The Thermopolis Police sergeant who broke into a home in April, triggering a gunfight that caused a man’s death, has been placed on administrative leave, the town of Thermopolis announced late Tuesday.
The April 28 gunfight between Thermopolis Police Sgt. Mike Mascorro and Buck Laramore was the first fatal officer-involved shooting the town has experienced, according to a statement on the town’s behalf that Mayor Adam Estenson signed and emailed Tuesday evening to Cowboy State Daily.
“This has been difficult for all parties involved and we appreciate the public’s patience during this process,” says the statement. “We take this matter seriously.”
The town of Thermopolis and its police department “have fully cooperated” with the Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigation (DCI), the statement continues. After DCI released its report of the incident to special prosecutor Daniel Erramouspe, the prosecutor studied it in light of Wyoming’s laws.
“Erramouspe found no grounds by which to criminally charge (Mascorro) in the shooting death of Buck Laramore,” says the town’s statement.
The prosecutor didn’t come by the determination lightly: He struggled through conflicting portions of Wyoming’s self-defense law, including a caveat in statute making it unlawful to fire on a police officer who enters one’s home during the course of his official duties – even if the entry is illegal, as Mascorro’s was.
On Oct. 3, about two weeks after Erramouspe authored his Sept. 21 decision, the Thermopolis Town Council learned Mascorro was medically cleared to return to duty, says the statement.
Mascorro was seriously injured in the exchange of gunfire in Laramore's home.
But now Mascorro is on administrative leave for an undetermined amount of time, the statement continues, though it does not say when he was placed on administrative leave.
Looking Things Over
The statement also says the town of Thermopolis Police Procedures and Policies have been sent to a third party for review.
“Any recommendations for updates or changes will be taken seriously,” the statement says. “The Town of Thermopolis periodically reviews and updates their policies to ensure our Police Department operates with stringent ethical and procedural expectations. We will continue to do so now and in the future.”
The town won’t have additional comment “at this time” about the fallout from the April incident, but will keep the public informed “as new information can be shared,” says the statement.
Mascorro had tried to arrest Laramore, 33, a McDonald’s employee, on April 28, because Laramore had lied about his name and age during Mascorro’s investigation into a methamphetamine finding at the restaurant where Laramore worked earlier that morning.
The misdemeanor charge of interfering with a police officer may have fit Laramore’s conduct, but Mascorro was not within his authority to break into Laramore’s home as he did nearly three hours later, Erramouspe’s decision concluded.
After Mascorro shouldered open Laramore’s front trailer-house door, Laramore fired on the police sergeant, hitting Mascorro in the chest and arm.
Mascorro yelled “stop,” and soon returned fire, killing Laramore, the report says in describing video from Mascorro's body camera.
Laramore’s wife Brandi Laramore screamed, investigative documents relate.
Mascorro burst outside and collapsed. A Hot Springs County Sheriff’s Deputy arriving first on scene rushed to Mascorro’s aid, applying a tourniquet to his arm and keeping pressure on his chest wound. Emergency personnel arrived and rushed Mascorro to medical care.
Laramore was dead on scene.
Since Cowboy State Daily reported on the findings of the special prosecutor's report, a group of Thermopolis residents have been demonstrating in town demanding disciplinary action against Mascorro and accountability for city officials.
Clair McFarland can be reached at Clair@CowboyStateDaily.com.