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Crime-and-courts
breaking
Police find no indication of shooting following Casper building evacuation

Authorities evacuated a building north of downtown Casper on Friday morning after responding to a shots fired call, but after a search, they found no indication that a shooting had occurred.

A police official on scene told reporters that officers responded to the call at 10:14 a.m. at an office building at 800 Werner Court. Lt. Jeremy Tremel said there was no indication that anyone had been injured.

In a subsequent statement, Tremel said police had cleared the building and did not find any indication that shots had been fired inside. Officers did not locate any suspects or injured people.

Tremel said the initial report came from inside the building. Multiple people told arriving officers that they’d heard loud noises that sounded like gunshots.

Two hours after the call, police hadn’t determined the source of the noises.

Dozens of emergency vehicles — including marked and unmarked police cars, sheriff’s vehicles and fire trucks — were parked in the area. Some officers were wearing ballistic vests and armed with long guns.

Crowds of people were seen leaving the building. They were being herded through a parking lot to another nearby building.

A man who said his wife works in the building told the Star-Tribune she called him to say shots were fired on the second floor. Anthony Watters said his wife described four officers in tactical gear moving through her workplace.

She was not injured and taken to a building across the street, Watters said.

Watters was recovering at home from a torn labrum when his wife called. He said he hit every red light on the drive to the scene.

In a nearby parking lot, Larry Laman sat in his SUV and prayed before police had completed clearing the building. He said his wife was inside. The last time he called her, she told him in a whisper not to call him back because she was trying to hide.

“This s—- doesn’t happen in Casper, Wyoming,” he said.

During the incident, police blocked access to Werner Court and put out a statement asking people to steer clear of the area. The building, which is home to multiple nonprofit groups and private businesses, sits in a commercial area just north of Interstate 25.

When Laman learned that police did not believe a shooting had taken place in the building, he voiced his relief.

“My stress level went way down,” he said.

A police statement provided at about 12:30 p.m. stated that the second floor of the building remained closed, along with the area around the building.


National
AP
Trump pays respects to 23 killed by Alabama tornado

BEAUREGARD, Ala. — Standing near the slab that's all that is left of one family's garage, President Donald Trump on Friday surveyed the devastation wrought by a powerful tornado that ripped through a rural Alabama town, uprooting trees, tearing homes from their foundations and killing nearly two dozen people.

"We saw things that you wouldn't believe," said Trump, overlooking a debris field strewn with branches and other wreckage in Beauregard, which bore the brunt of Sunday's storm. Mangled metal siding, wood planks, piping and electric wires lay strewn on the ground, along with remnants of everyday life: clothing, a sofa, a bottle of Lysol cleaner and a welcome mat encrusted with dirt.

Trump and the first lady spent the afternoon meeting with survivors, victims' families and volunteers trying to rebuild after the massive tornado carved a path of destruction nearly a mile wide, killing 23 people, including four children and a couple in their 80s, with 10 victims belonging to a single extended family.

The trip was a familiar one for Trump, who, now in the third year of his presidency, has traveled to the sites of numerous disasters and tragedies, including hurricanes, shootings and wildfires.

The day began with an aerial survey of the area by helicopter, which flew over swaths of land where trees had been flattened. Trump and his wife, Melania, also visited a church serving as a makeshift disaster relief center for survivors. He later observed a moment of silence before white wooden crosses commemorating each of the victims.

Head bowed, Trump and his wife held hands as they paused in front of each of the markers. Trump shook his head as he stood in front of one, which had been decorated with a tiny pair of children's sneakers.

Trump has at times struggled with his role as consoler-in-chief during trips to survey damage and meet with tragedy victims. He memorably tossed paper towels into a crowd as he surveyed damage following hurricanes in Puerto Rico — a move that some saw as inappropriate given the circumstances — and marveled at a yacht that floodwaters had deposited on a family's property during a trip to the Carolinas.

"At least you got a nice boat out of the deal," Trump told the family. He was caught on camera telling a person to whom he had just handed food to "have a good time."

This time, however, Trump appeared to avoid any such distractions aside from some hubbub caused by his decision to sign Bibles, which Providence Baptist Church had been distributing, along with clothing and other supplies, including diapers, toiletries and personal care products.

Before signing autographs or posing for photos with the volunteers there, Trump thanked law enforcement officials and other first responders, as well as Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, who oversees the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which is assisting state and local response efforts.

"I wanted to come the day it happened," he said, adding that Gov. Kay Ivey had asked him to wait.

Before leaving the church, Trump posed for a photograph with a fifth-grade volunteer and signed the child's Bible, said Ada Ingram, a local volunteer. Ingram said the president also signed her sister's Bible.

The pastor, Rusty Sowell, said the president's visit was uplifting and will help bring attention to a community that will need a long time to recover.

"This is a marathon, not a sprint," Sowell said.

Earlier, Trump spent time with three families who lost loved ones, hearing their stories and dispensing hugs. He also met privately with survivors and family members, including a woman mourning the loss of 10 relatives.

"What they've been through is incredible," Trump said after emerging from the meeting.

Before Trump arrived in Beauregard, Renee Frazier stood amid bricks and lumber that used to be her mother's home and waved as the helicopter carrying Trump passed overhead. Minutes before, Frazier, whose mother survived the tornado, had been arguing with relatives who opposed Trump's visit, calling it more about politics than compassion.

Frazier disagreed.

"I want the president here to see what happened to my mom's house," she said. "I want him right here on this land because my mom is about love and unity."

Down the road, where several people died, Trump supporter Bobby Spann said he hoped the president had learned "how to be a Southerner and how to respect people" during his brief visit.

Spann said he also hoped Trump realized how much help is needed.

"Houses need to be replaced. You can't help the dead folks, but you can try to help the ones that's still living," said Spann, chewing on a yellowroot twig. The tornado had partially peeled away the roof of Spann's mobile home.

Trump had said before the visit that he'd instructed FEMA to give Alabama "the A Plus treatment" as it recovers — rhetoric that stood in contrast to Trump's response to disasters on less politically friendly territory. Alabama supported Trump by a wide margin in the 2016 presidential election, and he carried about 60 percent of the vote in Lee County, where Beauregard is located. Blue Trump flags flying outside homes are a frequent sight in the town, and many were seen waving Friday.


Casper
Town of Mills holding event to get input on library's future

The Town of Mills is holding an event Saturday night at the Bob Goff Memorial Library so residents can weigh in on the facility’s future.

“We’re trying to get more people involved in the survey process,” Mayor Seth Coleman said. “We want more input on what they want to see in the library. We love to hear the ideas for different things that could be done.”

The facility currently operates as a branch of the Natrona County Library system. But due to understaffing and budget shortfalls, the Natrona County Library’s Board of Trustees voted in December to cut ties with the facility March 29.

Coleman said the library will close at the end of the month — but town officials are planning to eventually take over its operations.

“My hope is that it would reopen this summer since the kids will be out of school,” he said. “But we don’t have a real tight timeline yet.”

At Saturday’s event, which will be held from 4-7 p.m., residents will be able to speak with council members and submit a survey about what services they want the town’s library to offer. Food trucks will also be parked outside, according to a town press release.

Whether the Mills library would ever reopen was initially uncertain. But the Town Council passed a resolution in January stating that “the administrative staff of the Town of Mills, through the direction of its mayor, shall conduct the gathering of public input and commence with the creation of a plan to take over operation of the Mills Bob Goff Library.”

Many residents contacted council members and voiced support for keeping the library open, Coleman said at the time.

The mayor said he is currently unable to provide an estimate of the cost associated with operating the facility independently.

“We need to understand what people want in the library, then we will develop an operational plan and a budget off of that,” he said.

At least one town leader has questioned whether keeping the library open is the best decision.

“I don’t see many residents using it,” Councilwoman Sara McCarthy previously said. “... Libraries are good and important, but these days we have Google and we have smartphones. Personally, I feel that we could probably use that space for something better.”

But McCarthy said the Council will ultimately follow the direction of the town’s residents.

Lisa Scroggins, the executive director for the Natrona County Library, previously explained that the board did not take the decision to cut ties with its Mills branch lightly. But the library has faced many challenges in the last few years and cuts needed to be made.

The Mills library, which is located about three miles from the main facility, isn’t particularly well-utilized. About 51 items are checked out daily, Scroggins said.

“I don’t want to see any libraries close, but I have to look at what is the greater good for the entire county,” she said.


State-and-regional
YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK
Yellowstone prepares for bison capture, but bison aren't cooperating

Yellowstone National Park has enacted a closure around its bison capture facility near Gardiner in preparation for rounding up animals for shipment to slaughter, but few animals have migrated out of the park this winter.

“The bison haven’t had to leave,” said Tim Reid, park bison program manager. That’s because the snowpack arrived late in the season and has a low water density, he said.

Roughly 300 bison are in the Mammoth and Gardiner area near the park’s northern border, he said, but there’s been no big push by the animals to leave the park where they could be shot by hunters or rounded up for shipment to slaughter.

How many bison leave the park is “all dependent on the winter and what the energy economics are,” Reid said.

The National Park Service agreed last fall to try and remove 600 to 900 animals this winter from a park herd that numbers around 4,500. Typically that roundup begins in February, but with the calendar now into March the time frame to conduct capture operations is narrow, Reid said, since capturing ends later this month.

Public and tribal hunters, who also kill bison when they move out of the park, have had a lean hunting season because few of the animals have left Yellowstone. The second public hunt overseen by Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks ended on Feb. 15.

Only two bison were harvested by the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes hunters, and that was in October, according to Tom McDonald, Natural Resources Division manager for the tribes. Last year the tribes’ hunters shot 47 bison.

Almost 1,200 bison were removed last winter, about 700 of which were captured and sent to slaughter. Another 375 were killed mostly by tribal hunters (49 were killed by state hunters) and 99 were captured and are being held in quarantine for possible transfer if they are found free of the disease brucellosis. The prior winter, more than 1,200 bison were removed.

The goal is to have a stable bison population somewhere between 3,500 to the low 4,000-range, Reid said, a “sweet spot” that would avoid the large culls that have occurred in the past.

With a temporary area closure around the Stephens Creek administrative area the park is now poised to capture animals again, but Reid said it’s more of an art than a science.

“It’s even odds we won’t capture a bison,” he said.

Located in the northern section of the park near Gardiner, the Stephens Creek administrative area includes corral operations, equipment storage, a native plant nursery, a firing range, and, during the winter, the facility that is used to capture, sort, test and temporarily hold bison. The administrative area is closed to the public year-round. During bison operations, the park enacts an additional temporary area closure around the facility for safety.

The meat from animals captured and sent to slaughter is distributed to participating tribal partners, including the CSKT.

“It’s based on groups of a dozen or more to make it worthwhile,” McDonald said.

This winter is a stark contrast to last year’s heavy hunting and capture operations. In addition, last winter bison advocates broke into the capture facility and twice released penned animals from YNP corrals. In all, more than 100 bison escaped.

Even when the bison population is reduced to the park’s targeted range, Reid said animals will still migrate out of the park if there’s a harsh winter.

“There will always be outmigration,” he said.