By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily
As of mid-June, Wyoming has had more police-involved shootings than usually occur in a full year.
Forrest Williams, director of the state Division of Criminal Investigation, told Cowboy State Daily on Thursday that so far in 2022, there have been seven police-involved shootings.
From 2013 through 2021, the state averaged anywhere from four to six officer-involved shootings per year.
Williams said Wyoming is not alone in this trend, as there have been more and more officer-involved shootings taking place across the country.
“I think this is very concerning from a safety standpoint, both for officers and citizens,” he said.
Campbell, Natrona and Laramie counties have each had at least two officer-involved shootings this year, Williams said. In all the investigations investigations completed so far, the officers have been cleared of wrongdoing.
The most recent officer-involved shooting took place on May 28, when Cheyenne law enforcement shot and killed Davin Darayle Saunders, a Nebraska man sought in connection with a murder that took place in Scottsbluff, Nebraska, earlier that week.
Cheyenne Police Department spokeswoman Alex Farkas declined to comment further on the shooting on Wednesday, citing an ongoing investigation.
The police department this week released dash camera footage of the confrontation, but it was unclear if there was available body camera footage. The dash camera footage showed only officers gathered near a house where Saunders had been hiding.
Williams said because every officer-involved shooting is a unique and complex situation, he did not have a timeline on when the Saunders shooting investigation would be completed.
According to the Cheyenne Police Department, officers went to a Cheyenne home on May 28 to conduct surveillance and later entered the home in search of Saunders.
While on the scene, officers attempted to communicate with Saunders and asked him to leave the residence, but he refused.
Officers deployed gas in an attempt to force Saunders out of the home, but he pulled out a firearm. Officers saw this and fired on him, killing him.
Saunders was wanted in Scottsbluff, Nebraska, for multiple homicide-related charges. He had a history of violence. Saunders’ alleged victim was identified as Karen Cooper, 63, of Scottsbluff, who died as a result of gunshot wounds in late May in a Scottsbluff residential neighborhood.
According to The Washington Post, around 1,000 people are killed every year by police. An “overwhelming” majority of the people killed are young men between the ages of 20 and 40, the newspaper said.
The outlet reported that the states with the highest rates of officer-involved shootings are New Mexico, Alaska and Oklahoma.