A Year After Deadly Shootout, Thermopolis Cop Has Plenty Of Local Support

Sunday is the 1-year anniversary of the day Thermopolis Police Sgt. Mike Mascorro illegally forced his way into a suspect’s home, sparking a shootout that left him wounded and the suspect dead. A year later, the officer has plenty of local support.

CM
Clair McFarland

April 27, 20247 min read

Thermopolis Welcome 4 26 24
(Clair McFarland, Cowboy State Daily)

THERMOPOLIS — The patchy trailer park where a local man and a police sergeant exchanged gunfire a year ago sat motionless Friday. Mourning doves cooed from the gnarly ash and elm trees hemming the rain-soaked embankments of Canyon Hills Road. 

A handful of Thermopolis residents held frequent protests near the town’s lone stoplight for weeks after learning of a special prosecutor's opinion that Thermopolis Police Sgt. Mike Mascorro triggered a fatal shootout in the home after breaking the door open and illegally entering to arrest a suspect last April. They held signs with such slogans as, “Fire Corrupt Cop.”

As time passed, those protests died down, a Thermopolis business owner told Cowboy State Daily on Friday, adding that perhaps the winter weather drove the demonstrators inside.

They still gather for routine meetings, and they’re planning to gather at the stoplight once again Sunday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. to commemorate the one-year anniversary of the shooting — and to protest what they claim has been a lack of action by town officials.

But those protestors, while vocal, may not represent the overriding local sentiment about Mascorro and the shooting.

About three-quarters of Thermopolis residents Cowboy State Daily interviewed Friday said they support Mascorro and hope he keeps working at the police department. 

Cowboy State Daily talked with people at various businesses, the Hot Springs Senior Center, the Hot Springs County Library and the town’s rain-soaked sidewalks.   

  • Dee Ownsby, left, chats with Bob Stephenson Friday at the Hot Springs Senior Citizen Center. They both said Sgt. Mike Mascorro is a great cop and should be on active duty for the Thermopolis Police Department.
    Dee Ownsby, left, chats with Bob Stephenson Friday at the Hot Springs Senior Citizen Center. They both said Sgt. Mike Mascorro is a great cop and should be on active duty for the Thermopolis Police Department. (Clair McFarland, Cowboy State Daily)
  • Mark Kalal told Cowboy State Daily that he thinks Sgt. Mike Mascorro is too "hot-headed" to remain in police work.
    Mark Kalal told Cowboy State Daily that he thinks Sgt. Mike Mascorro is too "hot-headed" to remain in police work. (Clair McFarland, Cowboy State Daily)
  • The Law Enforcement Center houses the Thermopolis Police Department.
    The Law Enforcement Center houses the Thermopolis Police Department. (Clair McFarland, Cowboy State Daily)

One Year Ago

It was one year ago Sunday that Mascorro went to the home of 33-year-old Buck Laramore to arrest Laramore for police interference, though Mascorro also suspected Laramore of having possessed methamphetamine earlier that day. He argued with Laramore at the front door and told the man he was going to jail for interfering with police.

Laramore had lied about his age and the spelling of his surname in an interview with Mascorro three hours prior.

He refused to let Mascorro in, so Mascorro shouldered open the door.

Inside the home, Laramore shot Mascorro through the lung with a .45-caliber bullet, seriously injuring him.

Mascorro shot back, killing Laramore.

Five months later, a special prosecutor determined that Mascorro was not guilty of homicide because of a provision of Wyoming law protecting law enforcement agents on the job. Yet, Mascorro should not have broken into the home in the first place, the prosecutor said, hinting that the rest of this matter may be for civil, not criminal, fact-finders to handle.

The Thermopolis Police Department placed Mascorro on administrative duty after the news broke.

Not In His Shoes

Those who favor keeping Mascorro in a policing role in Thermopolis varied in how strongly they feel about it. But the general consensus was that it’s difficult to tell what anyone would have done in his shoes; everyone makes mistakes, and Mascorro generally strives for good in the community.

“I definitely think he should be on the police department. He’s a darn good cop,” Dee Ownsby told Cowboy State Daily while she had coffee at the Hot Springs County Senior Citizen Center.

Mascorro has been involved with the community and was eager to help anyone who called him, Ownsby said, adding that she works graveyard shifts at a local gas station, and sometimes she’ll encounter dangerous situations.

“If I called the cops he was right there if I need anything,” said Ownsby. “And I could ask him anything and he’d answer.”

Ownsby called Mascorro a bloodhound when it came to drugs, a nod to his drug recognition expert certification.

Across the table from Ownsby, Bob Stephenson echoed her thoughts.

“He’s one of the better ones of the bunch,” he said.

‘You Just Don’t Do That’

Five tables away during the brunch rush, Bill Moore wasn’t so sure. He said he worked as a patrol sergeant north of Sacramento, California, and would have never gotten away with shouldering the door open like Mascorro did.

“Man, if I’d gone in somebody’s house and shot ’em like that without a search warrant and without close pursuit – (without having) chased them there – I’d have been headed to prison,” he said. “You just don’t do that. It’s against the Constitution.”

Al Walker, who’d been showing Moore a rare coin, looked up from the penny he was holding.

“But we got rid of a drug dealer,” countered Walker.

Walker said drugs are becoming a problem in the town and ruining people’s lives, especially for young people.

  • The entrance to the trailer park where Sgt. Mike Mascorro and Buck Laramore had a gunfight that killed Laramore.
    The entrance to the trailer park where Sgt. Mike Mascorro and Buck Laramore had a gunfight that killed Laramore. (Clair McFarland, Cowboy State Daily)
  • Thermopolis police car 4 26 24
    (Clair McFarland, Cowboy State Daily)
  • The men's room entrance in the Thermopolis McDonald's.
    The men's room entrance in the Thermopolis McDonald's. (Clair McFarland, Cowboy State Daily)

‘Hot-Headed’

In a window nook gone grey with rain, Mark Kalal sat across from John Anderson over coffee at the Storyteller bookstore and coffee shop on Broadway.

The two men weighed both sides of the issue.

Kalal said Mascorro should not be on the police force.

“We don’t need a hot-headed bully on the force,” said Kalal. “He’s a bad example of what policing is about.”

Anderson said there’s a general impression among some that the whole police department uses too much force. Good cops should deescalate situations, he said, specifying that his opinion is only the “10,000-foot view.”  

In The Shops

Business owners were more reticent.

Those interviewed unanimously voiced support for Mascorro, but most declined to give their names on the record because they feared they’d alienate part of their customer base.

One business owner told Cowboy State Daily to stop asking her patrons about Mascorro.

Another said she’s concerned for his family and hopes his children aren’t receiving poor treatment at school.

Forrest Coleman-Weisz, office manager at a local real estate office, said Mascorro has worked to help the town.

“I think we had a serious problem with police officers not necessarily doing what they should be doing, and the second Mike got on the force, we started seeing an uptick in DUI arrests, drug enforcement arrests,” said Coleman-Weisz. “I think it’s important to weigh the good and the bad in people. Mike truly is a force for good in this little town.”

‘He’s Been Through Enough’

At the Hot Springs County Library, all three patrons who spoke to Cowboy State Daily voiced support for Mascorro and police in general.

“I wish him the best,” said Kay Lance while perusing the library’s newspaper collection. “I think he’s been through enough.”

Lance said young people should be taught to listen to police and respect authority, and a rising unwillingness to do that is only making it harder for the police to do their jobs.

Just As A Person

And a few people said they can’t form an opinion one way or another.

“I don’t see it as my position to have an opinion on his job,” DJ Cody told Cowboy State Daily as he sat at the bar of the One-Eyed Buffalo.

Cody said he knows Mascorro as a person, but has not interacted with him in his capacity as a police sergeant.

“Definitely in his personal world, he’s a good person. A family guy,” said Cody. “That doesn’t mean he did the right thing in the moment, but that’s not for me to judge.”

Clair McFarland can be reached at clair@cowboystatedaily.com.

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Clair McFarland

Crime and Courts Reporter