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Arapahoe Man Pleads Guilty To Running Friends Into Bonfire With Truck

in News/Crime

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

An Arapahoe man faces up to 10 years in prison for knocking a number of his friends into a bonfire earlier this year, where they suffered severe burns.

Brian Luke Williams, 20, pleaded guilty to two counts of assaults resulting in serious bodily injury in U.S. District Court earlier this month. He will be sentenced in February and faces up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

The charges stem from a March 13 incident in which Williams was reportedly driving a truck in a reckless manner while intoxicated. He was driving in a field at a bonfire party on the Wind River Indian Reservation which was attended by several of his friends.

Williams lost control of the truck and knocked some people into the fire, causing them to be severely burned.

Williams transported one of the victims to the Riverton emergency room. The other victim was transported to the emergency room by another person at the party.

Williams remained at the hospital for several hours and called the victims’ family to report the incident.

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Man Leads Multiple Wyo Police Departments On Crazy Hour-Long High Speed Chase

in News/Crime

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A Gillette man was arrested Sunday after leading officers from multiple Wyoming police departments on a high-speed chase in the middle of the night through parts of Natrona and Converse counties.

Louis Walker was booked into jail Sunday on multiple charges, including eluding police officers, reckless endangerment, possession of a controlled substance and more after leading authorities on a chase reaching speeds of up to 120 mph, according to Evansville Police Chief Mike Thompson.

According to the Evansville Police Department, at around 2:40 a.m. Sunday officers were on a routine patrol when one observed a white Chevy SUV go through a red light without attempting to stop.

The SUV then jumped the curve as it headed eastbound, then went across the barrow ditch and proceeded through a car wash

The car then pulled into the parking lot of the local Comfort Inn and stopped. While officers were giving commands for the car’s occupants to exit the vehicle, a passenger exited on the rear passenger side.

The vehicle’s driver then drove off with two occupants and police began a chase.

The pursuit went east and then south into Casper. There was little to no traffic on the roads, so officers continued the chase as the SUV went on Highway 20/26 and headed east.

As the pursuit neared Glenrock, officers from the Glenrock Police Department deployed tire deflation equipment. The SUV ran over a spike strip and continued east through Glenrock at a high rate of speed.

As the SUV neared Interstate 25 to go east, the driver side front tire came off of the rim. The SUV then got on the interstate heading south in the northbound lane, traveling at speeds of around 90 mph.

Wyoming Highway Patrol and Converse County Sheriff’s officers were notified and requested to assist along with the Douglas Police Department.

Between Glenrock and Douglas, the SUV came to a stop and officers could sparks coming from the wheel without a tire. A man exited the SUV, at which point the vehicle took off again.

The man who got out of the vehicle was detained by one officer as the others continued to pursue the SUV. The man told the officer that there were weapons in the vehicle and that the two occupants “would not go down without a fight.” the Evansville Police Department release said.

As the pursuit neared Douglas, officers again deployed spike strips, which the SUV ran over. It continued south in the northbound lane until it went off the road.

The SUV came to a complete stop after going over some rocks that were on the bank of a drainage ditch. The driver and passenger were then taken into custody.

Officers found a loaded handgun in the vehicle after the driver and occupant were removed at gunpoint from the vehicle.

The driver indicated there were drugs in the car and other information was given about the men using cocaine earlier in the evening at a local establishment.

Two of the men in the car are not allowed to have firearms by law.

The pursuit went for approximately 58 miles and several times reached speeds of 120 mph.

Thompson told Cowboy State Daily on Monday that usually when people run from the police for minor traffic violations, that is a sign that there is a worse crime taking place.

“You shouldn’t run from the police, it’s a huge safety issue for yourself and the vehicle’s occupants,” he said. “As a driver, if anything happens to them, you can be liable. It also leads to significant charges, which can affect people’s lives and livelihoods.”

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Supreme Court Rules Against Gillette Teen Who Planned To Kill Classmates; Correctly Tried As Adult, Justices Say

in News/Wyoming Supreme Court

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By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily

A teenager who planned to kill nine people at a Gillette middle school was correctly tried as an adult, Wyoming’s Supreme Court ruled Monday.

The court upheld the decision of a lower court not to transfer the case of Dale Warner to a juvenile court, ruling sufficient evidence existed to justify trying Warner as an adult even though he was 14 at the time of the incident.

“The district court thoughtfully analyzed and weighed all applicable factors under (Wyoming law),” said the ruling, written by Justice Kari Gray. “The court did not abuse its discretion in denying Mr. Warner’s motion to transfer (the case to juvenile court).”

The ruling stems from Warner’s arrest in November 2018 after he took guns and ammunition to Sage Valley Junior High School as part of a plan to shoot nine individuals.

According to the ruling, Warner had devised the plan as a way to “honor his biological father,” who had died a few days earlier. The ruling said Warner, who had spent most of his life in foster homes, had maintained “sporadic” contact with his biological father.

“As the plan evolved, it included: obtaining guns and ammunition; hiding his actions from his brother; protecting a friend from being killed or injured by gun shots; and praying that his adoptive family did not get sued as a result of his actions,” the ruling said.

After going to school, Warner spoke with several classmates, telling some he planned to shoot six classmates, a teacher, a principal, an assistant principal “and anyone else he could,” the ruling said.

One classmate told the school’s principal, who talked Warner into surrendering his weapons.

Warner was arrested and charged as an adult with nine counts of attempted first-degree murder. 

He ultimately pleaded guilty to two counts of possession of a deadly weapon with unlawful intent and no contest to a charge of aggravated assault and battery and was sentenced to 

12 to 20 years in prison.

Warner had asked that his case be transferred to juvenile court, but a state district court denied the request, finding that the seriousness of the offense and the fact he planned to commit a crime in “an aggressive, violent, premeditated or willful manner” justified keeping the case in adult court.

The court also examined other factors, such as whether Warner had the “sophistication and maturity to form a premeditated plan and understand the consequences of his actions” in making its decision.

Warner argued the district court put too much emphasis on one factor, the seriousness of the offense.

But justices agreed the district court thoroughly reviewed all the factors that must be considered when deciding on a request to move a case to juvenile court.

“In balance, the district court concluded that the factors weighed against transfer,” the ruling said. “While the district court afforded weight to the seriousness of Mr. Warner’s alleged offenses, it did not place undue weight on (the seriousness of the offense).”

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Wyoming Cowboys Fall to Hawaii, 38-17

in News/wyoming cowboys football

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The Wyoming Cowboys concluded the 2021 regular season with a 38-14 home loss to Hawai’i on Saturday to finish the season with a 6-6 record. Hawai’i finished the regular season 6-7.

Although the Pokes’ regular-season ended with a loss, they posted their fifth bowl-eligible season in the past six years and will now await a bowl invitation when those announcements are made surrounding conference championship games that will be played in the coming week.

Wyoming head coach Craig Bohl acknowledged the disappointment of Saturday’s loss after the Cowboys had played one of their best games of the season just a week ago in a win at Utah State. He also gave credit to Hawai’i for its strong performance on Saturday.

“I want to congratulate Hawai’i,” said Bohl. “Coming over here, that’s always a difficult trip and their quarterback (Chevan Cordeiro) played outstanding. Coach Graham calls the defense and had us off kilter. They beat us in all three phases. One time I heard Lou Holtz say you bring a different football team to the stadium every Saturday. Today I agree with him.

“We are going to lick our wounds. Hopefully we have an opportunity to continue to play. Those decisions are obviously not made by us. I know this locker room is disappointed right now but deep down inside they want to keep playing. We have elements of being a good football team.

Wyoming linebacker Chad Muma and cornerback Azizi Hearn echoed their coach’s comments on the team wanting to play in postseason.

“(A bowl game) would be huge,” said Muma. “I think that’s what everyone on the team wants. I think everyone hopes we will receive a bowl game. I have a feeling we will, and I think everyone wants to play, and I want to play – end the season on a high note.”

“We still have a game left — God willing — so that’s what I’m going to focus on,” said Hearn. “A bowl game would mean a lot to all of us, from the players to the coaching staff. We lost some tough games, but we won some games people didn’t think we’d win this year. I’d be surprised if we didn’t get a bowl game. I think we deserve one.”

In Saturday’s regular-season finale, Hawai’i jumped out to a 24-0 lead on the play of quarterback Chevan Cordeiro, who finished the day completing 19 of 31 passes for 323 yards, three touchdown passes and one interception.

Wyoming scored its first touchdown with 1:36 remaining in the first half on a four-yard touchdown run by running back Titus Swen. Swen’s run capped off an 11-play, 75-yard drive that was highlighted by passes from Cowboy quarterback Levi Williams to wide receiver Isaiah Neyor (34 yards) and Joshua Cobbs (seven yards). Williams also had a run of 14 yards, and UW running back Xazavian Valladay had three carries for 15 yards on the drive. UW’s touchdown cut the Hawai’i lead to 24-7.

With the score 24-7 with 1:36 remaining in the half, Hawai’i moved the ball from its own 25 out to 50-yard line in five plays. With four seconds remaining in the half, Cordeiro threw a hail mary to the end zone that was caught by Hawai’i wide receiver Jared Smart with no time remaining, giving UH a 31-7 lead going into halftime.

The Cowboys would score the only points of the third quarter, engineering an 88-yard drive in nine plays that culminated in a 30-yard TD pass from Williams to Neyor to narrow the lead to 31-14 with 1:11 remaining in the third quarter.

Wyoming was unable to get any closer than that, however, and Hawai’i added a touchdown in the fourth quarter on a 32-yard pass from Cordeiro to tight end Steven Fiso to extend their lead to 38-14 with 6:27 remaining. That is how the game would end.

For the Cowboys, Williams completed 15 of 24 passes (62.5 percent) for 161 yards and one touchdown. He would also lead the Cowboys in rushing, with 43 yards. Valladay added 42 rushing yards and 19 receiving. Neyor lead Wyoming in receiving with 78 yards on three catches and one TD.

Cobbs caught four passes for 31 yards and tight end Treyton Welch also caught four passes for 31 yards. Defensively, middle linebacker Chad Muma was credited with nine tackles, as was free safety Isaac White. Defensive end Victory Jones recorded the first interception of his career.

In addition to Cordeiro’s 323 passing yards, he led the Rainbow Warriors in rushing with 86 yards. Wide receiver Calvin Turner Jr. led UH in receiving with five catches for 90 yards. Hawai’i linebacker/safety Khoury Bethley led both teams with 12 tackles.

Wyoming’s one scoring threat of the first quarter saw the Cowboys move the ball from their own 17-yard line down to the Hawai’i 36-yard line. On a fourth and seven at the 36, UW place-kicker John Hoyland came in to attempt a 53-yard field goal. The kick was long enough, but went wide right.

Hawai’i’s third possession of the game carried into the second quarter, and the Rainbow Warriors would score on their third consecutive drive — this one a seven-play, 77-yard drive. Cordeiro connected with tight end Steven Fiso for 19 yards to give Hawai’i a 21-0 lead with 12:39 remaining in the first half.

After two punts by Wyoming and one by Hawai’i, the Rainbow Warriors began its fifth drive of the half at the Wyoming 40-yard line. After a 27-yard pass down to the Wyoming 13-yard line on first down, the Cowboy defense stiffened and forced Hawai’i into a 25-yard field-goal by Matthew Shipley that extended Hawai’i’s lead to 24-0.

The Cowboy offense responded with a big drive of its own on its final drive of the half. On a third and nine at the Wyoming 26, Williams found Neyor down the right sideline for 34 yards to the Hawai’i 40. Williams would carry for 14 yards followed by a completion from Williams to wide receiver Joshua Cobbs for seven, moving the ball to the Hawai’i 19. That was followed by runs of five and nine yards by Valladay to take the ball to Hawai’i five. Swen would carry for one yard and then he scored on a four-yard run to give the Cowboys their first points of the day and cut the Hawai’i led to 24-7 with 1:36 remaining in the half.

After the kickoff, Hawai’i took over at its own 25-yard line. Cordeiro would proceed to complete passes of six and eight yards, moving the ball to the The Rainbow Warriors’ 39-yard line.

The Cowboys would then tackle Cordeiro for a five-yard loss back to the 34. It looked like the score would remain 24-7 at half as Hawai’i faced a third and 15 at their own 34, but running back Dae Dae Hunter would break loose for 16 yards and a first down at the 50-yard line with four seconds remaining.

Wyoming took a timeout to set up its defense. On the final play of the half, Cordeiro launched a pass into the end zone on a hail-mary play and Rainbow Warrior wide receiver Smart would come down with the ball to give Hawai’i a 31-7 lead heading into halftime.

Hawai’i posed a scoring threat midway through the third quarter, but on a second and goal at the Wyoming nine-yard line Cowboy linebacker Easton Gibbs pressured Cordeiro and the quarterback’s pass was intercepted by Wyoming defensive end Victor Jones, who returned it to the Wyoming 12-yard line to end the threat.

That takeaway by the Cowboy defense would jump start the Cowboys’ second scoring drive of the game. Williams would find Valladay on a first down pass for 12 yards.

Then Williams would gain eight yards on the second play of the drive, followed by a 14-yard run by Valladay. Williams would complete a nine-yard pass to Cobbs, and then Williams would pick up three rushing yards for another first down.

The Cowboy quarterback added an 11-yard run and Valladay gained one yard to put the ball at the Hawai’i 30-yard line. The final play of the drive was a 30-yard pass from Williams to Neyor for the score and narrow the Hawai’i lead to 31-14 entering the fourth quarter.

The only scoring in the fourth quarter was a 50-yard drive by the Rainbow Warriors that saw Cordeiro connect with tight end Fiso for a 32-yard TD pass — the second touchdown connection of the game between the two Rainbow Warriors.

The Hawai’i win was its 11th in the series with the Cowboys that began series back in 1978 and has been played 26 times since that over the next 44 seasons. Wyoming leads the series 15-11.

Beginning with the second game in the series in 1979, the two teams have competed for the Paniolo Trophy. The traveling trophy is named the Paniolo Trophy as Paniolo is the Hawai’ian word for Cowboy. Wyoming leads the Paniolo Trophy portion of the series with 15 wins to Hawai’i’s 10 victories.

Wyoming Ends the Season Bowl Eligible for the Fifth Time in Six Years
With its 6-6 record this season Wyoming became bowl eligible for the fifth time in the last six seasons. The Cowboys played in the 2016 Poinsettia Bowl, won the 2017 Famous Idaho Potato Bowl and captured the 2019 Arizona Bowl. The Pokes were also 6-6 in 2018, earning them bowl eligibility.

Wyoming Seniors Have Been Part of Great Success at Wyoming
Saturday marked the final home game for several University of Wyoming senior football players. During their time as Cowboys, the program has enjoyed a great deal of success. Due to the NCAA granting players an extra year of eligibility following last year’s COVID shortened season, several current Cowboy seniors have been part of the Wyoming Football program since 2016. Here are some of the accomplishments this year’s senior class has been a part of:
•Three eight-win seasons in 2016, ’17 and ’19
•Earned bowl eligibility in 2016, ’17, ’18, ’19 and ’21
•2016 Hosted Mountain West Championship Game
•2016 Poinsettia Bowl
•2017 Famous Idaho Potato Bowl Champions
•2019 NOVA Home Loans Arizona Bowl Champions
•A 5-1 record against rival Colorado State
•Defeated SEC member Missouri in Laramie in 2019

Muma Improves His Season Tackle Total to 129
With nine tackles against Hawai’i, Wyoming middle linebacker Chad Muma improved his season total to 129 tackles. That ranks as the 11th best single-season tackle total in school history. Muma could add to that total in a bowl game.

Valladay in Search of His Second 1,000-Yard Rushing Season
Cowboy running back Xazavian Valladay gained 42 yards rushing in Saturday’s game. That gives him 984 rushing yards this season — only 16 yards shy of 1,000 — with a potential bowl game yet to come. Valladay has one 1,000-yard rushing season to his credit as he gained 1,265 rushing yards in 2019. There have only been 11 Cowboys to rush for 1,000 yards in a single season in school history, and there have only been three to post two 1,000-yard seasons.

Neyor Continues His Great Sophomore Season
Wyoming sophomore wide receiver Isaiah Neyor caught his 11th touchdown pass of the season in Saturday’s game versus Hawai’i. Neyor entered this week leading the Mountain West in receiving touchdowns and he ranked No. 8 in the nation in receiving TDs.

Up Next
Conference championship games will be played in the coming week and bowl invitations will begin coming out surrounding those games.

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Plane Crash Rediscovered Over The Weekend in Grand Tetons Was From 1988

in News/Search and Rescue

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By Jennifer Kocher, Cowboy State Daily

The wreckage of an airplane spotted in the Gros Ventre drainage this past weekend was from a crash more than 30 years ago, authorities said.

Hunters reported finding the collapsed but largely intact airplane late Friday night, according to Tim Ciorcarlan, search and rescue aviation advisor for Teton County Search and Rescue (TCSAR), who led the recovery mission Saturday morning. 

The hunters had taken photographs of the fuselage and wings that were buried under a mound of snow, Ciorcarlan said, and the search crew had little to go on after research yielded no evidence of any missing airplanes or recent plane crashes in the area.

The TCSAR crew of staff and volunteers ascended the steep 3,000-foot, heavily timbered Crystal Butte, about three miles outside Jackson, where they found the wreckage.

“It looked like a flattened beer can,” Ciorcarlan said. “The whole plane was there, but it was really smushed. Like it pancaked from the sky, nose down. You can see the wings and fuselage, but it was smashed really badly.”

His crew was able to straighten the wreckage enough to discern the airplane’s tail number.

It turned out the airplane, a Mooney M20F, had crashed in August 1988 during the peak of the fires in Yellowstone, killing both the pilot and passenger. 

According to the report by the National Transportation and Safety Board (NTSB), the plane had been climbing at 11,000 feet through thick smoke from area forest fires shortly after leaving Jackson Hole when it hit two trees and plunged to the ground. Pilot Robert Yoreck, 50, and his passenger both died on impact.

Loss of control, collision with mountainous/hilly terrain were listed as the probable cause of the crash. 

Though the bodies had been removed and the incident well reported, the debris remained on site in well preserved condition, its windscreen remaining crystal clear and its paint showing little evidence of fading in the sun.

The crash seems to have been largely forgotten by members of law enforcement and the local aviation community. Ciorcarlan, who has responded to every airplane crash report in Teton County since 1993, had no knowledge of the crash before climbing the butte Saturday.

It turns out, the hunters Friday were not the first group to report the wreckage.

It turns out it had been reported by hunters about two decades after it occurred.

“This plane should not have been a mystery,” Dave Hodges, a Teton County Sheriff’s Office detective who was on the search, told Cowboy State Daily Wednesday.

“It had crashed in 1988 and was reported at the time,” he said. “Both the pilot and passenger died and were recovered.  All done. But somehow, through the little cracks in the system, it was forgotten about. It was again reported in 2008 by hunters. But once more slipped through the system.” 

Authorities thought the report made Friday might involve a new crash, Hodges said, because the initial information was vague.

“The preliminary input was insufficient to the point no prior historical contacts were revealed,” he said. “It was only when we returned from the crash site and sat down at the computer, now armed with more exact data, that it was revealed in the TCSO historical data base.”

It’s not clear why the plane has been left on the mountain.

That decision to remove debris is typically left up to either the owner and/or insurance company, according to Keith Holloway, media representative for the NTSB, who said his agency does not participate in the removal of aircraft debris.  

This time, however, Ciorcarlan said searchers painted a big yellow “x” on the airplane’s fuselage with a date of the crash to indicate the crash has been investigated. 

He and the volunteers were nonplussed about the steep hike or unnecessary recon work on their part.

“It really is a nothing burger, so to speak,” he said. “We just went for a walk.”

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Cody Gunmaker Fights To List Its Products On State Website

in Guns/News

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By CJ Baker, Powell Tribune

Firearms manufacturers are not able to sell their guns and ammo on the state’s Shop Wyoming website — and a Cody lawmaker wants the attorney general to take action against what she sees as illegal discrimination.

Last month, Rep. Rachel Rodriguez-Williams, R-Cody, asked Attorney General Bridget Hill to use a new law to sue the Wyoming Small Business Development Center Network, which operates the online marketplace.

Williams made the request after complaints from Big Horn Armory of Cody, which has been unsuccessfully fighting for the better part of a year to list its guns on

The issue stems from the two large payment processors used by the site, Stripe and PayPal, as neither processor will handle sales of firearms and ammunition. But Big Horn Armory President Greg Buchel and Williams charge that the Wyoming Small Business Development Center Network itself — run by the University of Wyoming, the Wyoming Business Council and the U.S. Small Business Administration — is also discriminating against the firearm industry.

“The group that controls the Shop Wyoming website has free choice over what platform is used, they are culpable for that choice,” Williams wrote to the attorney general on Oct. 29, echoing an earlier email from Buchel. “The payment processor for Shop Wyoming and by association, the Wyoming Small Business Development Center and its directors employed by the University of Wyoming are in clear violation of W.S. 13-10-302(a).”

The law in question — which generally prevents financial institutions from discriminating against firearms-related businesses — was passed by the Wyoming Legislature and enthusiastically signed by Gov. Mark Gordon in early April.

Earlier this month, AG Hill said her office will look into the issue. However, it’s unclear whether Hill could bring suit against the Small Business Development Center (SBDC) Network, as the new law appears to only apply to financial institutions and not their customers or clients. That’s a point that’s been raised by the director of the Wyoming SBDC Network, Jill Kline.

Emails provided by Buchel indicate there’s also been some uncertainty as to whether out-of-state payment processors like PayPal and Stripe are subject to the law. The legislation also says that financial institutions can choose not to provide services to gun companies “for a business or financial reason.”

While the attorney general’s office has only agreed to look into the issue, Buchel called it “the most positive action I’ve seen so far.”

In an interview, Director Kline said the SBDC has nothing against guns, and only realized the underlying ecommerce platform prohibited firearm sales after subscribing to the service.

“… we thought we had made a great selection,” Kline said in an interview. “As many of the ‘what if’ questions we asked, we obviously didn’t get them all in.”

She said the intent was never to exclude anyone.

“We’re trying to just do a program that’s going to help businesses here in Wyoming in this difficult time,” Kline said.

Publicly launched

The Wyoming SBDC Network, which is based at the University of Wyoming, publicly launched the Shop Wyoming marketplace in February. The site was developed in partnership with an Iowa-based company that powers similar marketplaces across the country, with all of the funding provided by the federal CARES Act.

Businesses can freely sign up to offer their products on the site, which the SBDC has pitched as a place for customers to find products from numerous Wyoming-grown businesses in a single location.

Kline said it gives businesses a place or another place to sell their goods online, particularly as foot traffic may be lagging amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Further, as a result of the program, “we’ve helped so many businesses actually even get a website up and running,” she said.

Around 107 vendors were using the Shop Wyoming platform as of earlier this month, she said, with the site drawing nearly 65,000 pageviews through October. That’s translated to 63 orders and just less than $5,000 in sales. It’s an average of only about $50 per vendor, but Kline says the platform is still growing and SBDC is hoping for a boost this holiday season.

Buchel applied to be a seller back on Feb. 1, looking to offer Big Horn Armory’s “unique big bore lever guns and semi-auto rifles.” However, the request was soon rejected.

“Unfortunately, the payment [processor] for our site does not allow for sales of firearms or ammunition so we are unable to let you list those,” explained Shop Wyoming Project Manager Audrey Jansen. “However, if you would like to sell firearm accessories such as holsters, slings, or cuffs you may do that.”

Other retailers sell such accessories on the Shop Wyoming platform — including leatherwork made for holding bullets — and businesses can include a link back to their full site. However, Buchel said he’s not interested.

“We want to sell the guns themselves,” he said in an interview. “All of the accessories are ancillary to the whole operation — we sell guns, we build guns. That’s the deal.”

Buchel quickly brought the issue to the attention of state lawmakers.

Days after Big Horn Armory’s denial in February, state Rep. Tom Walters, R-Casper, asked Director Kline if the SBDC could find a different payment processor — one that would allow the state’s firearm manufacturers to sell their products through Shop Wyoming.

“Wyoming has worked hard to recruit these manufacturers,” Walters wrote, “so it only makes sense for Wyoming to offer them the same opportunities as [it] offers other [businesses] in the state.”

However, Kline said the “Shop Where I Live” ecommerce platform, created by Member Marketplace Inc. of Iowa, came with only PayPal and Stripe as payment options and that building an alternative would be cost-prohibitive.

Cody Regional Health

Kline again noted that Big Horn Armory could list its non-firearm products and link back to its full site, saying that alternative was offered “to all the businesses that have run into this challenge.”

“We want to see all of our retailers statewide be successful and we are happy to assist this individual,” Kline wrote in late February, referring to Buchel. “Unfortunately, this project will not work perfectly for every business.”

Meanwhile, state lawmakers took up House Bill 236.

HB 236

The legislation generally prohibits financial institutions — defined as payments processors, financial institutions defined in state law and national banking associations — from discriminating against entities who are “engaged in the lawful commerce of firearms, firearm accessories or ammunition products.”

If a business faces such discrimination, the law says they can file a lawsuit and seek actual, treble and punitive or exemplary damages from the institution, along with recouping their costs.

It also empowers the Wyoming Attorney General’s Office to file a suit against institutions who violate the law. Under the bill, the AG can ask a judge to issue a temporary restraining order or permanent injunction against a financial institution that discriminates against firearm entities. The attorney general can also seek a civil penalty of up to $20,000 per violation for repeated discrimination — and the state could sever its business relationship with any offenders.

The final version of HB 236 passed the House on a 44-13 vote, while clearing the Senate 23-6. Gordon signed it into law April 8.

“I will relentlessly defend our Second Amendment and the Wyoming businesses involved in the firearms industry,” the governor said at the time.

In August — a month after the new law took effect — Buchel reapplied to join the Shop Wyoming platform. When he was turned down again, he charged that the Shop Wyoming processors, the Wyoming SBDC Network and its directors at the University of Wyoming were violating the law.

Kline responded by noting that UW is not a payment processor and not a financial institution.

“We simply subscribe to the ecommerce platform that hosts the site, and as a subscriber, we must comply with the terms and conditions provided by the platform,” she wrote in the email conversation, which included a few lawmakers.

Buchel, however, said it seemed that the organizations were “culpable” for their choice of platform.

“We again ask you to reconsider your decision regarding this matter before further action is necessary,” he wrote.

Rep. Williams’ took up the cause in the late October email to Attorney General Hill, asking for action under the new law, and she denounced the Wyoming SBDC Network’s actions in a news release earlier this month.

“I am appalled that they are not abiding by the new law,” Williams said, praising Wyoming’s firearms industry and Big Horn Armory, which is in the process of expanding its operation.

Working through the law

Hill did not respond to a message seeking comment, but the attorney general’s office is apparently now working to determine whether the law is being followed. As it sorts through the complaint, the office will likely have to consider a number of issues. For instance, while the law prohibits discrimination against firearm companies, financial institutions can choose not to provide service if they have “a business or financial reason.”

Stripe prohibits “weapons and munitions; gunpowder and other explosives” as part of a category of banned items it describes as “regulated or illegal products or services.” Additional items in the category include products containing tobacco, marijuana or CBD, prescription-only drugs, fireworks and toxic, flammable and radioactive materials. 

(Gambling services, adult content, bankruptcy lawyers, psychic services and door-to-door sales are also banned, among other things.) PayPal prohibits its services from being used on a smaller, but similar list of transactions.

On their websites, neither PayPal nor Stripe specifically explain why they ban firearm and ammo-related sales. A general Stripe FAQ on its restricted businesses offers that, “for now, due to various reasons, including requirements that apply to Stripe as a payment processor, requirements from our financial partners, and the potential risk exposure to Stripe, we’re currently not able to work with certain industries.”

In Buchel’s discussions with state officials, some questions have been raised about whether Stripe and PayPal are subject to the law. An attorney in the Legislative Service Office indicated to Rep. Walters that they likely are, though he called the question “a tricky one” within “a considerably complicated field of law.”

For his part, Buchel thinks the situation with the Shop Wyoming platform is clear.

“They’re discriminating,” he said in an interview, adding, “They’re taking a hard line and, you know, they’re wrong.” 

If the attorney general ultimately declines to file a suit, Buchel continues to have the option to hire a private attorney and take legal action himself.

Buffalo To Be Featured On HGTV Show

in News/wyoming economy

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By Wendy Corr, Cowboy State Daily

Buffalo is in the spotlight for a new HGTV show that intends to give parts of the town a makeover.

But some residents fear the attention might backfire for the community with a population of 4,593 nestled at the foot of the Bighorn Mountains in northern Wyoming, best known for its annual “Longmire Days” festival.

The “Home Town Kickstart Presented by PEOPLE” program has three goals for each community it visits, according to HGTV. 

First, refresh the home of a local hero; second, give a small business a beautiful upgrade; and third, reinvigorate a public space.

“I think it is a great thing for Buffalo and the people and small businesses,” said Krista Palmer, who has lived in Buffalo her entire life. “It will let people know how special a place Buffalo really is.”

Staff at Buffalo City Hall agree, according to City Clerk/Treasurer Julie Silbernagel.

“It all started with someone nominating Buffalo,” she told Cowboy State Daily. “I  have no idea who nominated us, but production company representatives visited Buffalo this summer and determined that our town would be a good fit for the show.”

Buffalo is one of six communities selected from thousands of submissions to HGTV to receive this “kickstart.” Others selected for the show were Cornwall, New York, Winslow, Arizona, LaGrange, Kentucky, Thomaston, Georgia, and Minden, Louisiana.

According to the network, each communities will benefit from the expertise of the popular network stars used to lead the makeovers and added visibility from an appearance the popular magazine “People.”

“We are thrilled to highlight stories about everyday heroes working towards positive change in their communities,” commented Dan Wakeford, People magazine’s editor-in-chief.

But not everyone is excited about the attention. Comments on Sheridan Media’s story about the selection revealed concern by some residents.

“This a terribly sad thing,” said one commenter, who said he grew up in western Wyoming and watched his community be destroyed by development and media exposure. “Rural gentrification rips apart long standing communities and upends the values that make small towns special.”

On the other hand, some residents see this as an opportunity to breathe life into what is primarily a tourist town.

“Buffalo needs something that caters more to its locals,” said Penny Corbett, who has lived in Buffalo her entire life. “I, for one, am someone who shops out of town, shops on Amazon, because I don’t want to buy my kids and grandkids birthday presents at Family Dollar, nor do I want to buy a $55 blouse for my 5-year-old granddaughter at a downtown store.”

Corbett pointed out that since Shopko closed down a few years ago, the town doesn’t have any sort of department store that provides essentials for residents.

“When I was growing up, we had The Cobbler (shoe store),” she explained. “We had the New York Store and the Pants and Tops Shop. We had places in town where you could go and get what you needed.”

But because of the town’s small size, Corbett said residents pay more for services and goods in Buffalo than they might in nearby Sheridan (with more than three times Buffalo’s population), even though both towns are on interstate highways. 

“One of the things that I’ve learned about Buffalo as an adult is that we pay higher shipping rates,” she said. “Nobody has an explanation for it. Two major interstates go through here — the gas truck has to drive right by Buffalo to get Sheridan, and yet (Sheridan’s) gas prices are lower than ours. Makes no sense.”

So from Corbett’s perspective, a little “revitalization” might go a long way towards giving the town a much-needed economic boost. 

“To have somebody come in here, like HGTV, to help revitalize a downtown business and help maybe a couple of other stores that are trying to cater more towards locals, with a flair to attract tourists as well, it could show Buffalo in a different light.”

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Better Weather For Wyoming Ski Areas Coming In December

in News/Recreation

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By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily

The outlook for snow in Wyoming through the rest of November is not good, especially for the state’s ski areas preparing to open their lift lines for the season, according to a Wyoming meteorologist.

But that will change once December rolls around, according to Don Day, founder of Cheyenne’s DayWeather.

“While the ski areas are probably sweating bullets right now, I am bullish things will turn around in December,” he told Cowboy State Daily. “And it will happen in early December.”

One of the state’s ski areas, Grand Targhee in Alta, opened for the season Wednesday with a snow base of 30 inches and 69% of the resort open for skiing.

The Jackson Hole Mountain Resort planned to continue its long-standing tradition of opening for the season on Thanksgiving Day, although the terrain available for skiing would be limited, according to the ski area’s website.

“Mother Nature has been off to a slow start on the lower mountain, but with increased snowmaking capacity and a dedicated staff working around the clock, we are thrilled to open our lifts this Thursday,” Mary Kate Buckley, the area’s president, said.

Four of the state’s other ski areas — Snow King Resort in Jackson, Hogadon near Casper, Snowy Range near Centennial and Sleeping Giant near Cody — planned to open between Dec. 3 and Dec. 11, according to the website Ski Central.

Day said by the time the areas open in December, decent snow should start falling in the state’s mountains.

“About the first weekend in December, it will get much colder and the mountain snows will kick in,” he said.

Day attributed the sudden switch in weather conditions to La Nina, a weather event that occurs when temperatures on the surface of the Pacific Ocean fall to levels that are lower than normal, affecting weather globally.

“It’s very typical in a La Nina to have alternating months that can go warm and dry and then the next month it can go the opposite,” he said.

The only ski area that has not announced an opening date is White Pine near Pinedale.

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Wyoming Obituaries: Week Of November 18 – 24, 2021

in Wyoming Obituary/News

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By Jen Kocher, Cowboy State Daily

Here’s a list of recent deaths of Wyoming residents and those with close affiliations to the state for the week of Nov. 18 – 24, 2021. Our condolences to family and friends:

Nov. 18:

Nov. 19:

Nov. 20:

Nov. 21:

Nov. 22:

Nov. 23:

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Barrasso Shares Thanksgiving Dinner with Wyoming Troops in Bahrain

in News/John Barrasso

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BAHRAIN – U.S. Sen. John Barrasso had Thanksgiving Dinner with Wyoming sailors and Marines serving in Bahrain, according to the senator’s office.

Barrasso visited with service members who are currently stationed at Naval Support Activity Bahrain, which is home to U.S. Naval Forces Central Command and U.S. 5th Fleet. 

NSA Bahrain provides operational support to U.S. and Coalition Forces in the Middle East and ensures the security of ships, aircraft and remote sites.

“In Wyoming, we are always so grateful for the brave service of our men and women in uniform. This includes our sailors and Marines who are serving ten time zones away from home right now in Bahrain,” Barrasso said.

“They’re eyeball to eyeball with Iran in the Persian Gulf and are doing an incredible job protecting America and our allies,” he said. “Bringing a little bit of Wyoming to our troops serving overseas on Thanksgiving is a tradition I look forward to every year. I made sure to let them know that everyone at home is thinking of them and looking forward to their safe return.”

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