A grand jury on Thursday declined to bring criminal charges against an Albany County sheriff’s corporal who shot and killed a man last year.
Derek Colling, the sheriff’s corporal, shot and killed Robbie Ramirez, 39, in November outside Ramirez’s Laramie apartment. Ramirez is the third person that Colling has killed while on duty, and the shooting sparked considerable criticism from Ramirez’s family and activist groups.
According to a statement provided by the Albany County Attorney Attorney’s Office, the grand jury was the first ever convened by a Wyoming prosecutor in relation to a police shooting. The jury decided a charge of involuntary manslaughter was not warranted.
Peggy Trent, the county attorney who convened the grand jury, presented evidence over the course of two days, according to the statement. Representatives of potential defendants are not allowed to present evidence to grand juries.
A founder of Albany County for Proper Policing, a group formed in response to Ramirez’s death, said the group had not met between the prosecutor’s announcement and an early Thursday evening phone call from a reporter. Karlee Provenza said, however, that a December community forum indicated to her that public trust in police is at an all-time low.
“We didn’t get to see the evidence. We don’t have the facts,” Provenza said, in reference to the closed nature of the proceeding. “We do believe Colling had another choice.”
Tom Jubin, Colling’s attorney, could not be reached for comment late Thursday afternoon.
According to the prosecutor’s statement, Trent presented photos of the scene and autopsy, audio recording of radio traffic, footage from Colling’s body camera and patrol vehicle, toxicology reports and expert witnesses from two firms.
“Trent felt convening a grand jury for this matter was the most appropriate course of action,” according to the statement. “This process provides a means for accountability of law enforcement agencies and officers to ensure local policies and national standards are adhered to when deadly force is used.”
Ramirez is the third person Colling has killed on duty. He shot and killed two people while he worked for the Las Vegas Metro Police Department between 2005 and 2011. The Nevada agency fired him after an incident in which an amateur videographer brought a federal lawsuit, alleging Colling beat him. The agency settled that lawsuit for $100,000.
Ramirez lived with schizoaffective disorder, a mental illness sometimes characterized by psychosis. Debbie Hinkel, his mother and a member of the Albany County Community Mental Health Board, told the Star-Tribune in November that Colling should not have shot her son.
“I just feel like it’s so wrong when you know somebody’s mentally ill,” She said. “I just feel like this guy’s a loose cannon.”
Provenza said in December that Colling never should have been hired by the Wyoming agency and took issue with Sheriff Dave O’Malley’s comment to WyoFile, an online news organization, that he did not regret hiring Colling.
“It is unacceptable that our sheriff’s department hired an officer who had clearly demonstrated he could not safely or legally police the community of Las Vegas,” Karlee Provenza said. “Then, to have our recently re-elected sheriff state that he still does not regret hiring Colling is a slap in the face to the community that elected him.”
Thursday, Provenza said she expects the group to ask legislators to change police training.
“I’m kind of sick of the same headlines over and over,” she said. “It doesn’t have to be that way.”