By Leo Wolfson, Cowboy State Daily
When Colin Monahan, 68, heard a knock on her door and saw a group of people standing outside her porch on Oct. 9, she said she thought they might be there to complain about a new garage she and her wife had recently built.
Monahan said although the five people gathered at her home initially stated they were there to talk about the covenants in their neighborhood in Wapiti, about 20 miles outside Cody, it quickly became clear that wasn’t the real reason why they were there. She said they told Monahan and her same-sex partner Shannon Lastowski, 63, they were not welcome in Wapiti because of their sexual orientation.
“This woman said, ‘We don’t like your kind’ … and our kind is not welcome here, and we need to leave,” Monahan said.
Monahan asked the party to leave. She said one person returned to their vehicle at her request, but the rest refused to do so.
As the two homeowners and four neighbors crowded around the small porch, she said tensions rose quickly.
“I said, ‘I’ll have to call the police then,’ and (one of the neighbors) said, ‘Fine, call the police,’” Monahan recalled.
She said once she connected with the Park County Sheriff’s Office she offered the phone to the neighbors so they could speak with law enforcement officers. That was when Monahan said the neighbors finally decided to leave.
The Park County Sheriff’s Office reported on Tuesday the incident was still under active investigation. It would not release any more information as of press time.
The county’s dispatch center records show a trespassing complaint filed from Monahan’s street at the time of the alleged incident.
When contacted, three of the neighbors Monahan said were involved in the incident declined to comment. A fourth did not respond to a request for comment.
Monahan, a hunter with three dogs, said she is used to living in a conservative community and had no illusions about the political climate before moving to Wyoming, but “didn’t expect the amount of hate that some of the people out here have. It’s at a level I’ve not seen before.”
Monahan is determined to not let this incident drive the couple out but said Lastowski has had different thoughts.
“She’s terrified,” Monahan said.
Monahan said they have felt “wonderful” support from most people they have met in the community, especially after this incident.
“That’s a good thing,” she said. “There are people who are both conservative and liberal that believe what happened was terrible and I believe they’re in the majority.
“I just want to stop them from doing this to other people and anybody else that wants to do this to people, they’re going to get stopped,” she continued.
The alleged incident has caused an outcry from the local community, both individuals and businesses.
“Your Hate Is Not Welcome” stickers – featuring a cowboy riding a bronco with rainbow colors and Heart Mountain in the background – have surfaced.
“People are in the mood right now where they’re not going to be silenced,” Monahan said.
She said Park County Sheriff Scott Steward paid them an in-person visit after the incident, called those accused and told them to have no contact with Monahan or Lastowski.
“He was very helpful,” she said. “The sheriff’s department has been very helpful and supportive in this process.”
An informal no-contact order is in place for their property and a separate legal process must occur for it to be formalized.
“This is Wyoming, everybody has guns and long-range rifles, there’s a lot of ways they can get people here,” Monahan said. “We’re not really safe ever.”
Monahan said she thinks the current state of social media is simultaneously bringing those with similar viewpoints together, and also compartmentalizing people into divisive groups.
“It allows people to come out and say all sorts of things,” she said. “It allows people to come out and say what they truly believe. It allows people who are maybe normally cowards to get out there.”
Monahan said she had been harassed in the past by those who came to her home and others on Facebook, but the personal nature of this new attack elevates such threats to a higher level.
“What they said was a hate crime, what they did was a hate crime,” Monahan said.
The FBI reported 1,445 incidents of hate crimes nationwide involving sexual orientation in 2018.
Wyoming is one of three states without any hate crime laws, but if the alleged suspects are charged and found guilty, the party or parties could be cited for harassment and criminal trespassing, and state statutes do provide wide discretion to sentencing judges to determine length of punishment.
“I want a charge for what she did wrong, not some other side thing,” Monahan said. “The lesson should be to everybody that they can’t do that, but I doubt that’s going to happen here.”