Casper police have arrested a Natrona County School District employee on suspicion of first-degree sexual abuse of a minor, the police department announced Thursday.
The employee, whom the department did not identify by name, was arrested Thursday. The announcement does not specify the nature of the allegations, except to state that the agency is recommending he be charged with an aggravated felony sex crime against a child. The employee is an adult man, according to the statement.
“We believe the suspect’s crimes may be connected to the functions of his employment with the Natrona County School District,” the police department wrote in its announcement. It did not state what the nature of that connection was or the location of the crimes.
The district has put in place safeguards to “preclude the suspect from having further access to students,” the announcement states.
Police say they are working closely with the school district on the investigation, which remains open. When asked on Thursday afternoon if the suspect was a teacher, a police spokeswoman declined to release any details not already included in the written statement.
After being questioned on social media as to why the department did not identify the school or other location where the suspect worked, police put out an additional statement Thursday evening. In it, the department acknowledged the frustration in the community, but said it was prohibited by state law from releasing information that would make the suspect’s identity apparent.
Rebekah Ladd, the police spokeswoman who released the statements, said by text message shortly after that the agency believed releasing the name of the school where the person worked would identify him. She did not respond to a follow-up question asking whether the suspect worked in an elementary, middle or high school.
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The district released its own statement late Thursday afternoon. In it, the district said it would continue to work with Casper police.
“The Natrona County School District is committed to providing safe and healthy learning environments for students, staff and school visitors,” the district wrote. “We are incredibly appreciative of the superior policing services and commitment to the safety of our community as provided by the Casper Police Department.”
In response to multiple messages seeking more information on the arrest, district spokeswoman Tanya Southerland wrote in an email that “this is an open and ongoing investigation, the information provided by NCSD is the information we have lawfully available to release. We will share more information, together with the Casper Police Department, as available to be released.”
She reiterated that the district had instituted safeguards “to ensure the individual does not have access to students.” It’s unclear what safeguards she’s referring to. Southerland did not respond to a follow-up email seeking additional information.
Other district officials did not return messages seeking comment Thursday.
Dana Howie, the board’s vice-chair, told the Star-Tribune on Thursday afternoon that she knew nothing about the arrest, beyond media reports and Southerland’s brief statement. She said she was angry about the arrest.
Natrona County District Attorney Dan Itzen said by phone on Thursday afternoon that he had not yet reviewed a police charging affidavit and would not be able to comment on the case in a way that could identify the people involved. He said he does expect his office to charge the man Friday afternoon in Natrona County Circuit Court.
Police are asking anyone with information on the arrest to contact investigators at 307-235-8472.
Star-Tribune staff writer Seth Klamann contributed to this report.