Casper Adults Shocked Into Action By Two Teen Murders In 37 Days

A pair of teen murders in 37 days has shocked adults in Casper, Wyoming, to act against a growing culture of youth violence. At a Friday meeting, local groups considered all options, including patrolling the city with teams of watchers.

DK
Dale Killingbeck

May 18, 20245 min read

The Blue Heart Collaborative’s first meeting involved adult representatives from agencies and organizations  related to the youth culture in Casper. A meeting on June 7 is planned as a means to hear from the city’s youth.
The Blue Heart Collaborative’s first meeting involved adult representatives from agencies and organizations related to the youth culture in Casper. A meeting on June 7 is planned as a means to hear from the city’s youth. (Dale Killingbeck, Cowboy State Daily)

CASPER — One way to keep local teens from killing each other is to be hyper-vigilant, even to the point of patrolling the city in groups of Guardian Angel-like watchers.

That was one of the ideas discussed during a Friday meeting in the wake of two teen murders in the space of 37 days. More than 50 people and 16 organizations gathered at the YMCA to take the first steps toward solving a growing culture of youth violence.

The first meeting of the Blue Heart Collaborative brought representatives from Casper College, youth organizations, faith youth ministries, suicide prevention and mental health groups to search for answers to why Casper’s young people are more violent and how to stop it.

Organizer DC Martinez, a youth minister and YMCA sports director, said after the meeting he was pleased with the turnout and conversations that continued afterward between different agency representatives.

“We can’t carry that load by ourselves, we can’t solve all of our community problems by ourselves, but collectively we absolutely can,” he said.

Martinez said he believes a real focus should be on middle school students because that age “is where kids start to figure out who they are.”

Four Pillars

He shared what he believes are the four pillars of need for youth in the community that includes youth ministry to help them with understanding their identities, activity or physical fitness, learning life skills, and identifying troubled youth while reaching out proactively to help them.

Martinez also raised the idea of creating an adult group that would be similar to the Guardian Angels in New York City and other urban areas that patrol parks and recreation spaces and potentially be able to identify troubled youth and work with them.

He said the answer for bullies is to love them, because “hurt people hurt people.”

U.S. Army recruiter and Staff Sgt. Casey Siry could not contain his emotions as he got up to speak about a couple of military service-related youth opportunities in the community. After the meeting, he shared with Cowboy State Daily how important he thought Friday was for Casper.

“At the age of 13, I was out in the oil fields working under the table, anything I could do ’cause my mom’s main priority was drugs, and my mom didn’t even know where I was half the time, so growing up in that realm I had to make decision,” he said. “Like, my uncle was Hell’s Angels and everything else.”

Siry said he decided that he didn’t “want to do any of that stuff” and found sports to be his outlet and salvation at the time. He now coaches youth basketball at the YMCA to try and be an example for those experiencing similar situations.

“That’s what kept me away from everything is playing sports,” he said, telling Martinez he would “back you up any way I can.”

  • Blue Heart Collaborative organizer DC Martinez said the initial meeting accomplished his purpose of bringing several agencies together to meet and share and start a collaboration to help Casper’s youth.
    Blue Heart Collaborative organizer DC Martinez said the initial meeting accomplished his purpose of bringing several agencies together to meet and share and start a collaboration to help Casper’s youth. (Dale Killingbeck, Cowboy State Daily)
  • More than 50 people and representatives from more than a dozen Casper agencies and organizations gathered at the Blue Heart Collaboratives first meeting to try and stop the culture of violence rising among the city’s youth.
    More than 50 people and representatives from more than a dozen Casper agencies and organizations gathered at the Blue Heart Collaboratives first meeting to try and stop the culture of violence rising among the city’s youth. (Dale Killingbeck, Cowboy State Daily)
  • Those gatghered at the first Blue Heart Collaborative meeting in Casper share a prayer Friday.
    Those gatghered at the first Blue Heart Collaborative meeting in Casper share a prayer Friday. (Dale Killingbeck, Cowboy State Daily)

Social Work Club

Veronica Mojica from Casper College’s social work club said her 18-member group is willing to do whatever it takes and offered ideas about fundraisers, helping struggling parents with free babysitting for a night out and more. After the meeting, she characterized it as a good start because everyone seems willing to collaborate.

“This is what it is going to take,” she said. “We’ve got kids killing kids and it’s time for us to come together.”

Rebecca Reeves of the Iris Clubhouse, a working community for adults living with mental illness, characterized the gathering as “great.”

“This is about fighting back with love and spreading the love, and that is what’s going to make a difference, that piece of love,” she said. “The fact that they are inviting the youth to come in and tell us what they want and they need is the key, right?”

Copper Mack of 307 Skate Park and Youth Center said it’s important for Casper to have a “third space” that would offer a safe place to youth outside of school and home. She said the meeting “went very well, in the right direction.”

“I do feel like some of the ideas are kind of set in an out-of-touch way,” she said. “I think it’s really important to for us go to the next meeting with the youth to hear directly from the youth.”

Don’t Lose Momentum

Boys and Girls Club of Central Wyoming Teen Director Sherman Hill characterized the meeting as a good first step and agreed collaboration is the answer.

“I think as a community we really need to get together and work together and find ways to give opportunities to youth that can develop all ranges of youth from social and emotional wellness all the way to career development and things like that,” he said.

Pastor Steven Shaffer from The Fort Ministry in Mills challenged each adult to find a young person to mentor or help.

“For all of these things that this community is doing, thank you for what you are doing. If there is not a young person in your life, go find a young person, go find one that you can love,” he said.

Martinez said the next meeting will include young people from the community to hear directly from them about what why they’re so willing to hurt and kill each other, and what will help them stop.

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

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