House Hikes Benefits For Family Of Slain Sheridan Cop, But It’s Not Unanimous

Some Wyoming House members spoke against raising the death benefits for the family of a slain Sheridan cop Thursday, but it passed easily anyway.

Leo Wolfson

February 23, 20245 min read

Krinkee and cruiser memorial 2 22 24
(Cowboy State Daily Staff)

The Wyoming House passed a budget amendment Thursday offering additional monetary support for the family of slain Sheridan Police Department Sgt. Nevada Krinkee. Krinkee was killed in the line of duty last week while attempting to serve a warrant.

The amendment brought by state Rep. Cyrus Western, R-Big Horn, will increase the duty-related spousal death benefit from 62.5% to 90%. Western’s original amendment also would have increased the spouse death compensation benefit out of the law enforcement retirement fund by $450,000. This part failed by a large margin.

The overall amendment passed 49-13.

Rep. Dan Zwonitzer, R-Cheyenne, said there likely wasn’t a law enforcement officer in Wyoming that didn’t think about their own future after hearing about Krinkee’s death. He said the amendment will provide a little bit of incentive for these individuals to stick with the profession.

The increase in compensation would be solely limited to Krinkee’s family and the families of deceased Wyoming law enforcement officers moving forward. He was the first SPD officer to die in the line of duty, and the first in Wyoming since 1997.

Supporting Krinkee’s family and those who suffer the same fate moving forward is his primary motivation, Western said.

“This is our opportunity to step up and send a message that those who risk their lives every day do so with the full support of the people that govern them,” Western said.

State Rep. Cyrus Western, R-Big Horn, talks about a bill to support law enforcement spouses on the Wyoming House floor.
State Rep. Cyrus Western, R-Big Horn, talks about a bill to support law enforcement spouses on the Wyoming House floor. (Matt Idler for Cowboy State Daily)

Not Without Opposition

Western said some nearby states have a similar rate to Wyoming, while others compensate as much as 350% of a deceased spouse’s salary. He said Krinkee was making about $79,000 a year, which now results in his family receiving a $49,375 lifetime salary. The amendment would bump this up to around $70,000.

Although the amendment passed by a large margin, some members of the Wyoming Freedom Caucus voted against it.

Rep. Jon Conrad, R-Mountain View, a military veteran, spoke in favor of the amendment and said he found it offensive that other legislators were considering the pros and cons of the proposal. He urged the legislators to focus on the loss of Krinkee’s life itself and what it means to the state.

Western said he was “appalled” that certain members of the Freedom Caucus voted against his amendment.

“I’m appalled the Freedom Caucus refused to support a young widow and her infant in a time of overwhelming grief,” he said. “Claiming to be pro-law enforcement but refusing to support a fallen officer and his surviving family in their time of greatest suffering is beyond the pale.”

Government’s Role

Freedom Caucus Chairman Rep. John Bear, R-Gillette, and others suggested giving to Krinkee’s family through private means would be a more appropriate approach. A number of campaigns have been started to support this need.

Bear sent in an email, a historical excerpt to his fellow legislators of a story involving the famous frontiersman and former congressman Davy Crockett. Crockett urged his fellow congressmen to oppose providing a benefit to the widow of a distinguished naval officer because of the duty that officer vowed to his country no matter the cost.

Rep. Allen Slagle, R-Newcastle, agreed and said the issue isn’t about compassion, but rather the role of government in society, a frequent question posed by Freedom Caucus members.

“We have been taking too much money from people, this is not the role of government,” he said.

Rep. Clarence Styvar, R-Cheyenne, a veteran, went even further, saying Krinkee knew what he was signing up for when he became a police officer.

Western said these types of arguments miss the point, which is that the Wyoming state government will recognize and support Krinkee’s family.

“If we can get this passed it sends a message, and the timing of this message is of the utmost importance,” he said. “It sends a message that in these times of the greatest pain, the greatest suffering, the government that they elect is there to help them.”

Special Treatment?

A few Sheridan legislators also spoke against the proposal.

Rep. Ken Pendergraft, R-Sheridan, another veteran, said he supports the idea of bumping the compensation to 90% but does not believe including it in the budget is where it should happen.

Pendergraft also questioned if the spouse should be supported in perpetuity, since it’s unknown how long the deceased officer would have worked for or if the spouse will remarry.

“This is a policy discussion that should be hashed out in a bill,” he said. “I just don’t think this is quite the place or the way to do it.”

Rep. Mark Jennings, R-Sheridan, and Pepper Ottman, R-Riverton, also expressed concern that the amendment would assign special treatment to Krinkee’s family over other families that have lost loved ones and engage a slippery slope.

“Where do we stop?” Jennings questioned. “I don’t have the right to take money from my other constituents to pay into a tragic event.”

Rep. Mike Yin, D-Jackson, said the last time a peace officer died in the line of duty in Wyoming was 1997. He urged legislators to support the amendment due to infrequency that these events occur in Wyoming. He and Conrad said the Legislature could still look at the issue further in the future.

“Do we want to help the families that are affected by this right now today?” he questioned. “I would urge you to vote yes to support those families and the communities for the sacrifices they’ve made.”

Leo Wolfson can be reached at

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Leo Wolfson

Politics and Government Reporter