Neither Knife-Wielding Man Nor Shooting Officer To Be Charged In Rez Fight

Neither the man wielding a knife nor the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs agent who shot him will be charged with crimes in connection to the fight, federal prosecutors announced this week. 

Clair McFarland

April 28, 20233 min read

Wolfe Jon Taylor Willow
Wolfe Jon Taylor Willow (Cowboy State Daily Staff)

The Bureau of Indian Affairs officer who shot a suspect on the Wind River Indian Reservation last March will not be charged with a crime, federal authorities have announced.  

Neither will the suspect, who was fighting with a knife when the officer shot him.  

Wolfe Willow, who is now 37, survived the March 14, 2022, shooting and is incarcerated for a different offense, federal authorities say. 

There wasn’t enough evidence to conclude wrongdoing by the officer, Nicholas Vassallo, U.S. Attorney for Wyoming, told Cowboy State Daily in a Friday email. Prosecutors also chose not to charge Willow.

Large Knife 

Willow told Cowboy State Daily three days after the shooting that it started as a family fight.  

He and his girlfriend’s family had been drinking together since noon that day when “her cousins showed up,” said Willow from his hospital bed.  

When the family started fighting, Willow got control of one of the knives.  

Bureau of Indian Affairs agents arrived just before 3 p.m., said Willow, and an agent shot him soon after.  

Vassallo said Willow had turned the knife on the officer.  

“In this case, experienced federal agents completed a thorough investigation that showed Mr. Willow repeatedly threatened the officer with a large knife,” said Vassallo in his statement.  

Tough To Tell 

“The evidence is insufficient to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the officer violated Willow’s civil rights or that the officer did not act in self-defense,” said Vassallo, adding that prosecutors from his office and from the Criminal Civil Rights section of the Department of Justice both reviewed the case details.  

As the federal prosecutor for Wyoming, it is Vassallo’s duty to review investigations and determine whether to charge suspects with crimes.   

“Prosecutors have also determined that no charges should be filed against Mr. Willow, who is currently incarcerated for another criminal conviction,” Vassallo said.  

Willow told Cowboy State Daily last year that he suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder and was suffering from flashbacks just prior to the incident. He also said he suspected his girlfriend’s family disliked him, “because I’m a sex offender.”  

Another Officer-Involved Shooting 

Vassallo did not discuss the delay of more than a year in the office’s conclusion of the shooting investigation.  

There was a second officer-involved shooting on the Wind River Indian Reservation last year, Aug. 11.  

That incident is still under investigation, said the U.S. Attorney’s office, declining to comment on it further.  

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Clair McFarland

Crime and Courts Reporter