Vigil for man killed in police shooting

Family, friends and supporters gather in front of Riverton City Hall on Sept. 26 to host a candlelight vigil and protest for Anderson “Andy” Antelope, who was killed in an altercation with police. Community and family members are still seeking answers about the shooting.

Community and family members of a man killed by police in Riverton last month are continuing to press for answers and look for ways to heal as a community.

A police officer shot and killed Anderson “Andy” Antelope on Sept. 21 during an altercation in which authorities allege Antelope attacked the officer with a knife outside of the Riverton Walmart store. Family members say Antelope was shot once in the head.

Authorities have released few other details while they investigate.

The shooting prompted a memorial vigil days after the shooting, where family members and friends remembered Antelope, a Northern Arapaho citizen, and called for transparency. Community members again held a vigil Saturday afternoon, marching from Riverton’s City Park to the City Hall and police department. Monday evening, tribal leaders answered questions about the shooting at a community event and discussed ways to heal and prevent future incidents involving tribal members.

“The activism that we are pushing for is transparency,” Dean Wallowing Bull, one of Antelope’s nephews, said at Monday’s meeting. “We want to know what happened to our uncle, dad, nephew, grandfather, brother, Northern Arapaho tribal member. We want to know the truth of what happened in front of Walmart. We want to see video surveillance clips of the shooting. Why? These things are going to put our hearts at peace or anger our hearts to take more action.”

Some have expressed doubt about the official narrative so far, while others have asked why the officer shot Anderson — a 28-year-old man who suffered from health problems and was prone to periods of confusion — instead of subduing him with non-lethal methods. Some have also said they were upset that Antelope lay outside on the ground for several hours after the shooting while the Walmart remained open and customers streamed past the scene.

Dozens remember man shot in Riverton, call for authorities to release information in peaceful gathering

Community members have also circulated a petition demanding authorities immediately release audio or video recordings of the shooting, the name of the officer involved, disciplinary records and complaints.

At Saturday’s march, a few dozen peacefully walked the several blocks to City Hall while carrying signs with messages like “Native Lives Matter,” singing and chanting “justice for Andy” to remember Antelope while calling for answers to the shooting.

Despite some personal struggles, friends and family members have said Antelope was a kind man with a good sense of humor who cared deeply about his family. They’ve said attacking a police officer would have been out of character for him.

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After Saturday’s march, one of Antelope’s nieces, Kenzie Rae Wallowing Bull, said she and her family live in Montana on the Northern Cheyenne Reservation but have been staying in the area to hopefully find out what happened.

“We just want closure, and like I was telling my family and my kids, the truth always wins no matter what,” she said.

The Wyoming Department of Criminal Investigation is handling the investigation because it was a police-involved shooting. The department did not immediately return a request for comment Tuesday.

Riverton Mayor Richard Gard has told the Riverton Ranger that the officer involved has been placed on paid leave.

Man shot by Riverton police had attacked officer with knife, prosecutor says

Although investigators have released little information about the shooting, Fremont County Coroner Mark Stratmoen has said he plans to provide more information and convene a public inquest to present evidence once investigators complete their work. It could take more than a month to schedule that inquest, he said.

At Monday’s event, tribal citizens and Northern Arapaho business council members discussed ways to protect the tribe’s more vulnerable citizens through suggestions like a homeless shelter, as well as how to foster a respectful relationship with officials in border towns like Riverton.

Business council member Stephen Fast Horse said the shooting has been on the minds and in the prayers of many tribal members, adding that the purpose of the meeting was to hopefully answer some questions and discuss ways to move forward. He said Northern Arapaho leaders hope to soon meet with Riverton officials to better understand what happened and ask why lethal force was used.

“A tragedy took place that took one of our tribal members from us at Walmart. I know there’s a lot of concern and a lot (of it is) what is happening, why is it happening and what does it mean?” he said at the meeting. “This is a very big matter to all of us because we all do our shopping, we all do everything in the city of Riverton and Lander.”

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Chris Aadland covers the Wind River Reservation and tribal affairs for the Star-Tribune as a Report for America corps member. A Minnesota native, he spent the last two years reporting for the Wisconsin State Journal before moving to Wyoming in June 2019.

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