Wyoming Man Charged With Killing Another For Trying To Steal His Drugs

An Evansville, Wyoming, man was in a Casper courtroom Thursday, where he was charged with second-degree murder for allegedly shooting and killing another man who tried to steal his drugs in a deal gone bad.

Dale Killingbeck

February 24, 20245 min read

A Casper police investigation into a Feb. 1 shooting near the intersection of 15th Street and Cottonwood has resulted in a murder charge against an Evansville man.
A Casper police investigation into a Feb. 1 shooting near the intersection of 15th Street and Cottonwood has resulted in a murder charge against an Evansville man. (Dale Killingbeck, Cowboy State Daily)

A 25-year-old Evansville man has been charged with second-degree murder stemming from a Feb. 1 shooting in a southwest Casper neighborhood in a drug deal gone bad.

Rajion L. Vu appeared in Casper Circuit Court on Thursday to face allegations that he shot and killed Casper resident Brandon A. Lopez, 30, during a drug deal in which Lopez reportedly tried to steal the drugs.

The two, along with Vu’s girlfriend, 22-year-old Angela Smith, met in a car on the 1400 block of Cottonwood Street shortly after 10 p.m. on Feb. 1, according to police.

“Evidence in this case shows Lopez was engaged in a deal to get marijuana with Vu and Smith,” according to an arrest affidavit filed in the case. “Evidence shows that Lopez stole the drugs from Vu without paying for them, and then exited the vehicle and ran northbound on Cottonwood Street.”

The affidavit states Vu then got out of his car and fired three shots from a .380-caliber gun, striking Lopez once. Lopez was transported to Banner Wyoming Medical Center, where he died. The affidavit says the fatal bullet entered Lopez’s back and lodged in the base of his head.

Vu was initially arrested Feb. 5 on two separate drug charges following an investigation that began at the shooting scene where police found “a white box containing several individually labeled packages of marijuana,” the affidavit says.

Police allege that Smith was the driver at scene of the shooting. She was arrested on suspicion of drug-related charges at the same time.

More Details

The police affidavit states that Vu and Smith fled the scene, with Smith driving Vu’s Subaru Impreza. They turned into an alley off West 17th Street where Vu is alleged to have thrown the weapon into a trash can.

The couple then drove to another location, where Smith threw a remaining box of marijuana into a trash can.

The pair then drove to their Evansville residence, where they parked the Subaru, Smith grabbed her dog, and they both got into Vu’s blue Chevy Silverado and drove to Spearfish, South Dakota, the affidavit states. There they threw away their clothing, but kept their shoes.

They then returned to Casper to a relative’s home, the affidavit states.

More People Involved

Meanwhile, Lopez’s body was discovered by his girlfriend and a male friend. The friend had walked with Lopez to go “purchase something,” the affidavit states. He had kept walking past the vehicle on Cottonwood and then turned down an alley.

He told police he heard a door close and looked back at the vehicle and saw Lopez running from it and a passenger “lean out the window and fire three shots,” the affidavit states.

Lopez’s friend went to a residence where Lopez’s girlfriend was, got a car and searched for Lopez but could not find him. Then the friend went back and with the girlfriend and discovered Lopez’s body, according to the report. They told Lopez’s girlfriend’s mother, who called 911.

Agitated Victim

Court records show Lopez had been agitated earlier in the day, had been on his cellphone and mentioned Vu’s name while cursing.

Smith’s statement to police alleges that when Lopez got into the vehicle on Cottonwood Street, he told Vu he didn’t have all the money and would pay for the marijuana half in cash and half using “his girl’s CashApp,” the affidavit says. Vu allegedly replied he would sell him half the marijuana and would accept only cash.

Smith told officers after seeing the marijuana and agreeing to the deal at one point, Lopez reached into his pocket and said, “I have a (expletive) gun and I’ll (expletive) shoot you.”

Smith told police that Vu did not typically take a gun when he was dealing marijuana but he did that night, even after she asked him to leave it home. She said the weapon was in the passenger side-door pocket and she didn’t see Vu remove it, the affidavit states.

When Lopez and Vu got out of the vehicle, she told police she saw Lopez with the white box of marijuana in his hands, and that there was no physical altercation. She then heard two to three gunshots. Vu got back in the car and told her to drive away, the affidavit states.

Ping Location

A forensic investigation of Lopez’s phone uncovered Snapchat messages between Lopez and Vu, and included a Google map ping location on Feb. 1 that showed the Cottonwood address, court records show.

The investigation also led investigators to a Barr Nunn residence occupied by Vu’s relatives.

Police obtained a search warrant for the house and uncovered a black gun safe and learned that it belonged to Vu. They obtained another warrant to enter the safe and inside found eight firearms, two that indicated ownership to Vu and Smith, assorted ammunition and $493,000, the affidavit states.

A canine officer sniffed the contents of the safe and its handler said the dog indicated the presence of controlled substances, though none were located during the search, the affidavit states.

Vu’s second-degree murder charge carries a penalty of up to 20 years in prison and a fine of not more than $10,000 or both. He also faces a charge of possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver, which carries a penalty of up to 10 years in prison and a fine of not more than $10,000.

Vu’s bond was set at $750,000 and he remains in the Natrona County Detention facility.

Dale Killingbeck can be reached at dale@cowboystatedaily.com.

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Dale Killingbeck