Accused of gashing another man’s head open with a bear-claw meat shredder Nov. 11, a Riverton man has been charged with aggravated assault in Powell.
Elias Antelope, 32, appeared Tuesday in Powell Circuit Court to face the aggravated assault charge, which is a felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison.
During the hearing, Judge S. Joseph Darrah transferred Antelope’s case to Powell District Court, saying there is enough evidence for a felony prosecution.
Sgt. Phillip Alquist of the Powell Police Department testified in court that he sought Antelope after Antelope’s father called police, concerned.
The father drove to Powell from Riverton seeking his son after Antelope said he’d been in a fight and wanted his father to come pick him up, Alquist said.
Alquist said he and another officer found Antelope outside a home in town and immediately arrested him because he had a warrant for his arrest.
Antelope’s face was injured and his sweatshirt was covered in blood, Alquist said.
The other officer started pulling items out of Antelope’s pockets; one of those items was a hard plastic or polymer bear-claw meat shredder, said Alquist, adding that the claw’s tines looked like they’d been manually sharpened.
The bear claw “happened to have blood on it,” the Sergeant said.
Antelope “was not very forthcoming” when talking with officers, but said he and Matthew Tail had had a disagreement in the nearby home. Antelope told police the pair had disagreed over “nothing really: We were just drunk.”
Antelope identified Tail as his brother, though Alquist said he believed the two men were cousins.
Tail spoke to police officers at the home entrance, providing his tribal identification card and showing police a gash on the back of his head that had been stapled shut, Alquist said.
Tail said he’d been to the hospital that morning at around 9 a.m. and the fight had occurred at about 8:30.
“I could see at least three staples and other scratches that would be indicative of a wound sustained from the type of weapon we were seeing in our presence,” Alquist told the court.
Tail reportedly did not want to get Antelope in trouble.
Alquist said that Tail stated, “That’s what he hit me with” and nodded in Antelope’s direction when officers showed him the bear claw.
But Tail didn’t directly state that Antelope had carved his face and head with the bear claws.
“Mr. Tail was pretty adamant he didn’t want Elias to be mad at him, and he didn’t want Elias to get him in trouble,” Alquist said.
‘Some Sort Of Violence’
Antelope’s attorney Travis Smith told the court that the state’s case has flaws and Antelope will likely have an affirmative defense.
Smith pointed to the alleged victim’s terse interview, the lack of other witness testimony, uncertainties about who started the fight and if other weapons were involved.
Antelope’s mother was in the home when police arrived but told them she didn’t see the fight because she’d been at work, Alquist said.
Judge Darrah also noted that when he first saw Antelope at the latter’s initial hearing, Antelope had “marks on his face” that made him look like he’d been the “victim of some sort of violence.”
“The big question – and it certainly is a defense – is ‘who was the aggressor here?’” said the judge.
But that question, Darrah continued, is to be contemplated at the District Court level, and he found enough evidence to send Antelope’s case to the higher court.
Darrah dropped Antelope’s bond from $10,000 cash-only to $4,000 cash or surety and expanded the conditions of the bond to allow Antelope to travel anywhere in Wyoming – not just in Park County – while his case is being prosecuted.
Antelope is from Riverton, Smith said, and hopes to stay in Riverton or return to the Wind River Indian Reservation. He has two misdemeanor drug cases on his record but was only convicted for one of them, according to Park County deputy attorney Jack Hatfield.
Antelope “doesn’t have any violent crime history; however, the state is concerned that he’s (been) carrying around a sharpened meat shredder,” said Hatfield.
After dropping Antelope’s bond, Darrah said, “good luck, Mr. Antelope. I hope you get out of jail and I wish you a happy Thanksgiving.”