Jimmy Orr

July 10, 20235 min read

Cody Mayor Matt Hall, seen in this file photo during a parade, has temporarily blocked a building permit for a new Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints temple in the city.
Cody Mayor Matt Hall, seen in this file photo during a parade, has temporarily blocked a building permit for a new Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints temple in the city. (Cowboy State Daily Staff)

Accused of having two loaded pistols during a tense, marijuana-influenced encounter with Cheyenne police in a Pizza Hut parking lot, a Wyoming man now faces up to 35 years in prison.  

A federal prosecutor has charged Charles Michael Carsten, who is 35 this year, with one count of possessing a firearm despite being a felon and another of possessing with intent to deliver fentanyl.  

Pizza Hut employees called police Aug. 4 at about 10:12 p.m. to report a man smoking weed in a gold Saturn in the restaurant parking lot, with his headlights on and his vehicle running, according to an evidentiary affidavit filed in the case.  

Knock, Knock 

Cheyenne Police Department Officer VanSwearingen arrived and shined his flashlight into the Saturn’s windows. There he found a man, later identified as Carsten, sitting slumped in the driver’s seat, alone in the vehicle, says the affidavit.  

VanSwearingen knocked. Nothing happened.  

He knocked harder.  

Carsten woke up, looked through the window at VanSwearingen wearing a full patrol uniform.  

VanSwearingen had Carsten turn off the vehicle, the affidavit says, then Carsten reached with his right hand near the center console of the vehicle.  

VanSwearingen demanded Carsten show his hands, and Carsten initially complied, says the document.  

VanSwearingen asked Carsten to roll the driver’s window down.  

Carsten lowered his right hand to the center of the vehicle and rolled the window down about 5 inches, the affidavit claims.  

Hands In The Air 

As VanSwearingen explained that he was following up on a drug use call, the officer spotted a pistol in plain view near the center console, the affidavit says. He told Carsten to put his hands in the air and not grab for the gun. 

Police later identified the gun as a .380-caliber Rock Island pistol that had seven rounds loaded, with one in the chamber.  

The officer commanded Carsten to put his hands outside the car, but Carsten “slowly began to bring both his arms from outside of the driver’s window back inside the vehicle,” says the affidavit. “Carsten ignored Officer VanSwearingen’s verbal commands to put his hands back outside of the vehicle.”  

Carsten’s right hand drifted toward the center console, the document claims. The officer ordered Carsten to get his hands outside the car, and Carsten allegedly didn’t comply.  

VanSwearingen opened the driver’s door so he could track Carsten’s movements better. That’s when the officer reportedly found another pistol between the driver’s door and driver’s seat. He put it on the ground, away from Carsten.  

Police later identified that as a 9mm Fabrique Nationale D’Armes pistol, loaded with 16 rounds including one in the chamber. Its serial number matched a Cheyenne stolen weapon report from June 1.  

Officer Nathanial Lucero arrived on scene, leaned into the vehicle and grabbed the .380.  

Meanwhile, VanSwearingen walked around the car, reached into the passenger-side doorway and unbuckled Carsten’s seat belt.  

Pills, Pipes, Phones 

A pipe “commonly used to smoke controlled substances” fell from Carsten’s lap, says the affidavit.  

VanSwearingen searched Carsten and discovered a small vial with a white cap containing numerous small blue round pills inscribed with “M” and “30,” like the fentanyl-laced counterfeit oxycodone pills police often discover in drug busts. The pills later tested positive for fentanyl and weighed in at just under 10 grams, the affidavit says.  

In Carsten’s right front pocket, VanSwearingen found another pipe with suspected drug residue, according to the document.

Both officers searched the Saturn and found more drug paraphernalia: pipes, pieces of tin foil with burnt leavings of suspected fentanyl, a hypodermic needle “loaded with an unknown liquid,” the affidavit says.  

This Nothing Of A Gun 

They also report seizing a black cellphone plugged into the vehicle with a charging cord, and another cellphone on the front passenger seat.  

While agents booked Carsten into the Laramie County Detention Center, they found one more fentanyl pill in his pocket, says the affidavit.  

Following up on a search warrant, the document says, Cheyenne drug task force Officer Sean Smith searched one of the phones Aug. 10 and found text conversations in which a contact offered Carsten “bread” in exchange for “ills.”  

“I sent money to pay off the tires n payed Mikey 350 for the gun,” wrote the contact.  

“I didn’t make nothing of the pistol that I stole,” Carsten allegedly replied.  

Back In Colorado 

Carsten is a convicted felon, the affidavit says. It lists a 2014 burglary conviction and a 2015 trespassing conviction, both in Colorado.  

The document also lists a 2019 federal arrest for drug and weapon possession, a 2020 drug possession conviction and a 2021 felony theft conviction, all in Wyoming.

Share this article



Jimmy Orr

Executive Editor

A third-generation Wyomingite, Jimmy Orr is the executive editor and co-founder of Cowboy State Daily.