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Production Company Raising Funds for Documentary on Shoshoni-Born Actress

in arts and culture/News
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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A Casper-based film and TV production company is hosting a crowdfunding campaign to produce a documentary on a Shoshoni-born actress.

Wolf Gang of Wyoming is currently working on a documentary, “Forgotten Ingenue,” on Isabel Jewell, an actress from the “golden age” of movies who appeared in numerous films throughout the 1930s and 1940s, including “Gone With the Wind,” “Marked Woman” and “A Tale of Two Cities.”

Filmmaker Dennis Rollins is looking to raise $30,000 through an Indiegogo campaign to complete production of the documentary. Most of the money would pay for set pieces and costuming for the film, which is set before and up to the early 1970s. Jewell committed suicide in 1972.

“Although I have a stable of dedicated actors, they need to be compensated as much as possible,” Rollins said in the campaign description. “So far, we have one Hollywood actor committed to the project and are in discussions with two more. We will also be traveling to, and renting several locations.”

The campaign launched Monday and will run through the rest of the month. As of Tuesday morning, Rollins had raised $725.

As a thank you to supporters, Rollins and the production company are offering donor gifts for certain amounts given, including apparel, custom wine glasses, a private screening of the documentary and more.

If the goal isn’t reached, Rollins said the film will still be completed, but the production company will have to trim its budget.

“But with your support, hopefully we will not have to!” Rollins said.

Other Wolf Gang of Wyoming productions include the “Wyoming Portraits” series that aired for six season on Wyoming PBS, as well as the documentary “Dell Burke and the Yellow Hotel.”

“I don’t make films to get rich. I tell stories that I am passionate about,” Rollins said. “Having completed over 100 projects, that passion remains as strong as ever. But, following this dream takes money. Your support will help achieve our goal of creating an informative, entertaining product.”

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Wyoming to Receive Nearly 5K Doses of Johnson & Johnson Vaccine This Week

in Coronavirus/News
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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Wyoming will receive nearly 5,000 doses of the new single-shot coronavirus vaccine sometime this week, continuing the state and national push to combat the virus.

Wyoming Department of Health spokeswoman Kim Deti told Cowboy State Daily that the state would receive a total of 4,800 doses of the newly-approved Johnson & Johnson vaccine sometime this week, but didn’t have a county-by-county breakdown on where the vaccine would be sent.

“It’s an excellent vaccine and will protect people after just one dose, which means they will be protected in about two weeks after they get vaccinated,” Deti said. “We’re excited we now have three COVID-19 vaccines that are free, safe and effective.”

Unlike the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, which require two doses to be fully effective, the Johnson & Johnson vaccine only requires one dose.

The U.S. government paid the company $2 billion for development and clinical trials and preorders at a price of $10 per dose just days after the vaccine received emergency authorization for use from federal regulators, according to the Washington Post.

The Johnson & Johnson vaccine will boost the number of doses the state will receive this month, which was estimated last week to be around 47,000.

That amounts to approximately 5,000 doses of both the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines every week.

The totals reported are only for the first doses of the two vaccines, WDH said. It also noted the numbers could change and are only an estimate.

As of last week’s report, Fremont County is receiving only the Pfizer vaccine every week, with 4,680 expected to arrive by the end of the month. Laramie County is receiving more of the Pfizer vaccine, with only 400 doses of the Moderna vaccine scheduled to be delivered for the entirety of March.

Laramie and Natrona counties are expected to receive the largest number of doses of the vaccine next month, with each county getting a total of 5,280 of the two vaccines.

Laramie County has received the most doses of the vaccine since they began shipping out in December, with 12,570 doses. Natrona County followed with 11,970.

“About 19% of our total population has received at least one dose so far,” Deti said. “If you don’t include children (because they are not yet approved to receive the vaccines), about 25% of Wyoming’s eligible population has received at least one dose so far.”

As of Tuesday, 97,638 first doses of the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines had been administered across Wyoming, while 59,274 second doses had been given.

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Cheyenne Man Leads Police On Crazy Car Chase; Heads Wrong Direction on I-25

in Crime/News
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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A Cheyenne man is in custody after leading police on a chase early Monday morning that included driving against traffic on Interstate 25 near Cheyenne.

Nickolas David Jones, 33, faces charges of with fleeing to elude, interference with a peace officer, careless driving, driving without lighted lamps, driving a vehicle with metal rims in contact with the roadway, driving without a seatbelt and driving the wrong way on the interstate in connection with the chase.

According to Wyoming Highway Patrol reports, around 12:04 a.m. Monday, troopers were notified of a vehicle driving erratically on Interstate 25, with and the driver turning the car’s headlights on and off.

Around 12:18 a.m., a trooper attempted to stop the vehicle, a 2014 Subaru, south of the port of entry on Interstate 25 in Laramie County, but the driver didn’t stop.

Jones initially fled south before crossing the interstate and driving northbound. He displayed reckless behavior by driving with the vehicle’s headlights off, leaving the driver’s seat and crawling into the backseat while the car was still moving and driving the wrong way on the interstate.

Jones continued to elude officers even after they made several attempts to use spike strips and perform tactical vehicle intervention maneuvers.

The pursuit changed travel directions multiple times on the interstate, with Jones continuing to exhibit erratic behavior and causing imminent danger to the public, according to patrol reports.

Outside of Cheyenne on the interstate, pursuing law enforcement units were able to use their patrol vehicles to pin the Subaru to the side of the road as Jones started driving south in highway’s northbound lanes toward stopped traffic.

Jones failed to comply with orders from the troopers, but the officers were able to use less-than-lethal force to take him into custody.

Once Jones was detained, officers observed he had self-inflicted cuts on his arm. Troopers administered first aid to control the bleeding and he was transported to the Cheyenne Regional Medical Center.

The Cheyenne Police Department and Laramie County Sheriff’s Office helped in apprehending Jones.

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71 New Coronavirus Cases In Wyoming Monday; 552 Active

in Coronavirus/News
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By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily

Wyoming’s active coronavirus cases fell by almost 40 on Monday as the state’s reported recoveries exceeded the new cases.

Wyoming Department of Health figures showed that the department received new reports of 116 recoveries among those with confirmed or probable cases Monday.

At the same time, the state reported 71 new laboratory-confirmed and six new probable cases, leaving Wyoming with 552 active cases, a decline of 39 from Sunday.

Sweetwater County had 85 active cases Monday; Teton County had 78; Fremont County had 64; Laramie had 57; Uinta had 45; Natrona had 40; Carbon had 35; Lincoln had 21; Park had 20; Albany and Sheridan had 19; Campbell had 16; Big Horn and Platte had 11; Goshen had seven; Johnson and Washakie had five; Sublette and Weston had four; Converse had three; Niobrara had two, and Hot Springs had one.

Crook County reported no active cases on Monday.

Active cases are determined by adding the total confirmed and probable coronavirus cases diagnosed since the illness first surfaced in Wyoming on March 12, subtracting the number of recoveries during the same period among patients with both confirmed and probable cases and taking into account the number of deaths attributed to the illness.

New confirmed cases were reported in 18 counties. Sweetwater had the highest number of new cases at 14. Fremont County had eight new cases.

The new confirmed and probable cases brought to 54,471 the number of people diagnosed with coronavirus since the first case was detected in Wyoming in March 2020.

Of those, 53,248 have recovered.

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Cheyenne Physician Appears In Golden Globes Sketch With Tina Fey

in Good news/News
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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A Cheyenne physician got the chance to virtually rub elbows with celebrities on Sunday night when she appeared in a Golden Globes sketch alongside comedian/actress Tina Fey.

Dr. Danille Prime , who works in pulmonary medicine at Cheyenne Regional Medical Center, got the opportunity to appear in a virtual sketch with other real doctors who were “treating” various celebrities for fake diseases.

“Good evening doctor, I just wanted to thank you for the phenomenal work you’ve done during this terrible pandemic,” Fey, speaking in a silly British accent, told Prime over a “telehealth” session.

“You sound terrible,” Prime told the Golden Globes co-host, looking concerned.

Fey responded that she felt fine, although her voice was sounding strange.

“I think you have Thatcher,” Prime concluded, meaning that Fey sounded like former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, who was portrayed by Gillian Anderson in “The Crown,” one of the night’s nominees.

Doctors from all over the nation were included in the sketch, treating celebrities such as “Hamilton” star and creator Lin-Manuel Miranda and actresses Glenn Close and Carey Mulligan.

Much of the Sunday night ceremony was dedicated to frontline health workers, as the significantly smaller-than-usual crowd at the event wasn’t made up of celebrities, but first responders.

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Laramie Murder: Ramirez’s Mother Seeks To Make Grand Jury Proceeding Public

in Crime/News
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By Andrew Graham, WyoFile

Attorneys for the mother of a Laramie man slain by an Albany County Sheriff’s deputy opened a new front in their legal battle this week, asking a judge to release records from a grand jury investigation of the shooting.

The lawyers suggest in the newest filing that Albany County officials, worried about a future lawsuit, presented biased experts to the grand jury that cleared deputy Derek Colling for the killing of Robbie Ramirez. Colling shot and killed Ramirez during a November 2018 confrontation. 

Ramirez’s mother, Debra Hinkel, seeks as much as $20 million in damages for what she alleges was the wrongful death of her son and a miscarriage of justice. The newest motion was filed Feb. 19 in Albany County District Court and paired with a series of new filings in the federal court where Hinkel brought her lawsuit. 

Albany County officials have pointed to the grand jury proceedings as evidence the shooting was justified. Hinkel’s lawyers now suggest the grand jury was engineered to protect the county government from liability. The county attorney selected biased witnesses to make a case for clearing Colling, the lawyers wrote, and jury members as well as the public therefore deserve a chance to review the secret proceedings.

“The defendants in the federal action are defending that case under assumed regularity of the grand jury proceedings,” lawyers wrote in the county court filing, “when it appears in all likelihood the use of the grand jury was anything but regular.”

The Spence Law Firm, out of Jackson, is representing Hinkel.

With the new filings, the lawyers continue their argument that county officials covered for Colling after the shooting in order to avoid accountability for hiring the controversial deputy. Albany county has denied those charges. 

Investigation Integrity Questioned

Colling had previously shot and killed a 15-year-old boy while working as a police officer in Las Vegas, a shooting that led to a lengthy lawsuit. He was later fired from the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department for an alleged assault of a videographer trying to film police work. 

Former Sheriff Dave O’Malley hired Colling — a Laramie native whose father is a Wyoming Highway Patrol trooper — when other law enforcement agencies wouldn’t, Hinkel’s lawyers have alleged. They accused O’Malley of being “unduly influenced by his friendship with Defendant Colling’s father” in the original legal complaint. Laramie Police Chief Dale Stalder chose not to hire Colling, he told WyoFile last summer.

Albany County prosecutor Peggy Trent (co.albany.wy.us)

In the months after Ramirez’s death, Albany County prosecutor Peggy Trent convened a grand jury to establish whether there was probable cause to charge Colling with a crime. Trent presented evidence to jurors for three days, after which the grand jury decided there was not probable cause, Trent said at a press conference in January 2019.

At that conference, Trent described the grand jury deliberation as a more thorough process than is typical of most Wyoming officer-involved shooting investigations. 

While Wyoming lacks clear statutory procedures for how such incidents are investigated, Wyoming’s statewide law enforcement agency, the Division of Criminal Investigation, has investigated in all apparent recent cases. The county attorney in the relevant county receives DCI’s report and then decides whether the shooting was justified or not. 

In Laramie, the group Albany County for Proper Policing, which sprung up in the wake of Ramirez’s death, called on Trent to recuse herself from the case. Trent did not. 

Prosecutors have broad control over a grand jury. They pick the evidence and set the arguments, all in secret. There was no opposing attorney making a case against Trent. 

Trent knew both Colling and Ramirez and their families, she said at the press conference. But with a grand jury, “I thought we could do it better” than other counties had done with police shootings, she said. Trent argued the grand jury created a more thorough and independent review of the evidence in the shooting. 

“I secured two experts to come into our community in order to provide insight as to national standards and how it should be done in the use of deadly force,” she said at the press conference. 

“It was more raw, more direct towards those witnesses than you would ever have in a courtroom with a jury present with a judge,” Trent said.

A Shield For Justice?

In the new filings, Hinkel’s attorneys allege the grand jury was a shield for justice, not a step toward it. Trent selected witnesses and presented evidence in a manner aimed at clearing Colling, aware that the county government she works for would likely end up in civil court, they allege. 

Trent called two expert witnesses during the grand jury, according to both her press conference and the latest filings from the Spence lawyers. One was Dave Dubay, a Casper-based consultant who previously worked for the company that manufactured the taser and body camera Colling used. The other was Connecticut-based attorney Eric Daigle.

Daigle “exclusively defends law enforcement officers in civil rights litigation,” the new filing alleges, implying he is not suitable as an impartial witness in the grand jury. Hinkel’s lawyers aren’t the first to accuse Daigle — whose website describes him as a law enforcement consultant and former police officer, still certified in Connecticut — of bias. 

Officials in Aurora, Colorado hired Daigle in June 2020 to investigate the high-profile death of Elijah McClain while the young Black man was in police custody. Daigle’s contract was cancelled after one day when a city councilmen raised concerns that the attorney was dedicated to defending police officers and their employers from civil liabilities. 

At the press conference, Trent said the grand jury’s purpose was to establish whether criminal charges should be filed. But the “county now admits – contrary to the statements of Attorney Trent – that these experts were also hired in anticipation of the forthcoming civil litigation,” the lawyers wrote.  

Their statement appears to refer to the county’s attorney’s resistance to subpoenas issued for the materials Daigle and Dubay used to prepare their testimony. The county’s attorney, John Bowers of the Bowers Law Firm in Rawlins, argues such materials, as well as communications between the expert witnesses and county officials, are protected under attorney-client privilege. 

“This admission may establish a preordained decision by the County to defend and condone Colling’s actions in the criminal investigation which it oversaw to affect the civil litigation,” Hinkel’s lawyers wrote. 

Bowers, the county’s attorney, did not respond to a request for comment left with his office. 

“All of the material in both expert witness’s files was prepared for the Grand Jury and certainly it was not unexpected that civil litigation might result from the matter,” Bowers wrote in a Feb. 5 filing where he argued against releasing Daigle and Dubay’s investigative materials and communications with the county. “The impressions and opinions by the attorneys involved in the Grand Jury proceeding would be the same in the current civil litigation.”

Shooting Still Reverberates In Small Town

Colling and Ramirez were once high school classmates in Laramie. While Colling went on to a checkered career in law enforcement, Ramirez battled mental illness, alternating paranoid episodes with periods of stability, skateboarding and making music.

On the fatal day, Colling pulled Ramirez over after observing Ramirez drive slowly and fail to use his turn signal. A brief vehicle chase ended in front of Ramirez’s apartment, where the two men struggled before Colling shot Ramirez three times — once in the chest and twice in the back.

A protester carries a sign calling for “Justice for Robbie and George” — referring to Robbie Ramirez, who was killed by an Albany County sheriff’s deputy, and George Floyd, who was killed by Minneapolis police — at a June 4, 2020 protest in Laramie. (Andrew Graham/WyoFile)

O’Malley has defended Colling’s use of force, and his hiring of the deputy. Ramirez’s mother has said the officer did “zero” to deescalate a situation that could have ended without tragedy. 

In Jan. 2019, the Laramie Boomerang reported O’Malley — now retired — was “currently working” with Daigle on a review of his department’s use-of-force policies. That review never occurred, according to emails included in the latest filings from The Spence Law Firm. 

“It is my understanding and belief from my clients that Sheriff O’Malley never followed through with having Mr. Daigle perform the review after the grand jury proceeding,” Bowers wrote in a Feb. 4 email to Hinkel’s lawyers. 

Colling continues to serve on the force, and O’Malley’s replacement has declined to comment on the case in two recent national news reports.

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Yellowstone Saw 67 Earthquakes In February

in News/Yellowstone
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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Yellowstone National Park saw 67 earthquakes throughout the month of February, although most were small, with the strongest having a magnitude of 2.4.

The U.S. Geological Survey, in its monthly Yellowstone Volcano Observatory update published Monday, said many of the earthquakes seen during the month were part of a swarm of 20 with magnitudes between 0.3 and 2.3, recorded in the area of West Yellowstone, Montana, from Feb. 1-16.

The largest earthquake of the swarm occurred at 5:30 a.m. on Feb. 4 and was located one mile southwest of West Yellowstone.

Earthquake sequences like these are common and account for roughly 50% of the total seismicity in the Yellowstone region.

Of the 67 earthquakes that occurred last month, the strongest was a 2.4 magnitude located 13 miles of Pahaska Tepee that was recorded at 3:08 a.m. on Feb. 2.

Steamboat Geyser had two major water eruptions in the past month, on Feb. 3 and 21. This is typical of winter, when low groundwater levels seem to correlate with longer intervals between Steamboat’s eruptions.

The Yellowstone Volcano Observatory provides long-term monitoring of volcanic and earthquake activity in the Yellowstone National Park region. Yellowstone is the site of the largest and most diverse collection of natural thermal features in the world and the first National Park.

YVO is one of the five USGS Volcano Observatories that monitor volcanoes within the United States for science and public safety.

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Three UW Students Killed, Two Injured In Weekend Car Crash

in Accident/News/University of Wyoming
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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Three University of Wyoming students were killed and two were injured, one critically, in a two-car collision south of the Wyoming state line over the weekend.

The accident occurred late Saturday afternoon on U.S. Highway 287, several miles south of the Wyoming/Colorado state line, according to the university.

The students killed were: Sienna Potter, 18, a first-year student in early childhood education who attended high school outside of London but had family in Laramie; Rebecca Marley, 19, a first-year student in marketing who attended high school in Dubai and had family in The Woodlands, Texas; and William Malone, 21, a senior in computer science from Fort Collins, Colorado.

Two other UW students were injured in the crash. One was reported to be in critical condition Monday at the Medical Center of the Rockies in Loveland, Colorado. The other was hospitalized in Fort Collins.

Three other UW students, traveling in a third vehicle, witnessed the accident.

“Words fail us, as they simply can’t express our sadness,” UW president Ed Seidel said in a statement. “Our hearts are broken for the families, their friends and our entire community.”

The university’s dean of students office has been in contact with all of the family members of the victims and will continue to reach out to those close to those involved in the accident.

“During what has been an extremely challenging academic year for all of us, this unspeakable loss seems to be almost more than our community can bear,” Seidel said. “As we grieve the loss of these students and seek to recover from other tragic and distressful developments in recent weeks and months, let’s do our best and pull together, support those who are suffering, and show the compassion and kindness that characterize what it means to be part of this community.”

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Cheney Reintroduces Bill to Delist Grizzlies As “Threatened Wildlife”

in Grizzly Bears/Liz Cheney/News
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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney recently reintroduced a bill to Congress that would remove grizzly bears from the endangered species list and prevent them from being considered threatened or endangered wildlife in the future.

Last week, Cheney reintroduced the Grizzly Bear State Management Act, a follow-up to a bill introduced by her retired colleague, U.S. Sen. Mike Enzi, in 2019.

“This legislation would return the management of the grizzly to the state-level, where it belongs,” Cheney said. “The federal government or unelected judges and bureaucrats should not be in the business of telling us how to operate. The state and people of Wyoming know what’s best for Wyoming.”

The bill would direct the Department of the Interior to re-issue its 2017 decision to remove grizzly bears in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem from the endangered species list and prohibit further judicial review of this decision. It would also turn management of the grizzlies over to the states.

“The bill would also stop the abuse of the court system by environmental extremists and safeguard the scientifically proven delisting determination so that politically-motivated conservations cannot take advantage of that process,” Cheney said.

The grizzly bear was first listed on the federal threatened species list in 1975.

In 2017, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service removed grizzlies from the endangered species list, citing a significant increase in bear populations and a doubling of their range land.

“I was proud to work on this legislation for years with Sen. Enzi and will continue to fight for it in the House of Representatives while working with my colleagues to fight for Wyoming’s statutory right to manage our wildlife,” Cheney said.

Enzi previously argued that while proper management of grizzly bears is critical to protecting the species, it is also critical to protect people from potential attacks, along with the species that grizzly bears prey on.

“As the grizzly bear population has increased in Wyoming, so has the danger these animals pose to livestock, property and to humans,” Enzi said. “That’s why I believe the authority to manage the species needs to be turned over to the states. I have often found that states are better suited to address these kinds of issues because they are more familiar with the unique needs of their own communities and ecosystems.”

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Donald Trump Blasts “War Monger” Liz Cheney

in Liz Cheney/News
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Could Donald Trump actually hate Liz Cheney more than Mitt Romney?

Judging on the amount of time the former president spent discussing her on Sunday as opposed to any other Republican he doesn’t care for, she just might be number one on his hit list.

The former president, speaking at the Conservative Political Action Conference on Sunday, mentioned all of the Republicans who voted to impeach him but saved Cheney for last and added extra relish when mentioning her.

“Of course there’s the war monger, the person who loves seeing our troops fighting — Liz Cheney,” Trump said to a chorus of boos.

“The good news is in her state is that she’s been censured and her poll numbers have dropped faster than any human being I’ve ever seen,” he said.

The extra attention probably makes sense as Cheney is the only Republican in a leadership position who voted to impeach him.

“Now, more than ever, is the time for tough, strong, and energetic Republican leaders who have spines of steel,” he said in the roughly one hour speech. “We need strong leadership.”

“We cannot have leaders who share more passion than condemning their fellow Americans than they have ever shown for standing up to Democrats, the media, and the radicals who want to turn America into a socialist country,” he said.

Trump said if these Republicans spent the same time attacking Obama and Biden as they have criticizing him, they would “actually be successful.”

The only other Republican that he said anything extra about was Nebraska Sen. Ben Sasse who received the moniker “Little Ben Sasse” reminiscent of the former nickname Trump gave Marco Rubio.

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