A man killed by police Saturday in Riverton was shot after attacking an officer with a knife, a prosecutor said Monday afternoon.
The law enforcement officer — whose name and department hasn’t been disclosed — shot and killed the man Saturday at the Riverton Walmart after the man stabbed the officer in the chest with a knife and then continued to attack, forcing the officer to shoot, Fremont County Attorney Patrick LeBrun said in a short news release. LeBrun said the officer was trying to arrest the man for undisclosed and alleged “observed violations of the law.”
LeBrun said the officer’s body armor stopped the knife from penetrating, adding that the account of the shooting came from witnesses interviewed by state investigators. The prosecutor said his office would determine whether to press charges or pursue any other actions after the Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigation completes its examination.
Authorities have released few others details about the shooting, including the identity of the man or which agency the officer worked for.
A family member on Monday identified the man who was killed as Anderson “Andy” Antelope, a Northern Arapaho tribal member who was in his 50s.
Dean Wallowing Bull said his family was saddened by the death and had many unanswered questions about the police officer’s actions.
“We’re still in shock,” he said. “We can’t believe this happened.”
Antelope’s character is what makes the shooting and alleged confrontation difficult to comprehend, Wallowing Bull said, calling the alleged knife attack “totally out of character for my uncle.”
He said he wants to know if the officer who killed Antelope — who Wallowing Bull said was using an electric mobility scooter just before the shooting — attempted other non-lethal methods like using a stun gun or pepper spray. If an investigation reveals the officer acted improperly, he or she should face stiff consequences, Wallowing Bull said.
“We have a lot of very serious questions that need to be addressed,” he said. “I just don’t understand it.”
Witnesses to the shooting
The shooting occurred on Saturday afternoon just outside the Walmart in Riverton.
A witness who asked to not be named said she saw some of the events leading up to the shooting and its aftermath as she pulled into the store’s parking lot. She said she didn’t witness the shooting, however.
The witness said she was driving in front of the store shortly before 2 p.m. when she saw a police officer apparently trying to move a man away from a barbecue outside the Walmart when the man produced an unknown object and started waving it. She said she heard a gun go off after parking and exiting her vehicle.
As she was entering the Walmart, the witness then said she then saw a police officer standing near a person who was lying on the ground.
According to the Riverton Ranger, witnesses to the shooting told the newspaper that a man attacked a Riverton police officer with a knife and that the officer shot and killed the man with a single gunshot to the head after the man refused to “disarm.” The shooting occurred next to a temporary hamburger stand fundraising event.
Wallowing Bull, however, said the officer who shot his uncle was a Fremont County Sheriff’s Department deputy.
A Star-Tribune reporter at the Walmart saw what appeared to be a man covered with a white sheet or tarp on the ground between the store’s two main entrances at about 3:20 p.m. Saturday.
Police had taped off an area around the store’s south entrance, but the store remained open after the shooting.
When the Star-Tribune reporter returned to the scene Sunday afternoon, flowers and a candle marked the scene of the shooting.
A Riverton Police Department spokesman, Capt. Todd Byerly, didn’t respond to a list of questions sent to him on Monday morning. Instead, he referred questions — including whether a Riverton police officer had fatally shot someone — to the Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigation, which he said was investigating the shooting.
The Division of Criminal Investigation usually investigates police shootings in Wyoming. The division didn’t respond to a request for comment. The Fremont County Sheriff’s Department, which helped with initial investigation on Saturday, also did not respond to a request for comment.
Fremont County Coroner Mark Stratmoen issued a press release Monday morning “in relation to the reported law enforcement involved shooting.”
The statement offered no details of Saturday’s events.
In the statement, Stratmoen said his office would not release any information for several weeks as it and other agencies investigate.
“It is the policy of this office to convene a public inquest in the matter of any fatalities caused, or suspected to be caused, by any law enforcement agency in this jurisdiction,” he said. “The jury and public deserve as complete a presentation of the evidence and event as possible to arrive at a cause and manner of death. Until such an inquest presentation is made, this office will not issue further comment on the incident or circumstances. An additional notice will be released to inform the public at the time an inquest is scheduled.”
While Wallowing Bull said he questions law enforcement’s narrative — or what few details they’ve provided – and believes the shooting was unjustified, he hopes the shooting helps lead to positive changes in how area police treat and interact with tribal members.
Wallowing Bull said there are plans for some sort of peaceful march or walk to honor Antelope and discuss the shooting with a Northern Arapaho community that he said is angry and hurting. That event, he said, would hopefully “turn anger into action.”
A time and date has yet to be determined. Funeral arrangements are also pending, he said.
Antelope was disabled and dealt with health and substance use issues, but managed to get around, on one occasion somehow going from Montana to Seattle in a day, Wallowing Bull said.
He said his uncle was a caring and well-liked man who also valued Northern Arapaho culture by taking part in Sun Dance ceremonies.
“His life mattered. He was a somebody and we cared about him,” Wallowing Bull said, adding that Antelope was like a father to him.
“His smile could light up a room; he liked to joke around and tease,” Wallowing Bull said. “He could make you feel better when you were sad.”
Follow reporter Chris Aadland on Twitter @cjaadland
Sign up for our Crime & Courts newsletter
Get the latest in local public safety news with this weekly email.