By Mark Heinz, Outdoors Reporter
Two drunken men with Colorado license plates on their truck allegedly assaulted and severely beat two Wyoming elk hunters without provocation in the Shale Creek area of Greys River in Lincoln County, one victim’s father said.
“This is more than a ‘he got hit in the jaw’ sort of thing,” Noble Handley told Cowboy State Daily on Saturday. “He got beaten down.”
The suspected assailants claimed that the victims had stolen the carcass of a cow elk that the suspects had killed earlier that day, Handley said. However, the victims hadn’t killed any elk during their hunt.
He said his son took the worst of the vicious and unprovoked assault. The primary victim, who is in his early 30s, suffered multiple fractures to his jaw, as well as other severe injuries. He was still hospitalized in Jackson on Monday and will likely need multiple surgeries, said Handley, who lives in Clark.
Handley and another close friend of the victims declined to identify either victim by name.
They were withholding the victims’ names, because the victims were still worried about retribution from the suspects. The suspects remained unknown on Monday.
“He (the son) is somebody who has gone through a lot. He’s had friends pass away, and that sort of thing. He’s the strongest person we know,” said one close friend, who asked not to be identified. “And now, he’s in the hospital, shaking like a leaf.”
Handley said both of the victims described the attack as having been completely unprovoked.
The victims related that they first encountered the suspects – two men probably in their 30s – about midmorning on Saturday. They were butchering a cow elk by the roadside and claimed that they had shot and killed another cow elk. They claimed the carcass should be nearby.
The end of that exchange was “Basically, ‘We’ll keep an eye out for your elk’” and that seemed like the end of it, the close friend said.
Suspect Might Have A ‘Dork Stamp’
The suspects’ primary vehicle was described as a white, late-model Ford F-150 pickup with Colorado plates, Handley said.
One of the suspects had a visible cut on the bridge of his nose, he said. It was consistent with a “scoping” injury.
That happens when a shooter fails to properly control the recoil of a high-powered rifle outfitted with a telescopic sight. The edge of the scope strikes the shooter in the face, often in the bridge of the nose, making a small cut.
It’s widely considered a novice mistake, and shooters commonly call the wound a “dork stamp.”
The Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office described the suspects as, “White males, one being in his late 20s to early 30s, medium build and approximately 5-9 with wavy dark hair and a possible scope injury to his nose and eyebrow.
“The second suspect is described as being in his late 30s with dark straight hair, approximately 5-9. Both men were wearing jeans and hoodies of unknown colors. “
Anybody with information about the suspects should contact the Sheriff’s Office at 307-885-5231.
Vicious Attack On the Road
The victims said they were returning from an unsuccessful hunt Saturday evening driving a side-by-side UTV down Greys River Road back toward their camp. The suspects appeared again in the white F-150 and “flagged them down to stop” somewhere between mile posts 50 and 55.
“Those guys were like, ‘We told you where our elk was, and you took it!’” the close friend said. “They were really, really drunk, and they just jumped out of their truck.”
Handley also said he was told that the men were intoxicated.
“One of them (the suspects) threw a partially-full beer can at them,” he said.
The Wyoming hunters tried to calm the other men, saying they obviously didn’t have an elk carcass with them.
“(The Son’s friend) was like, ‘dude, we didn’t take your shit,’” according to the friend. “But they just kept yelling and trying to look in the back of the side-by-side.”
When the son’s friend excited the driver’s side of the UTV, he was almost immediately punched in the face. He went into a “a kind of defensive fetal position” while the suspects continued hitting and kicking him.
When Handley’s son exited the passenger’s side, things got worse.
“The guy came around the vehicle and said, ‘Oh, you want some of this too?’ and started beating the shit out of him,” the friend said. “(The son) had a handgun on his hip, and the other guy kept trying to go for it. He was trying to protect himself while keeping that guy from getting his gun.”
Details were still blurry Monday, but evidently both men ended up ganging up on the son: “They ended it by kneeing him in the face, and that’s when his mouth just started pouring blood.”
‘Headed To The Hospital’
After the suspects left, the battered and bewildered hunters got back into their UTV and headed for Jackson.
Handley said he got word that something was wrong late Saturday.
His son “sent me a text as soon as they had service to send a text,” he said. “All it said was that he had a broken jaw and they were headed to the hospital.”
Handley said his son and his friend had been talking to deputies and sheriff’s office detectives and were expecting another interview with a detective later Monday.
Handley emailed Cowboy Sate Daily seeking help in finding out any information about the incident and the suspects’ identities. He said he’d also been sharing the story across multiple social media platforms.
Besides the F-150, other vehicles that might have been involved were a “possibly flat-black Toyota Tacoma” and a “white or light-colored chevy or GMC 4-door truck, early 2000s model with dark fender flairs or a different color of fender lips,” he said.
The extent of his son’s injuries was still unclear, Handley said.
“My son still can’t swallow,” he said. “We’re waiting for an oral surgeon to get involved today. His teeth are messed up and his face is swollen up on both sides.”