airport, making it the second snowiest recorded March day in Casper history, with records going back to around 1940. It was around the ninth snowiest day in Casper regardless of month.
Casper Mountain saw 26 inches of accumulation, according to NWS, while the Casper area in general got 13-16.
LONDON — In a stalemate over Brexit, British politicians have chosen to delay it.
After weeks of political gridlock, Parliament voted Thursday to seek to postpone the country’s departure from the European Union, a move that will likely avert a chaotic withdrawal on the scheduled exit date of March 29.
With Brexit due in 15 days and no divorce deal yet approved, the House of Commons voted 413-202 to ask the bloc to put off Britain’s exit until at least June 30. The official result was initially announced as 412-202, but was later amended to 413 in the official voting list.
The vote gives Prime Minister Theresa May some breathing space, but is still humbling for a leader who has spent two years telling Britons they were leaving the bloc on March 29.
Power to approve or reject the extension lies with the EU, which has signaled that it will only allow a delay if Britain either approves a divorce deal or makes a fundamental shift in its approach to Brexit. In a historic irony, almost three years after Britain voted to leave the EU, its future is now in the bloc’s hands.
May is likely to ask EU leaders for an extension at a March 21-22 summit of the bloc in Brussels.
The European Commission said the bloc would consider any request, “taking into account the reasons for and duration of a possible extension.”
May was forced to consider a Brexit delay after lawmakers twice rejected her EU divorce deal and also ruled out, in principle, leaving the bloc without an agreement. Withdrawing without a deal could mean major disruptions for businesses and people in the U.K. and the 27 remaining countries.
By law, Britain will leave the EU on March 29, with or without a deal, unless it cancels Brexit or secures a delay.
Thursday could have been worse for May. Lawmakers rejected an attempt to strip her of control over the Brexit agenda. They defeated by the narrowest of margins — 314-312 — an opposition attempt to let Parliament choose an alternative to May’s rejected divorce deal and force the government to negotiate it with the EU.
Lawmakers also voted against holding a second Brexit referendum — at least for now.
By a decisive 334-85 vote, they defeated a motion that called for another vote by the public on whether to stay in the EU or leave. Campaigners for a new referendum are divided over whether the time is right to push for a second Brexit vote. The vote doesn’t prevent lawmakers from trying again later to get Parliament’s support for another referendum.
Despite the rebuffs and the political chaos that has weakened her authority, May has signaled she will try a third time to get backing for her agreement next week. She is seeking to win over Brexit-backing opponents in her own party and its Northern Irish political ally, the Democratic Unionist Party, who fear the deal keeps Britain too closely tied to the EU.
Alan Wager, a researcher at the U.K. in a Changing Europe think tank, said May faced a struggle to overturn a 149-vote margin of defeat in Parliament this week.
“It’s still really difficult to see how the numbers stack up for Theresa May, but she’s giving it one more go,” he said.
If May’s deal is approved, she hopes to use a delay until June 30 to enact legislation needed for Britain’s departure. She has warned Brexit supporters who oppose her deal that if no withdrawal agreement is passed in the coming days, the only option will be to seek a long extension that could mean Brexit never happens.
Any delay in the Brexit process would require the unanimous approval of all 27 remaining EU member states — and leaders in the bloc are exasperated at the events in London. They have said they will approve an extension if there is a specific reason, but don’t want to provide more time for political bickering in Britain.
“Under no circumstances an extension in the dark!” tweeted the European Parliament’s Brexit coordinator, Guy Verhofstadt. “Unless there is a clear majority in the House of Commons for something precise, there is no reason at all for the European Council to agree on a prolongation.”
Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel said the EU needed “more decisions” from London.
The EU is also reluctant to postpone Brexit beyond the late May elections for the European Parliament, because that would mean Britain taking part even as it prepares to leave.
European Council President Donald Tusk tweeted that he will appeal to EU leaders “to be open to a long extension if the U.K. finds it necessary to rethink its Brexit strategy and build consensus about it.”
In another sting for May, U.S. President Donald Trump said he was “surprised at how badly” the Brexit negotiations have been handled. Trump, who sees himself as a deal-maker, said he gave May advice but she didn’t listen to him.
Speaking alongside Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar at the White House, Trump said Britain’s debate over leaving the EU was “tearing the country apart.”
British businesses expressed relief at the prospect of a delay. Many worry that a no-deal Brexit would cause upheaval, with customs checks causing gridlock at U.K. ports, new tariffs triggering sudden price increases and red tape for everyone from truckers to tourists.
During the eight years of the Obama administration, Wyoming’s senators spent considerable time criticizing federal overreach. But accusations of overreach by the Trump administration in attempting to leapfrog Congressional authority on funding a southern border wall failed to sway Sens. John Barrasso and Mike Enzi from voting Thursday against the president’s emergency declaration.
Barrasso and Enzi found themselves on the losing end of a 59-41 Senate vote to overturn a national emergency declaration President Donald Trump made last month in order to finance a border wall that Congress – which is tasked with the power of the purse – declined to finance. Twelve Republican senators joined Democrats in supporting the resolution, many saying they were uncomfortable with Trump’s effort to bypass Congress.
The House of Representatives had already passed the resolution with 245 ‘aye’ votes.
The vote, however, was largely symbolic. Trump took to Twitter after the vote to say he would veto the resolution.
Both chambers of Congress would need to reach a two-thirds majority – 290 people in the House, and 67 in the Senate – to override that veto, well beyond the tallies both managed to achieve.
The president has 10 days to decide on the fate of the bill. However, as of the close of business on Thursday, its fate was apparent.
“VETO!” tweeted Trump.
Barrasso – a staunch supporter of the president – was long considered a “no” on the measure. Wyoming’s junior senator has concurred with the president that there is a crisis of rising violent crime, drug smuggling and human trafficking on the southern border, despite significant evidence to the contrary. Studies have shown undocumented immigrants commit crimes at lower rates than native-born residents and that illegal drug trafficking most often comes through the country’s traditional ports of entry – not the open swaths of desert targeted by the administration.
In a statement on Thursday, Barrasso blamed Democrats for their inability to see the crisis as he and other Republicans saw it, while maintaining that the president was well within his bounds to declare a national emergency to override Congress – even if he did not like it.
“We have a security and humanitarian crisis on our southern border,” said Barrasso. “The president made a compelling case for why we need more border barriers to stop the flow of illegal immigrants and illegal drugs into our nation.
“I would have preferred a legislative solution to solve this critical problem,” he added. “However, Democrats who supported border barriers in the past refused to listen to border security experts and blocked the necessary funding. The president has the statutory authority to declare an emergency, and he is making good on his promise to secure our southern border and protect the American people.”
The legality of the emergency declaration was argued in a USA Today op-ed on Thursday penned by Attorneys General Ken Paxton, Curtis Hill and Jeff Landry, who argued the National Emergencies Act gives the president broad authority that was never defined by Congress, thereby “leaving it entirely at the president’s discretion to determine what constitutes such an emergency.”
“The president’s action is neither new nor extraordinary,” they wrote.
However, Trump’s declaration – which attacks head-on one of the principle functions of Congress – is unique, in that it directly challenges the Constitutional powers of the purse. Enzi, who often sides with Trump, chairs the Senate Committee on the Budget and expressed some apprehension on the president’s use of executive power to bypass the traditional duties of Congress. Last month, Enzi told the Star-Tribune that he recognized the potential to set “a bad precedent” in a move the president himself admitted was an unnecessary use of executive authority in a rambling press conference in the Rose Garden last month.
Enzi furnished the Star-Tribune with a similar statement after the vote on Thursday, saying he agreed with President Trump that the crisis on the border had risen to the level of a national emergency and that, ultimately, he believed that Congress provided the president with the power to act the way he had.
“I am disappointed that the House majority and Senate minority leaders put the president in a position where he believed he had no other choice but to issue an emergency declaration,” Enzi said.
The senators and executive power
Both senators’ votes on Thursday mark conspicuous departures from their attitudes toward the use of executive power under the administration of President Barack Obama, who grew to embrace the use of executive power in the later years of his presidency to break down protections for whistleblowers and to implement immigration reforms denied by Congress, which Trump criticized in a tweet in 2014.
During the Obama years, both Enzi and Barrasso were often vocal in their criticisms of Obama, chastising the president for declarations to increase overtime pay for workers, create significant reforms to the nation’s immigration system, and executive action to combat climate change, as well as efforts by the president to implement child labor restrictions for children on family farms and enact gun control.
Meanwhile, both lawmakers have made efforts or spoken in favor of reducing the amount of power retained by the executive branch. In 2011, Barrasso introduced a bill to limit the Obama administration’s ability to issue executive orders without a review of the potential impacts they would have and, five years later, penned an op-ed with Enzi arguing the president should not be entitled to a final Supreme Court confirmation before the end of his term, leaving that decision to the candidates for president to put to the voters.
In January, Enzi – with Barrasso as a co-sponsor – also introduced the REINS Act, which would “rein in unelected federal bureaucrats by requiring that Congress affirmatively approve every new major rule proposed by the Executive Branch before it can be implemented and enforced,” according to a press release from Enzi’s office describing the bill.
“Congress has given far too much power to unaccountable bureaucrats who implemented too many regulations, many that are harmful to our country and our economy,” Enzi said at the time. “The REINS Act would give Congress authority to review major rules and help reduce unnecessary and overreaching regulations.”
Follow politics reporter Nick Reynolds on Twitter @IAmNickReynolds