Head-On Crash Changed Life For Former Wyoming Undersheriff To Fight Human Trafficking

Justin Scott had to retire as a Wyoming sheriff’s deputy after a high-speed pursuit and head-on crash, but he’s still on the frontlines as head of a new human trafficking task force.

Jen Kocher

May 14, 20235 min read

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(Getty Images)

Justin Scott didn’t think twice before answering the call to head up a new human trafficking task force.

The request came from Pastor Jason Ricks at Emmaus Road Community Church in Laramie. Ricks had been inspired by the national and international anti-trafficking efforts of former congregation member and human rights lawyer Ashleigh Chapman, a renowned leader in the field and who has since relocated to Tennessee.

Scott was approached by Ricks in October about doing outreach work to educate the community about human trafficking.

At the time, Scott, a retired sheriff’s deputy due to a debilitating injury in the line of duty, had no idea what trafficking was despite his 14 years in law enforcement. As undersheriff for Converse County, Scott had specialized in search and rescues as coordinator for the county, where he helped locate several people who got lost in the surrounding Laramie Mountain Range.

Nobody was talking about trafficking during his tenure in the field.

“I was ignorant about it,” Scott told Cowboy State Daily from his home in Laramie on Friday. “I had plenty of training in missing people, but I never really knew anything about human trafficking.”

This changed with Ricks’ request that he learn everything he can — with the help of Chapman — then take these efforts into the community.

In January, Scott launched the Albany Advisory Council on Trafficking with the help of his small volunteer leadership team with the intent of educating and training the public about the nefarious nature of human trafficking.

“The intention of our task force is to establish and break the barrier to get people to understand that human trafficking [both sex and labor] is modern slavery,” he said. “Some people think this is only something that happens someplace far away, but it does happen here. We want to teach people what it is, how to identify it and how to report it to police.”

Justin Scott was a career law enforcement officer in Wyoming before a head-on collision during a high-speed chase. Now he heads up the Albany Advisory Council on Trafficking and is on the front lines of battling human trafficking in the Cowboy State.
Justin Scott was a career law enforcement officer in Wyoming before a head-on collision during a high-speed chase. Now he heads up the Albany Advisory Council on Trafficking and is on the front lines of battling human trafficking in the Cowboy State. (Courtesy Photos)

Road To Recovery

Scott is happy to again do something on the front lines after stepping down from his career in law enforcement seven years ago.

Scott’s career-ending injury happened Dec. 27, 2016, when he was smacked head-on during a high-speed chase.

It happened right after Christmas when Scott was out doing errands on an otherwise very slow day. He heard a call on the radio about an out-of-control driver heading north from Wheatland on Interstate 25. The driver began throwing out objects as a Wyoming Highway Patrol trooper pursued him at speeds in excess of 100 mph.

The roads were icy following a winter storm and attempts by plow trucks to stop the speeding car on the interstate failed as the driver sped toward Douglas. Scott jumped into action and attempted to block the driver from near Orin Junction, about 15 miles south of Douglas.

When Scott saw the driver exit the interstate, he and another trooper knew they needed to stop him from entering town.

The trooper hit the car, sending it into a ditch. Scott was positioned on the other side of the ditch, and when the driver ascended the ravine, Scott’s car slid on ice and the vehicles collided head on.

The driver suffered minor injuries while Scott took the brunt of the crash.

Along with suffering a traumatic brain injury, he also broke his hip and his back in three places. The injuries ended his career, and shortly thereafter, he and his wife and two children moved to Laramie and Scott began years of therapy to heal.

The driver, who he does not name but refers to as “the gentleman,” is now out of prison and doing well, Scott’s heard anecdotally from one of his family members who he randomly met at the Greater Rockies Immersive Training on Exploitation and Trafficking (GRIT) the first week of May.

He doesn’t hold any grudges against the guy and has moved on, he said.

Scott has since completed a degree in organizational leadership and is excited to be back on the frontlines leading anti-trafficking educational training.

No Politics

Since launching the task force, Scott has been surprised by the overwhelming support from law enforcement and those in the law enforcement community, small business owners, local NGOs and advocates.

“Everyone is coming to the table and the support has been overwhelming,” he said. “There’s a need for it, and people are hungry for information.”

Their mission is three-fold: Building on Chapman’s efforts, the task force plans to raise awareness, conduct trainings and bring stakeholders together to help fight trafficking.

So far, their monthly meetings continue to grow with the next one — “Human Trafficking 101” — scheduled for May 24 at the Emmaus Road Community Church in Laramie.

“I’m trying to get people to understand that everyone should be able to get behind this,” he said. “It’s not a partisan issue. That’s why I think we are seeing such success because it’s completely inclusive.”

All sides can agree, Scott added, and galvanize around a single purpose of good vs. evil.

“The predators exploit the vulnerable, and it’s the job of the rest of us to protect the vulnerable,” he said. “Everyone should be able to get behind that.”

For more information about human trafficking or to contact Scott, email justin@emmausroadcc.org.  


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Jen Kocher

Features, Investigative Reporter