Accused of shooting his rifle toward truckers because their jake brakes were too loud, a Saratoga man now faces a possible prison term for aggravated assault.
Carbon County authorities have charged Luke Ryan Vargas, 42, with one count of aggravated assault, which is a felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison and $10,000 in fines, and two misdemeanor charges of stalking and reckless endangering, each punishable by up to one year in jail and $750 in fines.
Vargas’ case was transferred to the Carbon County District Court on April 26 for felony-level prosecution.
The charges stem from April 13, when Sgt. John Moore of the Carbon County Sheriff’s Office visited with truck driver Robert Cairns.
Cairns had been hauling sand for the Wyoming Department of Transportation (WYDOT) in Saratoga that day, along with his son Donald and other truck drivers, according to the evidentiary affidavit filed in the case.
Cairns pulled into town that morning, along with other drivers. He spotted a man standing on the east side of the highway holding a rifle, Cairns told Moore.
The man fired a single shot into the ground in the direction of the highway where Cairns was driving, then used his hand to make a finger gun gesture, pointing at Cairns as he drove past, the affidavit says.
At The Shop
By 2 p.m. that day, Cairns and three other drivers were inside the Saratoga WYDOT shop doing paperwork.
Someone at the shop told the truckers a person was there wanting to meet with them, the affidavit says.
Robert Cairns went outside and saw a dark-colored grey Jeep Cherokee that looked unoccupied. But once Cairns got about 5 feet past the jeep, its alarm went off, says the affidavit.
Cairns turned around and saw a man — later identified as Vargas — get out of the back seat of the Jeep.
The affidavit says Cairns approached the Jeep and saw an AR-15 rifle on the back seat Vargas had just left.
Vargas kept the Jeep’s back door open while he spoke with Cairns.
Cairns asked Vargas “what his problem was,” he later told Moore.
Vargas said he was tired of truck drivers using their loud jake brakes, and that it was “going to stop,” says the affidavit.
Cairns asked Vargas if he had fired that rifle earlier.
Vargas answered “yes,” the affidavit alleges, adding that Vargas wanted to give Robert Cairns’ son, Donald Cairns, “a message.”
Vargas also said he had thought Robert was Donald when Robert Cairns drove past.
A heated conversation followed, the affidavit says.
Another sand-hauling truck driver came outside and said, “Watch out, Bob, he’s going to stick you,” Cairns told Moore.
Cairns’ son Donald remembered that phrase differently, telling police the driver said, “Bob watch your back, he has a knife.” Robert Cairns’ back was to Vargas during the warning, Donald recalled.
Vargas was wearing a long jacket and appeared to be holding something. Cairns reached out and grabbed Vargas’ right arm and asked Vargas what he had, the affidavit says.
Vargas said he had a pocket knife.
Another driver came outside.
Vargas then closed the back door of his Jeep and positioned himself with his back to the WYDOT shop so he could face all the drivers, Cairns told Moore.
The drivers then left the shop.
Cairns and two other drivers headed back north on the highway through Saratoga.
When they stopped just north of town, Cairns noticed that Vargas had followed them. Vargas drove past the three when they stopped, the affidavit says.
That was when Vargas called the sheriff’s office and set up the interviews for the next day.
The truckers all kept driving north to the interstate, the affidavit says, “so nothing would escalate.”
Free Trip To Rawlins
Robert Cairns seemed worried for his son Donald’s safety, Moore wrote in the affidavit.
Donald Cairns told police that Vargas threatened his life and followed the drivers about 3 or 4 miles through town.
Moore arrested Vargas on April 14, and read him his Miranda rights, the affidavit says.
Vargas told Moore he didn’t want to talk and he wanted a lawyer, but then Vargas said, “If I’m getting a free trip to Rawlins … let’s go!”
Then Moore took Vargas to the Carbon County Detention Center in Rawlins.
But This Noise
Moore wrote in the affidavit that he knew Vargas by appearance, vehicle description and the description of Vargas’ home from previous brushes with law enforcement.
“There were reports to law enforcement about Mr. Vargas confronting and threatening other people who he felt drove loud vehicles on Highway 130,” wrote Moore.
In Wyoming, pointing or firing a gun at people can be prosecuted as aggravated assault.