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Quickdraw lawman Ed Cantrell dies
Famed Wyoming lawman Ed Cantrell sits next to Gerry Spence at a press conference following Cantrell's acquittal on murder charges in 1978. Cantrell died Friday. He was 76.(SWEETWATER COUNTY HISTORICAL MUSEUM/Courtesy)

CHEYENNE - Noted Wyoming lawman Ed Cantrell died Friday, June 11, at the L.D.S. Hospital in Salt Lake City after a brief illness.

Cantrell, 76, of Rock Springs, had been hospitalized for only one week.

Funeral services are scheduled for 10 a.m. on June 18 at the Vase Funeral Chapel in Rock Springs. Interment will be in the Rest Haven Memorial Gardens.

Cantrell, a long-time law enforcement officer, gained fame when he was acquitted of first degree murder charges in the shooting death of a Rock Springs police undercover officer, Michael Rosa.

At the time, Cantrell was public safety director for Rock Springs.

The case brought national publicity to Rock Springs and Pinedale, where the trial was held.

The shooting occurred on July 15, 1978, outside a nightclub in Rock Springs as Cantrell, Rosa and two city policemen, Matt Bider and James Callas, sat in an unmarked car.

Cantrell, who had a reputation as a gun expert, shot Rosa between the eyes as the undercover officer sat in the back seat of the police car. Cantrell testified he thought Rosa was reaching for a concealed weapon when he shot him.

A state grand jury at the time was investigating claims of vice and corruption in Rock Springs and Rosa was one of several witnesses scheduled to testify.

Famed attorney Gerry Spence represented Cantrell and detailed the case in his 1982 book, "Gunning For Justice."

Spence was attending a conference and could not be reached for comment Monday afternoon.

Cheyenne attorney Leonard Munker was a casual friend of Cantrell's over the years. "He's probably one of the most colorful characters ever in Wyoming in terms of character … I thought he was very, very interesting as a person. He had a streak of honesty and integrity that you wouldn't expect and you didn't think you'd see. It was always there. When I dealt with him, he was always a gentleman."

Rosa's widow Rebecca Rosa, filed a $6 million civil lawsuit against Cantrell, Bider, Callas and the City of Rock Springs in 1980.

Four years later, the lawsuit was settled out of court for $100,000.

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Cantrell was born Dec. 21, 1927, in Bloomington, Ind., and was a 1945 graduate of Plainfield High School.

He later attended Indiana State College for three years.

After Army service, he was employed in law enforcement for several years , including a stint on the Wyoming Highway Patrol. He also worked as a self-employed cattle detective.

Survivors include his wife, Norma, one son, Joseph Cantrell, two daughters, Nancy O'Connor and Peggy Cantrell, all of Rock Springs; one sister Betty Schliefer and her husband, Lt. Col. William Schliefer; and two grandsons.

He was preceded in death by his parents and one son, Samuel L. Cantrell.

Friends may call at the Vase Chapel in Rock Springs on Thursday afternoon and evening until 8 p.m. and Friday morning until the time of funeral services.

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