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Cheyenne Police Department

Wyoming Has Had More Police Shootings This Year Than Usually Happens In Full Year

in News/Crime
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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

As of mid-June, Wyoming has had more police-involved shootings than usually occur in a full year.

Forrest Williams, director of the state Division of Criminal Investigation, told Cowboy State Daily on Thursday that so far in 2022, there have been seven police-involved shootings.

From 2013 through 2021, the state averaged anywhere from four to six officer-involved shootings per year.

Williams said Wyoming is not alone in this trend, as there have been more and more officer-involved shootings taking place across the country.

“I think this is very concerning from a safety standpoint, both for officers and citizens,” he said.

Campbell, Natrona and Laramie counties have each had at least two officer-involved shootings this year, Williams said. In all the investigations investigations completed so far, the officers have been cleared of wrongdoing.

The most recent officer-involved shooting took place on May 28, when Cheyenne law enforcement shot and killed Davin Darayle Saunders, a Nebraska man sought in connection with a murder that took place in Scottsbluff, Nebraska, earlier that week.

Cheyenne Police Department spokeswoman Alex Farkas declined to comment further on the shooting on Wednesday, citing an ongoing investigation.

The police department this week released dash camera footage of the confrontation, but it was unclear if there was available body camera footage. The dash camera footage showed only officers gathered near a house where Saunders had been hiding.

Williams said because every officer-involved shooting is a unique and complex situation, he did not have a timeline on when the Saunders shooting investigation would be completed.

Cheyennne Shooting

According to the Cheyenne Police Department, officers went to a Cheyenne home on May 28 to conduct surveillance and later entered the home in search of Saunders.

While on the scene, officers attempted to communicate with Saunders and asked him to leave the residence, but he refused.

Officers deployed gas in an attempt to force Saunders out of the home, but he pulled out a firearm. Officers saw this and fired on him, killing him.

Saunders was wanted in Scottsbluff, Nebraska, for multiple homicide-related charges. He had a history of violence. Saunders’ alleged victim was identified as Karen Cooper, 63, of Scottsbluff, who died as a result of gunshot wounds in late May in a Scottsbluff residential neighborhood.

According to The Washington Post, around 1,000 people are killed every year by police. An “overwhelming” majority of the people killed are young men between the ages of 20 and 40, the newspaper said.

The outlet reported that the states with the highest rates of officer-involved shootings are New Mexico, Alaska and Oklahoma.

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Beloved Cheyenne Police Dog Dies; Officers Considered ‘Ruger’ One Of Them

in Law enforcement/News
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By Jimmy Orr, Cowboy State Daily

When retired Cheyenne Police K9 Ruger died last week, he left behind an impressive resume of accomplishments — but also a very large family.

The German shepherd who spent seven of his 11 years in active police work was responsible for 124 arrests, 545 narcotic searches and helped with the apprehension of 35 suspects.

In addition, Ruger seized more than 80 grams of heroin, 54 grams of cocaine, and more than a pound of meth.

But it was his personality that won him a legion of fans who appreciated his work with the police force, where he was remembered as a reliable, punctual and good-natured member of the force.

“Ruger was different as he really loved people and kids,” former Cheyenne Police Chief Brian Kozak said. “Some police dogs you have to watch for because they get so protective of their handlers. But Ruger loved going to special events and doing demonstrations.”

Kozak attributed that to how Ruger was raised. Officer Chad Wellman, he said, raised him for 18 months before he started K9 training.

“The reason you have good dogs is because you have good handlers,” he said of Wellman. “He invested so much of his personal time into the training. It made a difference.”

Kozak said police dogs are known among law enforcement as fellow officers because they, too, risk their lives in bad situations.

In fact, it’s the K9 who puts itself in harm’s way to protect the handler.

“Dogs will go into a building first and search for bad people,” Kozak told Cowboy State Daily on Tuesday. 

“When there’s a burglary call, officers need to clear the building,” he said. “The dogs go in first and can actually do the job faster and more efficiently because of its tremendous sense of smell. But there’s a lot of risk there. They save lives by putting their lives on the line.”

Kozak, the longest-serving police chief in the history of Cheyenne, said because the K9 officers work alongside other law enforcement officers day-in and day-out, when they retire and later pass on, it’s very difficult for the entire team.

“We put our lives in their paws, essentially, and so it is tough when we lose our K9 partners,” he said.

Can a police dog really be thought of as a teammate?  Kozak didn’t blink. Of course they can. Within three months of intensive training, the dogs are ready for work and just like their human counterparts they spend 10 hours a day on the job.

The dogs know it’s time to work by watching for clues. Once their handler’s uniform is on, that’s when the “dog turns it on.”’

“They know it’s time to work,” Kozak said. “They get excited by it.”

He said that’s what made it so difficult for Ruger when he retired because he didn’t want to.

“Talking to Officer Wellman, Ruger was extremely sad when he saw Chad put on his uniform and go out the door to the police car, because he wanted to go,” Kozak said.

But the dogs have limits. At a certain age, they start having issues with their joints and can’t do the job anymore.

So it was couch-potato time, Kozak said, and Ruger didn’t mind that.

“Chad said he loved being a couch-potato but at the same time, he could tell he wanted to be back on the job,” he said.

Cheyenne Police Department spokesperson Alex Farkas told Cowboy State Daily that Ruger’s passing has affected people across the nation.

“People from all over the country have reached out following Ruger’s passing,” Farkas said. “Their family is very grateful for all of the support they have received. 

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Cheyenne, Casper Teens Charged In July Murder Of 14-Year-Old

in News/Crime
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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Two teenagers have been charged as adults in the fatal shooting of a 14-year-old boy in July, the Cheyenne Police Department announced Friday.

Raymond Sanchez, 16, of Cheyenne, has been charged with first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit first-degree murder. Xavier Sanchez, 18, of Casper, has been charged with attempted second-degree murder and conspiracy to commit first-degree murder.

The two are charged in the death of Daniel Barlow, 14, in the early hours of July 5.

Around 1 a.m., July 5, Cheyenne police were dispatched to a residence to investigate a report of a gunshot. Upon arrival, they found Barlow with a gunshot wound to his chest. He was transported to Cheyenne Regional Medical Center by ambulance, where he was pronounced dead.

According to the department’s statement, Cheyenne detectives determined in July that Raymond and Xavier Sanchez acted together during the homicide.

Raymond was arrested July 10 on charges unrelated to the murder and was placed in custody. Xavier was arrested on July 15 in Casper on charges related to the homicide case.

Affidavits of probable cause were then forwarded to the Laramie County District Attorney.

Raymond Sanchez and Xavier Sanchez are now being held at the Laramie County Detention Center in Cheyenne. The date for their preliminary hearing is pending.

There was no indication from Cheyenne police of whether Raymond Sanchez and Xavier Sanchez are related.

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Man Walks Into Street, Hit By Vehicle In Cheyenne; 7th Fatality This Year

in News
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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A man was killed Sunday when he walked into a busy street in Cheyenne and was struck by a vehicle.

Around 5 p.m. Sunday, Cheyenne police responded to a vehicle incident involving a pedestrian on Lincolnway, one of the city’s busiest streets.

The preliminary investigation showed that a 62-year-old Cheyenne man attempted to cross East Lincolnway in an unlit area where there is no crosswalk.

While crossing, he walked into the path of an oncoming BMW sedan. The driver swerved, but was unable to avoid the collision.

The pedestrian sustained critical injuries and was pronounced dead at the scene.

Pedestrian impairment is being looked at as a factor in the collision. The driver was not injured and remained on-scene to assist officers.

There were no signs of driver impairment or excessive speed in the crash, but police continue to investigate.

This was the seventh pedestrian vs. car fatality this year in Cheyenne, Cheyenne Police Department spokeswoman Alex Farkas told Cowboy State Daily on Monday.

Last month, a teenage boy was killed after being struck by a car while walking to school in Cheyenne. No charges have yet been filed in this incident. More than $30,000 was raised for the boy’s family in the aftermath.

Two more boys were struck by a vehicle in Cheyenne just days later on their way to school, but only sustained minor injuries.

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Driver Abandons Car After Smashing Into Building; Leaves Wallet & Driver’s License in Vehicle

in News/Crime
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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

If there were a criminals’ handbook, you would think there could be a section on covering your tracks after committing a crime.

Sadly, for one individual in Cheyenne, there is no such handbook.

A yet-to-be-identified driver plowed into a Cheyenne building on Monday night and abandoned the vehicle. The only problem with that strategy is a wallet was left behind containing a drivers’ license.

The Cheyenne Police Department brought up the hit and run on Facebook Tuesday morning noting the presence of identification in the vehicle which was firmly ensconced in Needs, Inc., a Cheyenne food pantry.

“To the woman who felt compelled to donate her Subaru to Needs, inc. shortly after midnight, they’re no longer taking vehicle donations,” the department wrote.

“However, we do have your wallet and ID so feel free to come on back over and we can help you put together some of these puzzles you knocked off the shelves,” the post said.

The nonprofit organization seemed to take the collision in stride despite having to close down for the foreseeable future.

“Please remember our donation hours are Monday & Tuesday 8:30am-6pm and Wednesday & Thursday 8:30am-4pm. Unfortunately, we do not accept cars. We are truly grateful for the support of the Cheyenne Police Department,” the post read.

Of course, it could have been an elaborate set-up where someone stole the car and planted the ID. But that’s for the sleuths at the police department to figure out.

Needs, Inc. is the largest food pantry in Laramie County. The organization clothed more than 3,300 people in 2020.

By 5 a.m. Tuesday, Needs boards members and some other volunteers came out to the building to help clean up and board up the broken window.

Around $130 had been raised for Needs as of 10 a.m. Tuesday.

Anyone who saw the crash or has information about the driver’s whereabouts is encouraged to contact the police department at jmaule@cheyennepd.org.

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Homeless Man Run Over By Semi-Truck In Downtown Cheyenne

in News/Accident
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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A homeless man was killed Sunday afternoon when he was run over by a semi-truck, Cheyenne police said Monday.

Around 1:30 p.m. on Sunday, Cheyenne police responded to an incident in downtown Cheyenne in which a man had been run over by a semi. The preliminary investigation showed the man may have fallen asleep after crawling underneath the semi’s trailer.

When the driver returned and started the vehicle, the man underneath was run over by the rear wheels of the trailer as the truck pulled forward.

The victim was identified as Paul Griego, 55. He sustained life-threatening injuries and was declared dead at the scene.

Detectives believe the incident was an accident and are looking to identify and speak with the semi driver.

If anyone has information about the accident, contact CPD at 307-637-6521.

This is the second incident of a person being run over in Cheyenne occurring in less than a week. Last week, during Cheyenne Frontier Days, a man was run over at Frontier Park after he fell out of the bed of a truck he was exiting.

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Cheyenne Police Chief Not Going Quietly After Incoming Mayor Asks For Resignation

in News/brian kozak
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What’s going on with the Cheyenne Police Department is fascinating to watch.

It’s incredible, actually.

The incoming mayor has told Chief of Police Brian Kozak that he is going in another direction and will no longer need the chief’s services.

Instead of going quietly in the night, the chief — who has full support of the outgoing mayor — is using the time between the transition to build a case to stay.

Kozak is a popular figure in Cheyenne. Not only is he the longest serving police chief in the history of Cheyenne (10-plus years) but he has good statistics on his side.

Cheyenne is enjoying the lowest amount of property crime in the history of the city. This has happened while there has been cutbacks in the police department and the city has grown. It’s not an anomaly either. There has been a steady decrease.

After declining for two weeks to comment on his decision to let Kozak go, the incoming mayor Patrick Collins told the Wyoming Tribune Eagle that bad crime statistics were the main reason for his decision.

Kozak disputed every charge and explained why Collins’ conclusions are incorrect or the stats are not valid.

“The big question is why would he not go to the agency who can explain crime patterns within the city? I’m just really surprised that he wouldn’t come to me or anyone in the agency to explain the crime rates and why we might have differences in our city and in reporting,” the chief told the newspaper.

Putting that back-and-forth aside, Kozak is touting his successes not only in a letter that he wrote to the Cheyenne City Council which, of course, has been made public. But also in a video he shot and posted on the police department’s popular Facebook page.

It’s not just a popular Facebook page in Cheyenne. This Facebook page has received national attention — numerous times — because of the humorous nature of the posts

Kozak has a big, big megaphone.

And he’s using that megaphone to tout his successes and to instill a bit of fear in the community that if the future mayor moves too fast, there could be a significant departure in personnel.

“We have 15 employees eligible for retirement and another 7 will be eligible this year,” Kozak wrote to the city council.  “They are panicked and looking for other jobs. Others are looking to lateral to other agencies. Morale is the low, employees and the community are demanding a ‘time out’ to make sure the leadership transition is done fairly and professionally.”

Kozak is suggesting a 16-month transition period where he would work with his department on helping to find a qualified replacement.

To make this even more interesting, he says that after those 16 months, he will run for Laramie County Sheriff.  

Because the incoming mayor has no power for almost a full month, Kozak is taking full advantage of his “diplomatic immunity” (kind of like Lethal Weapon 2) and is doing whatever he wants.

He announced on Tuesday that he is releasing a four-part video series on the Facebook page on the “overwhelming community support” his department enjoys in Cheyenne.

In the first installment, he said that the department conducted an internal poll and 100% of the respondents said the department is going in the right direction.

“One-hundred percent of our employees said the police department is going in the right direction and doing the right things,” he said in the video. 

Then he started talking about the community engagement programs that he launched as chief of police.

“We have the ‘Police and Community together [program]’, we have the Citizens Advisory Committee, we have the ‘Neighborhood Night Out,’ he said.

Quoting Sir Robert Peel, who is known as the father of modern policing, Kozak mentioned Peel said that use of force had to be approved by the community.

“That is why we put community members on our use-of-force board,” Kozak said.

“Number one tip in leadership for a police department is service before self.The community comes first. We are doing this job to serve the community. Always engage the community and ask questions before you make changes to the police department before the changes occur to get the public’s buy-in,” he said.

Based on the vitriol that Collins has toward Kozak — as evidenced in Tuesday’s Wyoming Tribune Eagle — the future mayor is not going to change his mind.

What Kozak is doing, however, is building a case with the public for an upcoming run for sheriff. And he’s doing so on that popular Facebook page.

It’s a fascinating strategy for Kozak. There is little downside to what he’s doing because he’s so popular in the community.

For those unfamiliar with him, you might think — by these actions — that he’s a huge egomaniac. Actually, he’s just the opposite. 

He’s a humble, soft-spoken person who is well-liked. 

What he is doing is unconventional to put it mildly and should be very entertaining for the next month — not to mention his forthcoming run for sheriff.

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Woman Stabbed Multiple Times; Cheyenne Man To Be Charged With Attempted Murder After

in News/Crime
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A Cheyenne man was arrested on Sunday morning after allegedly stabbing a woman multiple times at a local residence.

According to a statement from the Cheyenne Police Department, Anthony Brassard, 29, faces charges of attempted murder in connection with the incident.

At 3:40 a.m. Sunday, the Cheyenne Police Department’s SWAT team was called to the residence for a domestic violence call where they found a woman who had been stabbed.

The police department said she was transported to the Cheyenne Regional Medical Center where she is listed in serious condition.

Brassard barricaded himself in a bedroom and was unresponsive to the SWAT Crisis Negotiation Team, the statement said.

According to the police department’s Facebook post, the suspect “put on a tactical vest and refused to negotiate.”

“SWAT introduced gas and took the suspect in custody without incident,” the post reads.

The police department is collecting evidence at the scene and is not expected to update the story until Monday.

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Controversial hiring freeze for Cheyenne scrapped

in Economic development/News/Criminal justice
Downtown Development Authority
1473

By James Chilton, Cowboy State Daily

CHEYENNE – A controversial proposal to enact a temporary hiring freeze in the city’s $56 million budget for Fiscal Year 2020 was eliminated upon third and final reading before the Cheyenne City Council’s Committee of the Whole on Wednesday evening.

The hiring freeze, which had been proposed by Councilman Dicky Shanor as part of a larger amendment that was approved unanimously the previous week, sparked criticism on social media from Cheyenne Police Chief Brian Kozak. Kozak contended that a hiring freeze would leave CPD understaffed by more than two dozen officers, which would in turn require CPD to suspend previously scheduled training and reassign the public information officer and half of the department’s school resources officers to the patrol division in order to maintain general public safety.

Shanor said in interviews he was concerned with “the politicization of law enforcement” he felt was evidenced by Kozak’s statement, which singled out Shanor by name. That prompted Mayor Marian Orr to defend the chief, characterizing his statements as advocacy for the public’s right to know how a hiring freeze could impact their safety.

Despite the rancor, however, Wednesday’s Committee of the Whole meeting – the nine councilmen minus the mayor – was relatively quick and quiet, as was the decision to scrap the hiring freeze altogether via an amendment. Even so, Council President Rocky Case noted early on that the large public turnout he and other council members expected as a result of the hiring freeze debate had not materialized. Only two members of the public chose to speak, including Stephanie Lowe, president of the Cheyenne Public Employees Association, who asked the committee to reconsider its recommendation to cap the total number of city employees for fiscal year 2020 at 578.1 positions, and instead give department directors the leeway to hire as needed, provided they have the budget and data to support each position.

“Staff have created a great plan for the city and I’m concerned about crippling departments that may prevent important work from getting done,” Lowe said. “Let’s not all forget the growing size of our community, which needs a growing workforce to keep up with maintenance at the least, but also to keep attracting new businesses and residents to work here.”

But with the hiring freeze lifted, committee members opted to leave the employee cap in place. Instead, a portion of the funds that would have been saved by the hiring freeze will instead be made up through $100,000 in reversions – budgeted funds that go unspent and return to city reserves – anticipated  at the end of FY 2019.

Committee members also heard from local physician Dr. Jasper “J.J.” Chen, who argued against cutting funds from the Cheyenne Downtown Development Authority, suggesting that the city instead define clear outcomes it wants to see from the DDA, then track its progress to determine future funding.

“We should do this instead of making the more dramatic and drastic decisions to take away a substantial portion of the DDA’s funding without empirical data justifying doing so,” Chen said. 

Mayor Orr’s initial budget proposal allocated just $100,000 for the DDA, down from $390,000 this year and $450,499 the previous fiscal year. But once amendment markups were concluded Wednesday, the DDA was ultimately budgeted for $290,000 for FY 2020, while the Cheyenne Animal Shelter will receive an additional $107,500, for a total budget of $612,500.

Committee members also rejected an amendment proposed by Ward III Councilman Ken Esquibel that would have cut Cheyenne’s $50,000 annual membership in the Wyoming Association of Municipalities. Esquibel argued that, with a citizen legislature only in session a maximum of 60 days in a year, WAM’s lobbying efforts were costing Cheyenne $1,666 per day, even as local legislators generally vote in the city’s interests. 

“We’re basically throwing $50,000 into the wind,” he said. 

Committee member Mark Rinne pointed out that Mayor Orr is going to be on the Resolutions Committee for WAM this year, and that the organization recently gained a new director in J. David Fraser.

He added that council members had previously discussed the need to participate in more WAM events, and Esquibel’s amendment ultimately failed, with Esquibel himself the only affirmative vote.

With Wednesday’s amendments thus dispensed with, the latest incarnation of the city’s FY 2020 budget will come before the full City Council for final approval at 6 p.m. Monday, June 10.

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