Casper Officials Rally Against ‘Fight Culture’ That Led To Teen’s Stabbing Death

A group of Casper and Natrona County officials put up a united front Friday against the “fight culture” of the community’s youth that contributed to the stabbing death of 14-year-old Bobby Maher.

Dale Killingbeck

April 12, 20245 min read

Many people came to the stage to take photos of the collage of Bobby Maher’s life.
Many people came to the stage to take photos of the collage of Bobby Maher’s life. (Dale Killingbeck, Cowboy State Daily)

CASPER — Only days removed from the senseless killing of a local 14-year-old, the Casper residents remain stunned and devastated by “such a godless act” that has “shocked our community.”

That was the message Natrona County Commission Vice Chairman Jim Milne offered during a Friday press conference called by local officials about the Sunday stabbing death of Bobby Maher, a local middle school student who was murdered at the Eastridge Mall trying to protect his girlfriend.

“I think part of it is is that we feel insulated here, it’s Casper, Wyoming, and bad things don’t happen to us. But having children murdering children woke everybody up,” said Vice Mayor Lisa Engebretsen. “It’s shocking to me. This level of violence has never been accepted. And growing up in this city, I guess the heinousness of it all is just shocking for everybody.”

The press conference was an emotional crescendo to a whirlwind week of grief for a hurting city, along with a plea for common sense and control as social media rumors about the incident spread misinformation and hate. It also was a warning that Casper won’t tolerate such acts of senseless violence, Milne said.

“His life being taken in such a godless act has shocked our community,” he said. “The attitudes and behaviors which have led to this murder cannot be tolerated in our county as it has been in other areas of this country. We as friends, family, parents and leaders within our neighborhoods, towns and county must work to change the path that we are on.”

Call For ‘Accountability’

Milne said “accountability” needs to be practiced more in homes and institutions, and that commissioners don’t want inaction to allow another tragedy such as the Maher family is enduring to happen again.

“This means all of us will have to do the work — friends, family, pastors, teachers, counselors, law enforcement and judges,” he said. “All of us must do our part, it can’t just be left to somebody else. … It’s been absolutely a nightmare for many in this community.”

Natrona County School District Superintendent Mike Jennings said the community has suffered a “devastating loss” and that it takes everyone to make sure Casper is “safe and healthy” for young people.

“This senseless and unpredictable act of violence tears at the fabric of our community,” he said. “Our prayers and our condolences are with the Maher family and the unimaginable pain and grief that they are enduring.”

Engebretsen said the city hopes the tragedy can become a “call to action.”

“Let us increase our efforts to focus on communicating alternatives to violence in our community, but especially (with) our youth,” she said. “My hope is that this can be a profound moment of unity where can collectively look out and work against violence of this nature, particularly when it is carried out against our youth.”

Bobby Maher
Bobby Maher (Via GoFundMe)

Recommitment To Values

She said she and the other leaders present are calling for a recommitment to the “values that have made Casper a great place to live.”

“We’re here to work together and not place blame or point fingers but rather now to gather and strengthen each other in our collective time of need and we hope to speak in one voice and to say that this is not acceptable in our community,” she said. “We can disagree without being disagreeable.”

Engebretsen also encouraged people to report any potentially dangerous situations law enforcement.

No ‘Equivocation’

Casper City Manager Carter Napier said a show of unity will initiate dialogue as it relates to “our collective repudiation” of the “senseless violence” that occurred.

“This is not a moment for equivocation in terms of our rejection of this sort of behavior, nor is it a time where a void should be left open pertaining to the concerns that we all share as a community,” he said.

After the press conference, Milne and Engebretsen said they could not remember an event that has shaken the community and brought leaders together with a need to speak with one voice in the recent past as with the death of Maher.

‘Fight Culture’

DJ Martinez, a YMCA sports director and youth pastor in Casper, also spoke at a vigil for Maher on Thursday night. He confirmed that the fight videos in Casper happened and shared with Cowboy State Daily what he sees going on in the city.

“The core issue is almost a fight culture that has gotten almost under everything,” he said. “There are so many Snapchat groups and things like that in Casper.”

Martinez said while in other cities, such as Las Vegas where he grew up, where young people almost are forced to fight, kids in Casper don’t have that environment, but some are emulating it.

“Here it is almost being adapted into this, ‘Well, I’m cooler because I fought these four different people,’” he said.

Dale Killingbeck can be reached at

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Dale Killingbeck