Federal agents were trying to apprehend a fugitive from Colorado when a U.S. marshal shot and killed him outside a Douglas church, authorities said Friday.
Jasen Scott Ramirez, 44, died Thursday after being shot in the parking lot of St. James Catholic Church. Agents were attempting to arrest Ramirez, who was was wanted on drug charges.
Authorities released more information about the incident on Friday, but several questions remain unanswered, including whether Ramirez was armed and what led to the shooting. Local and state authorities referred most questions to the U.S. Marshals Service, which released a one-paragraph statement and said it could not provide further comment.
The Marshals Service said it would not be releasing the names of the deputy marshals involved in the shooting until all investigations into the incident are concluded, as a matter of the agency’s policies.
Sheriff deputies and Douglas Police Department officers responded to the church at 2:43 p.m. Thursday and found Ramirez lying unconscious on the ground, the sheriff’s office said.
Emergency personnel took him to Memorial Hospital of Converse County, where he later died.
A witness told the Star-Tribune he saw people who had been attending a funeral leave the church shortly after the shooting.
Multiple local agencies were called to the scene Thursday afternoon to create a security perimeter while the shooting was investigated. An unconfirmed threat made against law enforcement prompted the Converse County Courthouse, Douglas City Hall and the hospital to be placed on lockdown until the threat was investigated, the sheriff’s office said in a statement. The statement did not specify the nature of the threat.
The Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigation is looking into the shooting, said Frosty Williams, its deputy director of operations.
Williams referred additional questions to the Converse County Attorney’s Office. A message left at the office Friday morning wasn’t returned.
A reporter at the shooting saw officers with shirts with the acronyms HSI and ICE. Those acronyms typically refer to Homeland Security Investigations and Immigration and Customs Enforcement, respectively.
ICE officers and HSI special agents routinely assist in law enforcement operations as requested, said Carl Rusnok, spokesman for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Rusnok did not say how the officers and special agents assisted in Douglas.
Ramirez faced federal charges for possession of methamphetamine with the intent to distribute, possession of a firearm in the furtherance of a drug trafficking crime and being a felon in possession of a firearm, according to federal court documents. He faced life in prison.
An indictment was filed against Ramirez on May 18 in the U.S. District Court of Wyoming. An arrest warrant was issued the next day.
A Wyoming Highway Patrol trooper was injured while responding to the shooting. He was flown by helicopter to Wyoming Medical Center and was expected to be released from the hospital sometime Friday.
The patrol on Friday identified the trooper as Joel Eldred, a 12-year veteran based in Glenrock. He was driving with lights and sirens to Douglas when he attempted to pass a Jeep SUV on U.S. Highway 20-26 just east of Glenrock. The SUV turned left into a driveway in front of Eldred’s patrol car, and the trooper steered into a ditch to avoid a crash, according to the patrol. The two vehicles still collided, and Eldred’s patrol car rolled at least four times.
Investigators credit Eldred’s seat belt, bulletproof vest, the patrol car’s design and its prisoner cage for minimizing his injuries.
Robin Belgrad, a Louisiana woman driving the SUV, was treated for her injuries and released Thursday from the hospital.
No citations have been issued related to the crash, the patrol said.
A woman who witnessed the crash told the Star-Tribune the patrol car “came out of nowhere,” giving Belgrad no time to react. Michelle Lambert was driving a pickup just in front of Belgrad’s Jeep and said Belgrad was trying to turn into a commercial yard and had used her signal.
“I didn’t see him at all,” Michelle Lambert said.