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Casper residents with guns patrol downtown after day of protests
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Casper residents with guns patrol downtown after day of protests

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Several groups of armed Casper residents patrolled downtown on Wednesday night following a day of protests against police brutality.

The groups, which consisted of mostly men, were gathered throughout the downtown area. Some sat in front of businesses. Others lingered at David Street Station, where the march began hours earlier.

The armed residents told a reporter they were not there to disrupt additional protests, but rather to protect downtown should things escalate. 

Josh Wheeler, a Wyoming candidate for U.S. Senate, stood armed with a long gun on a corner downtown among maybe five or six others, to be "better safe than sorry," he said.

Wheeler supports the rights of protesters to demonstrate, but was worried that there was the potential that protesters from earlier in the day could return downtown and start damaging property.

His largest concern was the threat of outside influences wanting to agitate things. All the protesters the Star-Tribune interviewed earlier said they were Casper residents.

Otis Blume said the group was planning to hang out downtown just to observe and report, and step in if need be.

“A bunch of guys are worried about our town,” Bloom said, pointing to the destruction that has occurred during protests in major cities across the U.S. in the last week.

Although there were several groups of armed residents, they said they were entirely unrelated from one another and organized independently. 

All of the men the Star-Tribune spoke with Wednesday night said they were not affiliated with any organization, but rather just groups of friends all seemingly with the same idea. 

A variety of armed bystanders also attended the protest earlier in the day. Some were there to protect the rights of the protesters themselves, they said. Others wound up in verbal altercations with those marching for George Floyd. 

Armed Citizens Downtown

Khyler Cunliffe and John Creamer, right, walk around downtown Casper Wednesday while carrying firearms as a way of deterring potential looters following the protests against police brutality. 

John Creamer, armed with a small handgun in a holster at his side, patrolled Second Street downtown Wednesday night dressed in a cutoff T-shirt with “Freedom Chasers” printed across the front. He was accompanied by a young man who was also armed with a larger firearm slung across his chest.

“People were making comments that after dark these businesses weren’t safe,” Creamer said.

A family in a white SUV pulled into a parking spot behind them, and a man and his daughter got out to thank the men for what they were doing, and to take a photo. A handful of others honked or yelled encouragement to the men as they passed from vehicles.

Creamer said the businesses downtown have already struggled for three months, and property damage could ruin them.

“There were a lot of us who heard rumors things would be violent,” he said, adding that he’d had a brush with one hostile person earlier in the night. He said they were out to support "All Lives Matter." 

Buster Morgan, Shane Ogden and Rick McComsey stood amid a gathering of maybe 10 others near David Street Station, another group concerned about the potential for property damage downtown.

Morgan and McComsey were both heavily armed -- Morgan carried a shotgun and shells belted across his chest.

“We don’t care about politics, we just don’t want anybody to get hurt,” Morgan said.

He said their group -- separate and organized independent of the others -- had been watching what was going on in cities across the U.S., and worried once night fell, “that’s where the bad element comes out.”

He added none of their group had real plans to use their weapons, but thought the firearms would be a powerful visual.

“Mostly this is just a show of force type of thing,” Morgan said. “If I’m coming at you with a 12-gauge Mossberg (shotgun), you’re probably going to run away.”

Ogden emphasized the group was not there to dissuade protesters, only property destruction.

“We’re not protesting the protest, we’re protesting the riots,” he said.

McComsey added, “Conflict is a last resort.”

Wednesday's protests attracted hundreds of people to downtown Casper. There were no reports of arrests and one report of property damage involving a protester punching the mirror of a truck.

In the days leading up to the protest, rumors spread that antifa or other groups might loot and vandalize Casper. Those rumors turned out to be unfounded.

Follow local government reporter Morgan Hughes on Twitter @morganhwrites

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Local Government Reporter

Morgan Hughes primarily covers local government. After growing up in rural Wisconsin, she graduated from Marquette University in 2018. She moved to Wyoming shortly after and covered education in Cheyenne before joining the Star-Tribune in May 2019.

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