DCI: Thermopolis Cop Cleared Of Other Complaints Prior To Killing Suspect

The Thermopolis police sergeant who broke into a man’s home, triggered a shootout and killed the man had been cleared of other professional complaints one week prior, an investigative report says.

CM
Clair McFarland

October 20, 202317 min read

Mascorrow and protest 10 20 23

A state investigative agency’s full report on the deadly gunfight a Thermopolis Police Department sergeant triggered by breaking into a man’s home April 28 tells a grisly story.

It also reveals new details from before that day and after it.

The Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigation, pursuant to a Cowboy State Daily public records request, released its report this week on Sgt. Michael Mascorro’s shooting and killing of Thermopolis resident Buck Laramore, 33.

A caveat in Wyoming self-defense law, among other features, justified Mascorro so that he will not be charged with criminal homicide. He did break into Laramore’s home illegally, however, according to a decision letter by the special prosecutor on the case, Sweetwater County Attorney Daniel Erramouspe.

The DCI report states the following:

Mascorro was subject to a Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) misconduct investigation ending in 2023, but he was cleared after POST ruled there was not clear and convincing evidence that Mascorro had violated the state’s policing standards.

Laramore’s mother, Debra Laramore-Fenton, questioned the circumstances of her son’s death during her talk with DCI investigators. She struggled to rationalize how her son lying to police about his name spelling and birthdate (as Laramore had done) could have ended with his killing.

Police found illegal drugs in Laramore’s home after his death, reportedly.

The POST Report

Wyoming Peace Officer Standards (POST) And Training had investigated Mascorro starting in July 2022 for alleged use-of-force misconduct and an alleged improper or illegal traffic stop, the DCI report says.

DCI agents attached in the report a letter from POST to Mascorro, clearing the sergeant from misconduct claims.

There was not clear and convincing evidence that Mascorro had violated POST rules, the agency ruled. POST closed its investigation April 21, 2023, one week before Laramore’s death.

The allegations in that investigation were that Mascorro performed a rough takedown resulting in lacerations around a suspect’s eye and the need for nine stitches altogether, in 2018.

POST determined that Mascorro didn’t use excessive force.

“Mascorro did receive an oral reprimand for his delay in activating the body camera,” says the letter.

The Kick

He was also accused of using excessive force by kicking a man to the ground during his 2020 arrest. That man “was initially non-compliant in getting out (of) the vehicle and slow to comply with Mascorro’s commands to get on the ground,” reads the POST letter that cleared Mascorro.

“Mascorro did force him to the ground with his foot,” the letter adds.

Mascorro told POST he forced the man down quickly and for the man’s safety, based on his personal prior knowledge of that man’s violent propensities, says the letter.

Another officer also characterized the suspect as a serious and unknown threat to officer safety in a rapidly evolving situation.

At The One-Eyed Buffalo

POST investigated an incident where it was alleged that Mascorro unnecessarily escalated a bar-check situation that turned into a fight at Thermopolis saloon the One-Eyed Buffalo.

A man accosted Mascorro there in 2021. A fight developed. Officer Jessica Araiza’s knee was injured, court documents state.

“Body camera footage showed (the man in the saloon) was the initial aggressor,” says the POST letter. “(He) was taken to the ground, handcuffed and arrested.”

Parole Cop

Another report accused Mascorro of improperly arresting people who were on probation or parole by arresting them following failed drug tests.

Mascorro said probation and parole agents knew he was performing such arrests, the letter says.

“This investigation is closed with no further action being taken,” concludes the POST letter.

What The Report Has To Say

The DCI report from the April 28 shooting compiles witness interviews, bodycam footage and physical evidence.

It concludes that Mascorro broke into Buck Laramore’s home to arrest the man for the misdemeanor of interfering with a police officer because Laramore had lied about his surname spelling and age earlier that day while Mascorro investigated the presence of methamphetamine at the McDonald’s restaurant where Laramore worked.

Laramore shot Mascorro after the latter broke in. Wounded, Mascorro fired back, killing Laramore.

Parting Texts

Laramore was the last person to exit the McDonald’s men’s bathroom right before Mascorro and a sheriff’s deputy found methamphetamine in it earlier that day.

One witness described Laramore’s behavior as “shifty.”

Mascorro patted Laramore down, questioned him, tried to get him to give a urine sample and disclose his address, the report says. Health authorities shut the restaurant down and personnel started cleaning it.

Laramore left the McDonald’s before his shift was officially over.

“Don’t five (sic) them my address without a warrant this is ridiculous,” Laramore texted a coworker soon after leaving the restaurant, according to the DCI report.

He sent another text one minute later: “And I left without clocking out and the m aching (sic) needs aired out I was tired of getting harassed over something that had nothing to do with me.”

That coworker told a DCI investigator that she hadn’t known Laramore to do drugs, and that they had worked together for a while, including at a restaurant in Lander where they both lived prior.

She spoke highly of both Laramore and Mascorro, saying the sergeant had been “nothing but helpful with us.”

Police were investigating the restaurant in the first place because, about a week prior, they had arrested McDonald’s employee Derrick Collins on a local warrant and allegedly found him in possession of a meth pipe, the report says. Collins claimed the pipe belonged to a coworker.

Wake Up

Laramore went to his red, cream and brown-colored double-wide mobile home on Canyon Hills drive, and laid down in bed with his wife Brandi Laramore for a nap, the wife later told a DCI agent.

Brandi Laramore woke to the sound of someone “pounding on the door.”

She went to the door and found Mascorro there, saying he had come to arrest Laramore for impeding his investigation, the report relates.

‘No Sir’

Mascorro placed his sunglasses on Laramore’s front porch, says the report.

The front storm door was white metal and glass. It had no handle, but its front glass allowed for reaching through it and pulling it open. There was a wooden door just behind it, slightly ajar.

Buck Laramore came to the door after his wife answered it.

Mascorro told Buck Laramore to come outside and talk.

“No sir,” answered Laramore.

Mascorro then told Laramore he was going to jail, and Laramore asked why.

Mascorro repeated said he was willing to break the door down, if Laramore “made” him, the report relates from Mascorro’s bodycam footage.

Laramore again asked why he was going to jail. Mascorro said he’d interfered with his investigation.

Either Laramore would come out willingly or Mascorro would break the door down, the sergeant said, reportedly.

Laramore then told Mascorro his true surname spelling and date of birth, then shut his front door and deadbolted it.

Dead Bolt Shot Into Home

Mascorro, who is reportedly lefthand dominant, pulled the storm door open and rammed the locked wooden door with his left shoulder. He then switched to his right shoulder and rammed the front door twice.

“Stop!” yelled Brandi Laramore.

Mascorro rammed with his right shoulder again, damaging the door, breaking the doorjamb and sending the deadbolt flying toward the kitchen threshold inside the home, the report indicates.

Mascorro pulled the front door shut behind him.

Just then, Buck Laramore gripped a .45 pistol in both hands, aimed it directly at Mascorro and fired one time, dropping Mascorro to the ground. The bullet entered through Mascorro’s right bicep, passed into his chest near his armpit, glanced off a rib to dodge his heart, wounded his lung and exited through his back just to the left of his spine. The bullet came to rest lodged between his flesh and his clothing, the report indicates.

It felt like a sledgehammer blow, Mascorro later told a DCI agent.

Laramore advanced on Mascorro as Mascorro pleaded “stop, stop,” the report continues.

Bullets flew past the bodycam viewer. Those bullets were from Mascorro’s gun, which he drew and fired about seven times after getting shot, the investigation would later reveal.

Mascorro’s wounds squirted blood into view and dribbled it down his right arm.

Reflecting on that moment in his interview 12 days later, Mascorro told a DCI agent he didn’t know why Laramore didn’t shoot him in the head just then.

Show Your Hands

Mascorro started walking backward into the kitchen, telling dispatch shots had been fired. He gripped his own pistol in his left hand, maintaining cover on the doorway to the room from which Laramore had emerged.

Brandi Laramore screamed frantically.

Around this time, Brandi Laramore later told an investigator, she rushed her dog and herself to safety in the bathroom.

Laramore then eased around the bedroom’s doorjamb, exposing a sliver of his upper body.

Mascorro fired one round.

Laramore’s body had “an obvious reaction,” indicating a hit.

One second later, Mascorro fired again, dropping Laramore to the floor just inside the bedroom.

Two more seconds passed. Mascorro fired a third round.

“Stop, stop,” pleaded Laramore.

Mascorro commanded Laramore to show his hands.

Breathe In

Still in the kitchen, Mascorro fell to his hands and knees. His right hand slipped in his own blood, dropping him onto his stomach. His pistol slipped from his left hand, slid toward the kitchen cabinets and came to a rest.

Mascorro stood again and again he fell, catching himself on the kitchen counter and leaving bloody handprint smears along it.

“Move,” he said when he tried to get past Brandi Laramore, who was standing in the hallway, the report says.

“What are you doing?” Brandi Laramore asked him.

Mascorro fumbled for the back door. He couldn’t get the back storm door open and he fell down backwards onto the floor while trying.

Brandi Laramore stood over him and screamed.

Mascorro fought for breath.

Brandi Laramore withdrew from Mascorro, still screaming, the report indicates.

“Shots fired, shots fired, shots fired, I need help, I’m down, I’ve been shot, help,” Mascorro said into his radio.

He sat up, scooted out the back storm door and slid off the side of the unrailed back metal stairs onto his feet. He walked away from the home toward his patrol vehicle.

Sirens sounded outside.

Meanwhile in the home, Brandi Laramore checked on her husband and believed he was dying, a summary of her later interview relates.

‘Right There,’ Said The Neighbor Kid

Mascorro collapsed to the ground between a pickup with a bed camper and a Saturn car.

Deputy Shayna Cox arrived on scene and got out of her vehicle.

A kid stood near the trailer.

“Where is he?” Cox asked the kid.

The kid pointed to where Mascorro lay. “Right there,” he answered.

Mascorro’s face was pale and his body gushed blood. Cox went to him, pulled him to a position of “better cover,” and put a tourniquet on his right arm. Taking off his vest and shirt, she found his chest wound and applied pressure to it.

When an ambulance arrived, Cox grabbed her rifle and joined Sheriff Jerimie Kraushaar in the trailer house.

There she saw Brandi Laramore, face-down and handcuffed. Kraushaar told Cox to radio dispatch to announce that Laramore was dead in the home.

“He’s dying in here,” said Brandi Laramore. “I don’t know what happened.”

Cox was concerned that a neighbor or bystander may have gotten hit by a bullet. A later investigation revealed that no one else had been hit.

Never Saw Anyone Get Shot Before

Hot Springs County Sheriff’s Deputy Ken Smith also arrived on scene. He asked Brandi Laramore if she was hurt, according to a DCI summary of his bodycam footage.

She didn’t think so, but she asked him to take her handcuffs off. She didn’t do anything; the men had just started shooting, she said.

The report relates Thermopolis Police Department Chief Pat Cornwell advised deputies Smith and Cox to read Brandi Laramore her Miranda rights – they could hold her for up to 72 hours while they sorted things out.

Brandi Laramore repeated over and over again that she’d never seen anyone get shot before, the report says.

Smith asked Brandi Laramore to give a breath test. She agreed and blew a zero reading on the breathalyzer.

Over A Wrong Spelling And Age?

Two DCI agents met with Buck Laramore’s mother Debra at about 6:15 p.m. that evening in Thermopolis to give her the official death notification for her son.

Debra Laramore-Fenton brought along two close friends.

She wanted to know why Mascorro had been in her house without a warrant. (Larmore-Fenton was the official tenant on the trailer house.)

She was upset about some of the official messaging that had gone out on Facebook and was struggling to rationalize the shooting.

“(She said) she doesn’t understand how her son giving a wrong date of birth resulted in his death,” reads the report.

Hero’s Welcome

DCI Special Agent Pete McCall went to the hospital in Thermopolis to speak with Mascorro. There, Thermopolis Police Department Officer Jessica Araiza gave Mascorro’s things to McCall – including one spent bullet hospital staff had recovered.

McCall waited around for Mascorro to gain steady consciousness to give what the report calls a “public safety interview” regarding how many shots were fired and in what directions.

Eventually, hospital staff said Mascorro could talk, though he had received several doses of medication.

McCall asked Mascorro how many shots he’d fired.

He believed three, the police sergeant answered.

McCall asked how many people were involved.

Just himself and one other male, Mascorro answered. Then he lost consciousness.

Emergency flight personnel flew Mascorro to the Wyoming Medical Center in Casper.

Five days later, Mascorro returned to Thermopolis and received a “hero’s welcome” parade.

The Home

Law enforcement reportedly recovered methamphetamine from the home, ranging from a finding of a trace amount — 0.1 gram on a piece of foil — to 7.2 grams in plastic baggies, the report says.

The report says agents also found 1 gram of suspected marijuana in plant form and four cellphones, one of which was Brandi Laramore’s.

The other three phones were Buck Laramore’s, Brandi Laramore later told DCI.

Yes, Several Times

DCI Special Agent Kiel Holder, the lead investigator on the case, interviewed Mascorro May 10 at 10:30 a.m. in Thermopolis.

Mascorro agreed to speak and brought his attorney, John Worrall.

Holder asked Mascorro if he’d reviewed his bodycam footage from April 28.

Mascorro said he’d reviewed the trailer park footage many times and that he reviewed the video from the McDonald’s inspection at least once.

‘Our Preference’ On Bodycams

There is no DCI policy against an officer involved in a shooting reviewing his own bodycam footage before DCI can interview him on the incident, Ronnie Jones, DCI Director, told Cowboy State Daily on Friday.

But DCI prefers that if officers choose to be interviewed at all, they do so from their raw memory, not from their impressions of the footage, Jones added.

“The reason we prefer they don’t (pre-review the footage) is we’d like them to tell us what they remember based on their memory, what they felt at the time — all that stuff — as opposed to what they saw happen on the video,” said Jones. “It’s not uncommon for people to watch a video and see things that happened that they didn’t observe in the heat of the moment or the time it was happening.”

But law enforcement entities around Wyoming have different theories about which approach is best, Jones said.

As for who gave Mascorro his bodycam footage and why, that decision is up to the local agency, in this case the Thermopolis Police Department, said Jones, noting, “It’s the local agency’s decision whether they allow it or not.”

The town of Thermopolis and its police department did not respond Friday by publication time to an email requesting comment.

Mascorro’s attorney declined to comment.

Prosecutor’s Note

Erramouspe made a footnote out of the bodycam issue in his Sept. 21 decision letter on the shooting.

“The assumption is that (Mascorro watched the footage) upon returning from his hospital stay,” wrote Erramouspe. “Since the video of the incident was not provided to Mascorro by DCI, then it is assumed that he, Mascorro, had his own access to such, or his department provided it.”

Backup?

Holder asked Mascorro during their interview why he’d used deadly force.

Mascorro said he was certain at the time that Laramore was about to kill him and felt there was no other choice.

Holder asked if there were other officers working in the area at that time who could have gone to the home with Mascorro and helped him.

Mascorro said he was the only patrol officer on shift for his department during the incident. He knew Deputy Cox was working for the sheriff’s department that day, but he’d already asked for her help and had taken up a lot of her time, he said.

“It’s the nature of this job,” he added.

About Breaking In

Holder asked Mascorro what authority he claimed for going into Laramore’s home.

Mascorro said he had authority to arrest Laramore for the misdemeanor committed in his presence. He also believed that when Laramore slammed the door in his face, he committed the new crime of resisting arrest and gave Mascorro the right of “fresh pursuit” to complete the arrest.

Erramouspe in his prosecutorial decision letter disagreed with this reasoning.

The decision says Mascorro didn’t have authority to arrest Laramore without a warrant for a misdemeanor charge hours after the offense, unless Mascorro had probable cause to believe Laramore would skip town, escape altogether, injure people or property, or destroy or conceal evidence.

“There’s no evidence other than this assumption by Mascorro to indicate that Laramore would essentially quit his job, pack up his belongings, leave the area, possibly defaulting on his home lease, just to avoid a possible misdemeanor interference charge for allegedly lying to law enforcement,” wrote the prosecutor.

Erramouspe indicated other factors were in play.

“The body cam evidence is clear that Laramore refusing to submit to the drug test or give his address bothered Mascorro,” reads the prosecutor’s decision. “Mascorro even disregards (a county deputy attorney’s) suggestion that he just write Laramore a citation, advising hours after his interaction with Laramore, that he was going to arrest him.”

Clair McFarland can be reached at Clair@CowboyStateDaily.com.

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Clair McFarland

Crime and Courts Reporter