A federal prosecutor charged a Riverton man with first-degree murder Friday for shooting his former landlord this summer in a crowded home on the Wind River Indian Reservation.
Burdick Nelson Seminole Sr., 58, faces one count of first-degree murder in the U.S. District Court for Wyoming in the Aug. 9 death of Michael Standing Elk, 42. If convicted, he could spend life in prison.
He also faces a charge of using a gun during an act of violence, for which the penalty is between 10 years and life in prison, and causing death while using a gun during a crime of violence, which is punishable by up to life in prison.
Seminole lived in Riverton recently, after he was evicted from his home at 750 Rendezvous Road in St. Stephens on the reservation in April for allegedly using drugs and bringing “young females” to the home to get them high, according to an evidentiary affidavit filed Friday in the case.
The case refers to the victim by the initials “M.S.,” which matches coroner’s data and other reports regarding Michael Standing Elk, who died on Rendezvous Road on Aug. 8.
About that month, the landlord “M.S.” started renting the home to others. The affidavit lists seven tenants by their initials, and says the landlord, presumably Standing Elk, also let someone’s three young children stay in a camper next to the home, and also let two more people sleep in a silver van parked outside.
At 8 a.m. on Aug. 8, Seminole entered the home and woke Standing Elk, who was sleeping next to his “significant other,” says the affidavit.
Seminole turned on the light and started slapping Standing Elk’s head, saying “talk shit now,” according to a witness account police gathered later.
The two men argued.
Standing Elk told his woman to call police.
Standing Elk, who was apparently disabled so that he couldn’t walk, got into a wheelchair and rolled down the hall, telling others in the house to wake up, says the affidavit.
The two men argued some more in the living room where Seminole was standing.
Standing Elk’s companion was on the phone with the 911 dispatcher, the document says.
Multiple witnesses reported that Seminole “pistol-whipped” Standing Elk with a gun.
Witnesses also reported that Standing Elk had a gun at this time. One said Standing Elk tried to shoot Seminole, but the gun jammed.
“OK, I’m done, you win Burdick,” one witness recalled hearing Standing Elk say.
Seminole shot at Standing Elk, the witnesses said. One person remembered seeing Standing Elk slumped over in his wheelchair.
Another tenant came out of the bedroom and shot at Seminole, then retreated back into a room, the affidavit says.
Seminole took himself to the Wind River Family and Community Health Care clinic on the reservation, which the locals call Wind River Cares, the affidavit says. Later, he was at the hospital being treated for a gunshot wound, but the affidavit doesn’t say which hospital.
He gave police a statement.
He went to the house because he had enough of Standing Elk “talking smack,” says the affidavit. Standing Elk was threatening his daughter, Seminole claimed.
After Seminole argued with Standing Elk he was going to leave, but he heard Standing Elk call out for someone in the house to beat him up, he allegedly said.
Seminole said he turned around and Standing Elk pulled a gun on him and pulled the trigger, but the gun misfired, the affidavit says.
“You better make sure it loaded,” Seminole remembered saying.
Standing Elk pulled the slide back and squeezed the trigger again, but it only clicked, according to Seminole’s account.
“Better make sure you got f***in’ ammo,” Seminole reportedly said to Standing Elk.
Seminole then hit Standing Elk in the head, turned around and heard a boom. But he didn’t know what hit him, the affidavit says.
Seminole ran out of the house and grabbed a .45-caliber pistol. He indicated that his memory blacked out, and when he regained consciousness, he was standing in the house and “shooting back” at Standing Elk, the man told police.
At Wind River Cares, police recovered a black Springfield XDS gun from the front passenger seat of Seminole’s vehicle, the affidavit says, adding that it was loaded with a cartridge in the chamber.
“I shouldn’t have picked up that gun,” an agent allegedly overheard Seminole say.
When the police arrived at the house, Standing Elk had gunshot wounds to his chest and wasn’t breathing. A Bureau of Indian Affairs agent checked for a pulse but could not find one. Medical personnel also confirmed his pulse was dead. Authorities gave Standing Elk’s body to the Fremont County Coroner’s office.
A forensic pathologist later confirmed Standing Elk died of multiple gunshot wounds. His body contained multiple variants of Delta-9 THC, a drug with an intoxicant similar to the chemical in marijuana, according to the coroner’s docket released to Cowboy State Daily in September.
Clair McFarland can be reached at Clair@CowboyStateDaily.com.