THERMOPOLIS — More than 30 people attended a Thermopolis Town Council meeting Tuesday evening to spar over what to do with a police sergeant who killed a man in a shootout after entering the man’s home illegally.
Some people asked for firing or accountability for Thermopolis Police Sgt. Mike Mascorro.
Others defended Mascorro and warned against attacking law enforcement in general.
On administrative leave, Mascorro himself was not in attendance.
‘Pattern Of Escalation’
Mascorro killed Buck Laramore, 33, during an April 28 shootout in Laramore’s home after Mascorro entered illegally. He was cleared from a criminal prosecution because of a conflict in different portions of Wyoming’s self-defense law, but may face civil liability for the illegal entry.
“The public has complained of a pattern of escalation with this officer, confirmed by the article regarding the multiple complaints to (the state’s police oversight commission),” said Jason Bowman, a Thermopolis man who has hosted frequent protests on the town’s main intersection since Cowboy State Daily revealed Mascorro’s illegal entry in an Oct. 5 story. “The community is asking for transparency from its leaders and accountability for those at fault.”
Former Thermopolis Mayor Mike Chimenti countered, asking why no one came forward with complaints against Mascorro until after the story broke.
Chimenti, who said he was a policeman in the town for 43 years, touted Mascorro’s effective policing of drug offenders.
“I never saw as many write-ups and arrests for drugs in this community in 43 years as I have since Mike Mascorro went to work for the police department,” Chimenti said. “I have not seen the druggers scared of this community like they have been since Mike Mascorro went to work for our police department.”
Multiple locals rose to support Mascorro and speak in his favor.
Among them was Tony Newhouse, who said he’d heard nothing but “rumor and innuendo” against him, and Mascorro was keeping the community safe from drugs.
Harvey Seidel, another attendee, said Mascorro was doing his duty April 28.
“Controlling illegal drugs is part and parcel of our law officers’ duties,” he said, arguing further that in his opinion, Mascorro did have probable cause to enter Laramore’s home.
Caleb Howe, assistant pastor at the First Baptist Church, said he stands with Mascorro and empathizes with the Thermopolis town leaders weathering criticism during this time.
“I think you guys are doing right and I support you, and I think a majority of people stand in this case in support of what you guys are doing,” said Howe. “Thank you.”
A Rancher Speaks
Jim Wilcox, a rancher, rebutted these statements and asked the town to fire Mascorro. He gave a short, but strongly worded, speech to the council.
“He’s been a bully for years,” said Wilcox. “Once a grizzly bear kills — they’re predators — they’ll never stop. Same thing with this guy.”
Drugs Not The Cause Of Arrest
Mascorro was investigating a discovery of methamphetamine at McDonald’s the morning of April 28.
Laramore, a McDonald’s employee, gave a false spelling of his surname and the wrong year for his birth to Mascorro during the investigation.
Mascorro went to Laramore’s home hours later to arrest Laramore for interfering with his investigation.
Laramore would not let the sergeant in, and Mascorro broke into the home.
A special prosecutor ruled Sept. 21 that Mascorro did not have legal grounds to break in because he did not have a warrant, it was hours after the offense, the offense was a misdemeanor and Mascorro didn’t have a fresh pursuit in progress.
Investigators found methamphetamine in Laramore’s home after the man’s death. But Mascorro was not trying to arrest Laramore for drug possession during the shootout. The evidence he had against Laramore was for the crime of interference.
One Thousand And Counting
Bowman started a change.org petition Oct. 9, titled “Remove corrupt law breaking officer.”
It has garnered 1,227 signatures so far, and dozens of comments. Many of them include personal accounts of alleged run-ins with Mascorro.
One commenter wrote: “Public trust in the police is earned and this officer's reckless and unlawful behavior resulted in the needless death of a young man. It shouldn't be the responsibility of the family of the deceased to have to petition for accountability, the police and local officials should man up.”
Though verbally heated, the meeting was low-key and involved no direct insults or violence.
Thermopolis Mayor Adam Estenson thanked attendees for not getting cantankerous.
“To have a little bit of skepticism toward your government, I think is extremely American,” he said. “It’s not easy to get up and talk about these things. Thank you all.”
Clair McFarland can be reached at Clair@CowboyStateDaily.com.