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DCI: Platte County sheriff's deputy shot and killed man holding ax at scene of family fight

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A Platte County sheriff’s deputy was responding to a reported family fight earlier this month when he shot and killed a man holding a double-sided ax, the Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigation said Wednesday.

The investigative agency declined to name the sheriff’s deputy in a prepared statement issued by email in response to a series of Star-Tribune requests for information regarding the shooting. DCI, did, however, identify the deceased man as David M. Cain, 36.

DCI’s Interim Director Forrest “Frosty” Williams said in response to follow up question that he would not release the deputy’s name on the basis of a request by Sheriff Clyde Harris.

According to the statement, on April 1 a member of the man’s family called 911 and said a disturbance between two brothers was ongoing at a house southeast of Wheatland. When a deputy arrived at the house, Cain — who was already holding the ax — confronted him, according to DCI.

Although the unnamed deputy told Cain to drop the ax, according to DCI, he did not. Cain instead walked toward the deputy “with the ax raised in a threatening manner,” the investigating agency said. The deputy shot Cain, who was later pronounced dead at Platte County Memorial Hospital, according to DCI.

The deputy was placed on administrative leave, which is a procedure commonly undertaken when a police officer shoots someone. The division said that it intends to present its investigative report to Platte County Attorney Doug Weaver within two weeks.

The Wednesday statement dramatically increased the amount of information publicly released by the agency involved in the shooting and subsequent investigation.

A day following the shooting, the sheriff’s office released a statement indicating only that a deputy had shot at least one person and noting DCI involvement in the investigation. The next day, April 3, Weaver issued a statement acknowledging that an officer in the sheriff’s office had shot and killed a person and stating that the officer was on administrative leave.

The same day, Undersheriff Grady Winders declined entirely to comment on the shooting.

Earlier this week Weaver, the county attorney, declined to comment on the case. However, Williams said on Wednesday in the email providing the statement that he had coordinated the release with Weaver and Harris.

Williams has led the agency since earlier this year, when Director Steve “Woody” Woodson abruptly announced his retirement. Attorney General Bridget Hill, who is responsible for replacing Woodson on a permanent basis has not responded to Star-Tribune messages requesting details on her plan for the position.

DCI is authorized by state law to investigate drug crimes and organized crime that crosses into multiple local jurisdictions, as well as certain computer and sex crimes. The attorney general may also assign the agency to assist other law enforcement agencies and local prosecutors; the agency can also handle cases at the direction of the governor.

Many of the agency’s most prominent non-drug investigations are of public corruption cases and police shootings. Earlier this year, Rep. Charles Pelkey, D-Laramie, criticized the practice, stating that the agency’s ties to local law enforcement keep it from providing an impartial examination of police shootings, according to a WyoFile report.

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Crime and Courts Reporter

Shane Sanderson joined the Star-Tribune in 2017. He covers courts and law enforcement agencies in Natrona County and across the state. Shane studied journalism at the University of Missouri and worked at newspapers there before moving to Wyoming.

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