One man died and a Casper police officer was critically injured after they exchanged gunfire Sunday afternoon in east Casper, police and witnesses said.
Police confirmed that officers had shot and killed the man and that an officer was wounded in the exchange and taken to the hospital. Neighbors told the Star-Tribune they saw the man firing a handgun as he backed away from two officers, who returned fire. None of the witnesses were able to specify who fired first or what had caused the shooting.
The officer was in critical condition as of roughly 6 p.m. Sunday, according to a statement from the Casper Police Department.
“We have asked for and are receiving the assistance of Natrona County Sheriff’s Department, Mills Police Department, Evansville Police Department, and the Wyoming Highway Patrol in covering our public safety needs in Casper for the next several hours,” Chief Keith McPheeters said in a statement. “As everyone might imagine, this is a very emotional situation and the agencies have agreed to help us take our calls.”
The shooting took place between 1 and 2 p.m. in a dirt lot just east of Fairdale Park, a few blocks from the intersection of 15th and Beverly streets. By 4 p.m., the south end of Fairdale Avenue was still closed at the intersection with 15th Street. Law enforcement surrounded a white tarp that appeared to cover a body about 10 feet from a white sedan.
Four neighbors who saw the incident said the dead man had exchanged gunfire with police before officers shot and killed him. Sgt. Mike Ogden said police were not able to release details about the shootout as of early Sunday evening.
Neighbor James Gray said he was washing his pickup in front of his Fairdale Avenue home while the man drove in circles in a dirt lot. Gray said the man was teaching two children to drive when officers arrived.
Police pulled up in a parking lot above the dirt patch and shouted at the man to stop the car.
The man stopped and spoke to police, Gray said, then made a phone call.
Gray had turned around when he heard shots being fired. When Gray looked again, police were using the car as cover while they exchanged gunfire with the man. The man was shot and fell.
Gray said he did not know the man.
Eric Wilkerson, who lives on the south end of the block, said he heard what sounded like knocks on his door. He went outside and saw police behind the vehicle firing their pistols at the man, who fired back.
The man fell in the dirt lot and continued to fire, Wilkerson said.
Wilkerson heard eight to 10 more shots, he said. The man then lay motionless, apparently dead.
While the altercation was ongoing, a child rode his bike through the upper parking lot, Wilkerson said. The child’s mother ran and dragged the kid inside, Wilkerson said.
Another neighbor, who declined to be identified for this story, corroborated Gray and Wilkerson’s accounts. The neighbor said he was watching a music video when he heard gunfire. He stepped outside and saw the exchange of gunfire. The officer was shot by the man in the lot, the neighbor said.
A fourth neighbor likewise declined to be identified for this story. His recounting of the incident was consistent with the other three men’s accounts.
The Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigation will examine the incident. The state agency is usually asked to investigate shootings that involve law enforcement.
Sunday’s incident is the second police shooting in east Casper in just over two months. In late February, police shot and killed a man carrying a sword after he threatened a clerk at a nearby gas station. Natrona County District Attorney Michael Blonigen cleared the two officers who were involved and concluded the man, Douglas Oneyear, provoked the confrontation in an effort to end his life. Oneyear’s family maintains the officers could have resolved the situation without killing him.