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Downtown Laramie Evacuated After Man Said He Planted Bombs And Was Going To Shoot People

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Photo by Matt Idler
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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

An anonymous man who claimed to be armed with a large rifle announced he had planted bombs in downtown Laramie on Tuesday forcing evacuation of downtown Laramie.

But local police believe the suspect was involved in a bad prank.

Downtown Laramie was evacuated on Tuesday evening after a man called police dispatch around 5 p.m., claiming he was armed with a large rifle and was wanting to shoot people at a business downtown, according to Laramie Police Department spokesman Lt. Ryan Thompson.

The suspect also claimed to have planted an explosive device in a vehicle in the area. Officers responded and secured the area, evacuating several businesses and residences.

Bomb technicians responded and cleared the suspected vehicle, finding no evidence of any threats. The vehicle which was alleged to have the explosive device was not related to the suspect in any way.

Thompson told Cowboy State Daily on Wednesday that he did not believe the suspect even lived in Wyoming and was just doing the prank to see how police would respond.

“It could be someone trying to gauge our response to try and carry something similar out in the future, but I get the feeling this is more of a prank,” Thompson said. “It’s somebody that needs something to do, unfortunately.”

It took about two hours to clear the scene on Tuesday.

Thompson defined this incident as “swatting,” a criminal harassment tactic of deceiving an emergency service into sending police or emergency services to another person’s address, most often with a false report of a serious emergency such as a murder, hostage situation or mental health emergency.

Swatting is considered a terroristic threat in Wyoming and is a felony punishable by up to three years in prison.

Thompson said this is not the first time the police department has encountered swatting, but said this incident was more serious, as it included a bomb threat.

Anyone with information related to this crime is encouraged to call CrimeStoppers at 307-742-2273. They could earn a cash reward of up to $1,000 and do not have to give their name. All information is kept strictly confidential.

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UW Astronomer: Get Up Early To See Rare Five-Planet Alignment On Friday

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A University of Wyoming astronomer is recommending following the old adage of “early to bed, early to rise” on Friday, as there will be a rare five-planet alignment that morning.

Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn will align on Friday morning, just before sunrise. This is a rare event, occurring only once every 18 years, and will not happen again until 2040.

“Get up early, before sunrise, and look to the east for the rising planets,” UW planetarium coordinator Max Gilbraith told Cowboy State Daily on Wednesday. “If the weather is clear the alignment should be unmistakable.”

As sunrise times are not uniform in Wyoming, check to see when it occurs in your area and get up beforehand. It ranges from 5:19 a.m. in Gillette to 5:21 a.m. in Sheridan to 5:26 a.m. in Cheyenne to 5:35 a.m. in Riverton to 5:42 a.m. in Jackson to 5:52 a.m. in Evanston, and all points in between.

Weather

Weather conditions in certain parts of the state, stretching from Cheyenne to Casper to Worland, will be sunny on Friday morning with a possibility of rain showers and storms in the afternoon, according to the National Weather Service.

Other parts, such as Cody and Gillette, are expected to have rain early Friday, which could affect the visibility of the planet alignment.

According to science outlet Live Science, the “alignment” of the planets is actually a trick of perspective and that the planets aren’t actually in a straight line in space. The planets orbit the sun on a flat plane and when they pass close enough to each other, it appears from Earth that they have aligned.

The outlet also reported that the planetary line will be in the order of the planets’ distance from the sun. 

Mercury circles the sun every 88 Earth days, Venus every 225 days, Mars every 687 days, Jupiter every 12 years and Saturn every 29 years.

What About Uranus?

The eight planets will never fully align, because not all of them are on parallel orbital paths and some of the orbits are tilted compared to others, according to news outlet WUSA9.

However, it is possible that people of Earth can sometimes see all seven planets in the same night sky, although it won’t happen in the next few lifetimes. Science Focus reported that the last time it occurred was in 949.

The next time it will occur will be May 6, 2492. This date could change if astronomers discover another planet. It should be noted that Pluto is no longer considered a planet.

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$50K Worth Of Copper Stolen From Sheridan College

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

About $50,000 worth of copper construction materials was stolen on Sunday from the Sheridan College campus, a Sheridan Police spokesman told Cowboy State Daily on Monday.

On Sunday afternoon, Sheridan police investigated a reported theft and determined a 26 foot double-axel enclosed trailer belonging to Powder River Heating and Cooling had been stolen, along with the materials inside.

The suspect forced their way onto the job site by cutting the locks on a gate, according to department spokesman Captain Tom Ringley.

“This would be industrial-level stuff, which is what we usually see when we do have copper thefts in Sheridan, which is not that often,” Ringley said. “This is the first one we’ve seen in several years.”

Police currently have no description of the thief or thieves.

The trailer was recovered Monday morning at another location on campus, but the construction materials inside were gone. The estimated value of the copper materials is at least $50,000.

Ringley said that copper thieves will usually take their stolen goods to scrap metal dealers or recyclers, hoping to score big money for their wares. As of Monday, the price of copper was $4.36 per pound.

The Sheridan Police Department has been in touch with neighboring cities and metal recyclers, asking them to be on the lookout for large amounts of copper construction materials coming through.

Copper thefts are common, but according to the FBI, copper thieves threaten the nation’s infrastructure.

The FBI said that copper thefts disrupt the flow of electricity, telecommunications, transportation, water supply, heating, security and emergency services and present a risk to both public safety and national security.

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News Organizations Around The Country Wrongly Report Woman Killed By Bison In Yellowstone

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A national news outlet caused a landslide of false reporting across the globe on Wednesday when it erroneously reported that a woman was killed in Yellowstone on Monday by a bison goring.

NBC’s breaking news reporter, Tim Stelloh, proclaimed the death of the woman in his story entitled “Yellowstone Visitor Dies After Bison Gores Her, Tosses Her 10 Feet.” The report credited park officials when attributing information about her death.

Instead of independently confirming the death, dozens of news outlets also reported the false conclusion including The Associated Press, USA Today, The Guardian, The Today Show, and numerous other national organizations.



Here in the Cowboy State, Oil City News and Sweetwater Now republished the false story, crediting NBC News for the information.



An Ohio woman was, in fact, gored by a bison in Yellowstone National Park on Monday and while she was injured, she did not die from her wounds, an Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center spokeswoman told Cowboy State Daily on Wednesday.

“Our hospital has had no recent patient death as a result of the injuries being described in the NBC report,” Coleen Niemann said.

Twelve hours after publishing the erroneous account, NBC corrected its original story.



“A previous version of this article misstated the severity of the woman’s injuries. She survived being gored by a bison at Yellowstone. She was not killed,” a correction on the NBC News article said as of 10:30 a.m. Wednesday.

Cowboy State Daily editor Jimmy Orr said his staff expressed caution about reporting the death because it couldn’t confirm it.

“It was an odd story because the NBC reporter didn’t attribute the death to any organization,” Orr said. “That gave us a red light. We held back.”

Orr said he reached out to the NBC reporter at 3:32am to ask about his source for the story.



“Hey Tim, I noticed your story said the woman who was gored by a bison in Yellowstone has died,” Orr’s email read. “Can I ask you where you got that information? We never got it and we’re right here.”

Stelloh never responded to the email.

“This is a perfect example of what not to do in journalism,” Orr said. “The rush to be first can bite you. Frankly I’m surprised that this report was so quickly mimicked. It’s embarrassing to say the least.”

The 25-year-old woman from Grove City, Ohio, approached to within 10 feet of a bison on Monday morning, officials said. Two other people were also within 25 yards of the same bison.

As the bison walked near a boardwalk at Black Sand Basin, just north of Old Faithful, the woman approached the animal. The bison gored her and tossed her 10 feet into the air.

The woman sustained a puncture wound and other injuries that were not immediately specified.

This is the first bison goring of 2022 in the park, but park officials noted Yellowstone bison have injured more people in the park than any other animal.

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Mexican Restaurant Says Taco John’s Isn’t Real Mexican Food In Trademark Dispute

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Taco John’s does not sell authentic Mexican food, so it cannot be confused for an authentic Mexican restaurant with an arguably similar name, the law firm for a Minnesota restaurant argued in federal court.

The comments were included in a response to a lawsuit in U.S. District Court alleging trademark violations filed by Taco John’s against Minnesota’s Taco Chon.

In April, Taco John’s International, Inc. and Spicy Seasonings LLC sued Taco Chon, accusing owner Juan Ramos of infringing on Taco John’s trademark of its name.

But Ramos’ attorney argued in a response dated May 16 that while Taco John’s does have a federal trademark on its name, it was a “misnomer” that the company could enforce the trademark “with a broad paint brush.”

“Taco Chon Mexican Grill was created through the unique and personal experiences of Juan Ramos by dedicating the entire existence of his restaurants in honor of his father and his life in Jalisco, Mexico,” the response said.

The attorney also claimed Taco John’s was using its financial resources to bully small business owners and using the lawsuit to destroy the American dream.

Taco John’s, in a statement sent to Cowboy State Daily on Wednesday, told Cowboy State Daily that Taco Chon’s response had no factual or legal basis for its arguments when the only issue at hand was the use of a trademark that closely resembles the trademark the Cheyenne-based restaurant has been using for 50 years.

“We have great respect for every person working hard to achieve their version of the American Dream. This includes dozens of Taco John’s franchisees, most of whom are small business owners themselves,” the statement said. “We have an important obligation to them to protect the Taco John’s name and to not allow others to use facsimiles of it. As we have said from the beginning, we take no joy in enforcing our trademark rights against any small business owner and do so only after other options have been exhausted.”

Taco John’s accused Ramos of opening two quick-service Mexican cuisine restaurants similar to Taco John’s under the name “Taco Chon” within 5 miles of Taco John’s restaurants in Minnesota, which is “likely to cause confusion, mistake or deception.”

Taco Chon has locations in St. Cloud, Minnesota, which is just over 1 mile away from a Taco John’s, and Burnsville, Minnesota, which is 4 miles away from a Taco John’s franchise.

Ramos’ attorney argued that Taco John’s “West Mex” could never be confused for authentic Mexican cuisine, which is what Ramos serves at his restaurants. He added that Taco Chon was not a fast food restaurant like Taco John’s, but a Mexican grill that offers sit-down dining experiences and alcoholic beverages.

Ramos’ attorney asked for damages from Taco John’s in a sum of at least $150,000 to compensate Ramos for all monetary and/or economic harm, along with non-monetary harm, resulting from the lawsuit, citing Ramos’ depression and anxiety stemming from the case.

Taco John’s is no stranger to filing lawsuits to protect its trademarks.

The company has sent “cease and desist” letters to other restaurants over their use of the slogan “Taco Tuesday,” which it trademarked in 1989.

In 2006, Taco John International sued Taco Del Mar, alleging one of its restaurants in Colorado used the slogan to advertise its Tuesday specials.

The lawsuit was dismissed at the request of all parties three months after it was filed.

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Former Attorney General Says Firing Of Pinedale Teacher ‘Disturbing’ Since No Due Process

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A former Wyoming Attorney General is questioning the legality of a school board’s decision to fire a teacher because he was featured in a child predator “sting” operation.

Gay Woodhouse, who served as Wyoming’s Attorney General from 1998 – 2001, said she also questioned whether the activities of the producers of the YouTube channel “People v. Preds” were proper.

David Shaw was fired by the Sublette County School District No. 1 board of trustees last week after the channel’s operators, who have remained anonymous, posted a video showing a man who appeared to be Shaw involved in a confrontation with a man filming him.

The man filming Shaw said they had been exchanging messages on Grindr, a dating app for gay men. The man filming said he had posed as a 14-year-old boy to engage Shaw in discussion. He then said Shaw arranged for the two to meet in the parking lot of a drug store in San Diego.

Much of the video focuses on Shaw being followed by the man with the camera, who accuses Shaw of being a child molester.

Woodhouse, who is now partner in the Cheyenne firm Woodhouse, Roden, Ames & Brennan, told Cowboy State Daily on Wednesday that while she understood the allegations against Shaw were serious, they were also just allegations.

“Normally in the process of termination, you would give somebody their due process, which usually means you’re placed on administrative leave while they conduct an independent investigation,” she said.

Shaw has not been arrested for any crime, but he is being investigated by the San Diego Police Department.

SCSD1 administrators were notified of the video on April 11 and Shaw was fired just days later.

The attorney would not speculate on whether Shaw gave a confession to SCSD1 administrators, leading to his firing, but she did note that even people who confess during police investigations are still allowed a trial by jury.

“Sometimes people do confess, even if they’re not guilty, but it doesn’t relieve everyone else of their duty to allow for due process to occur for him,” Woodhouse said.

Woodhouse said it was “worrisome” that Shaw could be accused of something so heinous with only loose evidence tying him to a crime, and that people readily believed the allegations against him without any “real verification.”

In the event that Shaw is cleared of any wrongdoing, Woodhouse said he could theoretically sue the producers behind “People v. Preds” for defamation per se, but the host’s anonymity makes this difficult to do so.

While one of the “People v. Preds” volunteers told Cowboy State Daily last week they are not vigilantes, Woodhouse was not so certain of this.

“It is certainly people who are not in a government position to make a determination about whether or not somebody committed a crime just undertaking their own investigation, without any type of real responsibility or accountability for their actions,” she said.

As of Wednesday, the “People v. Preds” episode allegedly featuring Shaw has garnered more than 43,000 views. The channel has around 51,500 subscribers.

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Laramie County Deputy Released From Hospital After Deadly Weekend Shooting

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

The Laramie County Sheriff’s deputy who was wounded in a fatal shootout over the weekend was released from the hospital on Wednesday, sheriff’s officials announced.

The unidentified deputy was discharged from Cheyenne Regional Medical Center on Wednesday and is now resting at home.

“His recovery period is expected to last several months,” sheriff’s officials said.

Laramie County Sheriff’s Capt. Kevin James told Cowboy State Daily on Wednesday that while he still could not release where the deputy was wounded, he did note that the officer received multiple injuries, including gunshot, in the situation over the weekend.

“We’re hopeful he will make a full recovery, but it’s unknown at this time whether he’ll return to full duty,” he said.

James said that despite the situation, the department employees’ main focus continued to be well-being of all of its first responders. He commended the paramedics, emergency dispatchers and Cheyenne police officers who assisted in the shooting over the weekend.

He added that the department has not seen an officer be shot in a situation with a suspect since 2011.

“We’re grateful this type of thing doesn’t happen every day, but obviously, it’s a reality,” James said.

The deputy was shot while exchanging gunfire with a robbery suspect in northern Cheyenne on Saturday.

The suspect, 31-year-old Rance Tillman, was first contacted at Cahill Park in north Cheyenne after the deputy responded to a call of a robbery at Laramie County Community College.

The deputy chased Tillman in a slow-speed pursuit that ended about one-half mile north in the Miles Court neighborhood in north Cheyenne, where the shootout occurred.

Tillman, a Cheyenne resident, was killed during the exchange of gunfire.

Since the Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigation is investigating the shooting, Hollingshead said the DCI will decide when to announce the identities of both the deputy and the suspect. The investigation is expected to take six to eight weeks.

Other law enforcement agencies from across the state offered their support over the weekend after the deputy was shot.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with our brothers and sisters at Laramie County Sheriff’s Office and those involved in yesterday’s tragedy in Cheyenne,” said Sweetwater County Sheriff Sheriff John Grossnickle. “We have to continue to work together as friends and neighbors to ensure things like this never become an everyday headline here in Wyoming.”

“Help us send good vibes to this deputy from a fellow agency in Laramie County! Prayers for them and their family, both blood and blue,” the Douglas Police Department wrote.

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After Decade Of Decline, People in Wyoming Starting To Get Married Again

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Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images
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By Clair McFarland, Cowboy State Daily

Marriage in Wyoming has been on the decline almost every year for the past decade – until recently.  

Wyoming saw a slight uptick in marriages in 2021 after a decade-long fall, according to preliminary data from the Department of Health.  

Statewide, marriages climbed by 7% from 2020, growing from 3,980 to 4,265 in 2021. 

The 2020 figure was a decline of about 12% from from a decade ago, when 4,513 people married in Wyoming in 2012.  

The increase in marriages in 2021 was larger from a percentage standpoint than the gain in the state’s population during the same period — 0.3%.

Can’t Be ‘Happy All the Time’ 

Opinions on the reason for the increase — and the value of marriage itself — varied among those contacted by Cowboy State Daily.

The increase may be due to the fact people are seeking more stability after the pandemic upheaval of 2020, said Lael Noonan, a bachelor’s degree program director in Riverton who has been married for nearly 11 years.  

“Maybe people want more stability after such a scary thing and they’ve decided to make a commitment,” said Noonan.  

Chris and Lael Noonan, from Riverton, have been married for 11 years

But the downward trend in marriages both statewide and nationwide over the past decade, she speculated, goes a lot deeper.  

“People don’t necessarily consider that level of commitment binding anymore,” said Noonan, citing generational cynicism. “But I also think that on a deeper level, this whole cultural phrase that ‘Everybody has the right to be happy’ has become an entitlement piece.” 

She said that when people expect constant happiness from a marriage, that relationship is likely to fail.  

“Happiness is an emotion,” Noonan said. “You don’t have the right or the ability to experience it all the time.” 

Commitment, she added, is the real framework for marital success.  

“The butterflies and the ups and downs – all that is lovely,” she said. “But what’s really great is (when) that person knows you so well they can look at you from across the room and know it’s time to go home, and you didn’t have to say a word.” 

Noonan and her husband Chris married at the age of 39 after being childhood acquaintances at Wind River Elementary School in Pavillion. 

The two were never close, but reconnected after Noonan finished what she called her “gypsy” phase, filled with travel, independence, and “(learning) a great deal about myself.”  

A hobbyist writer and a novelist, Noonan encountered Chris again when they were both in their late 30s.

‘Archaic’ 

Jon Gerard, however, sees few advantages to marriage.  

A public defender and a bachelor in Lander, Gerard said that marriage during the medieval era devolved into “essentially a financial agreement,” and now appears “antiquated.”  

“When people split up, (marriage) just creates enormous complications,” he said, adding that “Nowadays people don’t spend their entire lives with just one other person.”  

Jon Gerard, a public defender and bachelor from Lander

Gerard has never been married, in part because he doesn’t want to have children, but he “came close once” in his late 20s, about a decade ago.  

“It was one of those where we were either going to take this further or part ways,” he said. “We’re still really good friends.”  

It isn’t always a deal-breaker when Gerard tells women he’s not interested in marriage.  

“I’m very up-front about it,” he said. “When people are dating, they don’t go into it just expecting to get married, although Wyoming is a little different on that.”  

Gerard speculated that the downward trend in marriages – both at the state and national level – of the past decade could be because people regard the institution as less important.   

He also said unmarried couples living together is seen as less socially taboo than in ages past, and that people may be deterred by the divorce rate, which is roughly 50%.  

“I think there’s just a changing opinion of how important it is,” said Gerard. “It’s not for everyone.”  

If there is an advantage to marriage, said Gerard, it’s that it provides “incentives to work things out, rather than just split up.”  

The Plunge 

Wyoming’s downward marriage trend through 2020 matched national patterns, but the state’s marriage rates have been consistently higher than the national figures.  

Nationally, about 5.1 people per 1,000 married in 2020, for a total of about 1.7 million marriages. The rate was 6.8 per 1,000 in 2012, totaling 2.1 million.  

In Wyoming, the marriage rate was 7.6 per 1,000 in 2012, and 6.8 per 1,000 in 2020. The state’s marriage rate in 2020 put it in eighth place nationally. Nevada ranked first at 21 per 1,000. California came in last place, at 3.2. Tennessee led Wyoming at 7.3 and Colorado trailed it, at 6.7.   

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29K Wyomingites’ Data Exposed On Dark Web; Cyber Wyoming Warns Of Risks

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Wyoming residents whose personal information may have been exposed in a T-Mobile data breach are being advised to change the passwords for their telephone accounts by the leader of a Wyoming group working to reduce cyber crime.

Laura Baker, executive director of Cyber Wyoming told Cowboy State Daily on Friday that the information leaked to the “dark web” could allow leave cell phone accounts vulnerable to being taken over by thieves or “Sim swapping.”

“SIM swapping is when the bad actors call your cell phone carrier pretending to be you,” she said. “They impersonate you with breached information like the T-Mobile personally identifiable information and they combine it with social media information that they found about you online.

“When they contact your phone carrier they say that they broke or lost the old phone and need to register a new one,” she continued. “If successful, they will now get all your texts, which includes the texts you get with codes verifying who you are.”

Nearly 30,000 Wyoming residents were among 53 million current, former and prospective T-Mobile clients affected by the August data breach.

Wyoming Attorney General Bridget Hill’s office said this week that a large amount of the information obtained in the breach was discovered for sale on the dark web, a hidden portion of the Internet where criminals buy, sell and track personal information.

Baker advised anyone affected by the breach to go into their phone carrier account, change their password to something difficult that they have never used before and use any two-factor authentication the carrier recommends.

“Some people even have a super secret email address that they only use for validation of this type, instead of using their phone,” Baker said. “Others use a Google Voice phone number so their real cell phone number isn’t published and they can use anonymity to their benefit. Others use password management software.”

She added there are many creative ways people can protect themselves online, but noted that one of the most important factors is to highly secure phone carrier account with the maximum security controls possible.

“Think of it like your bank account,” she said.

Hill also suggested anyone affected by the breach consider placing a free credit freeze on their credit report and to place a fraud alert on their credit report.

The 21-year-old hacker who claimed responsibility for the data breach told the Wall Street Journal last fall that T-Mobile had unprotected routers and that weak spots in the company’s internet addresses that gave him access to over 100 servers.

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Popcorn Trailer Explodes in Gillette Due to Propane Leak

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By Jennifer Kocher, Cowboy State Daily

A popcorn food trailer was destroyed Thursday when an explosion — a bit more vigorous than what is usually associated with the crunchy treat — resulted from a propane leak.

The Krazy Kid Kettle Korn food trailer, which was parked in the lot of the EZ Too Auto Wash on East Boxelder Road in Gillette, blew into pieces when an electric space heater ignited the leaked propane, causing an explosion around 3:30 p.m. Thursday that was heard as far as a mile away.

According to Campbell County Fire Marshal Eric Acton, the blast was consistent with explosions of this kind. 

“It’s really common,” he said. “We’re lucky that the (propane) tank itself didn’t explode.”

No one was injured in the explosion, Acton said, and the resulting small fire was put out with an extinguisher.

One diner at Frida’s House of Mexican Food on Camel Drive about one-half mile from the explosion heard a loud bang and said that both customers and staff went out into the parking lot to see what was going on.

Another witness in the Indian Hill condominiums a few blocks from Frida’s said his sliding glass door was rattled by the force of the boom.

There’s no word on how much popcorn was lost or whether any kernels were burnt as a result of the blast.

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Gillette Mayor Resigns Following Leaked Text Controversy

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Gillette’s mayor resigned late Thursday, almost one week after the leaking of a number of text messages she sent to the city’s former administrator calling city council members idiots, among other things.

Louise Carter-King resigned her position effective immediately Thursday night.

“It is with a heavy heart that I announce my resignation as the Mayor of the City of Gillette,” Carter-King said. “I want to thank [City Council] and the many outstanding staff members who I’ve had the pleasure of working with over the years. I am proud to have served the City of Gillette for nearly 30 years.

“I am so proud of what our community has accomplished, particularly the construction of the beautiful campus and most recently, the passage of an independent Gillette College. I look forward to what you will accomplish going forward. I know you will continue to make sure that Gillette remains the greatest city in Wyoming,” she wrote.

This week, Carter-King took to social media to apologize to her constituents and explained that on Dec. 31, a number of her text messages she sent to former City Administrator Patrick Davidson were emailed by Davidson to the city council, the Gillette city clerk and an “unknown number of other individuals.”

After Davidson’s release, Carter-King released nearly 500 pages of unredacted texts between her and Davidson to the public.

Many of the messages target Gillette Councilman Shay Lundvall, with one message calling him a “bumbling idiot”.

“Idiot” appeared to be one of her favorite descriptives. She also called an official from Riverton the same thing during a Wyoming Association of Municipalities meeting. “Riverton is led by an idiot,” she said.

Carter-King did not appear to be impressed by the candidates for an empty city council seat as she bashed the finalists — Troy McKeown, Jeff Raney, and Colleen Faber.

“McKeown, Raney, and (Elgin Faber’s) wife. Monkeys think if they can’t get the guy they will get his wife,” Carter-King wrote Davidson. “Every seat was filled. We have to fumigate the chambers and I want a new chair. (Vikki Kissack) ruined mine I’m sure.”

“That’s funny,” Davidson replied. “I’ll get it cleaned up.”

“Thanks, or trade mine out with Shay’s,” Carter-King continued. “It’s hard to believe those freaks live and breath here. Wow. (Robert Palmer) was clearly the most qualified but that doesn’t matter to them.”

She also poked fun at Councilman Tim Carsrud’s religious beliefs and said Councilman Billy Montgomery could be manipulated to agree with her.

One message to Davidson in January 2020 was about Carsrud considering a run for the Campbell County Board of Commissioners.

“Surely he’s kidding. He would have to go to meetings,” Carter-King wrote in the text.

That same day, the two discussed a presentation Lundvall recently gave, where Davidson alleged that the councilman copied and pasted goals from the city of Lakewood, Washington and passed it off as his own.

Another message from Davidson to the mayor was about Lundvall wanting a phone call with him, which Carter-King apologized for.

“You should get hazard pay,” she joked.

In her resignation letter, Carter-King said she knew she would have to have “difficult” conversations with the city council members and others who might have been impacted by her texts, which she has had in the last several days.

“It was never my intention to hurt anyone, but I recognize that I have hurt people and damaged relationships,” Carter-King wrote in her resignation letter. “I believe that it is in the best interest in the City for me to step down from my position.”

Carter-King was first elected to the Gillette City Council in 1990 and served five terms in the position. She took office as mayor in 2015 and was re-elected in 2018.

“We on the Council would like to thank Louise for her longtime service to the citizens of Gillette. She has been a force within our community for so many years. Her passion and experience will be missed,” said Council President Nathan McLeland. “We wish her all the best.”

The process to select Carter-King’s mayoral replacement will begin soon.

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11-Year-Old Wyoming Boy Writes Farewell Book As He Enters Hospice

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By Jennifer Kocher, Cowboy State Daily

Triton Fritz is one tough editor. The 11-year-old wants to get this book just right. 

In some ways, it’s the story of his life. In others, his legacy.

Just over one week ago, the Hudson boy went into hospice care. After five years of fighting cancer, his body has thrown in the towel. 

He’s had more than a dozen surgeries and at least three rounds of radiation treatments which are now no longer are helping. Doctors have exhausted all their avenues to get his rare Rhabdomyosarcoma under control. There’s no cure to this type of replicating cancer cells that seemed to come back every December.

But this year was different. Triton’s family is preparing to say goodbye to the fighter who has literally given it his all. 

The Brave Adventures of Triton Tough

Of the seven children in the country who have been diagnosed with his particular type of cancer, only two are still alive. Him, identified in medical literature as No. 4, and No. 7. The disease is so rare that its victims are identified by numbers. 

The book commanding Triton’s attention, “The Brave Adventures of Triton Tough: A Graphic Novel for Cancer Warriors,” is his story. Not so much to immortalize his life as to provide a resource for other children and families.

The idea for the book, according to Triton’s mother Jessica, started germinating five years ago when Triton was first diagnosed with cancer. At that time, the choices of books dealing with childhood cancer were pretty limited, she said. Either they were too scientific and boring or too patronizing to children. 

Triton wanted to share the reality of his experience in way that was much less boring but nonetheless realistic. Luckily for him, he comes from a talented family.

His aunt Jackie Dorothy, an author, wrote the book with his other aunt Julia Dorothy providing the illustrations. All material came either directly from Triton or from Julia’s visits to the hospital and doctors’ offices with Triton. They chose the graphic novel format to appeal to all ages.

After its completion, the book underwent several edits which Triton finally signed off on, just in time to see its publication. 

Focus on Blessings



Right now, Triton is sleeping pretty much all the time, Jessica said, waking up just long enough to sign the stack of books his aunt left for him.

The family is taking consolation in the fact that Triton got to hold a copy of the book in his hand before he dies.  

It’s a small consolation, Jessica noted, but at this point, they’ll take what they can get. She and the family are focusing on the blessings.

Among those are the fact that Triton’s illness brought them all together as a family at a time in their lives when they were coming and going, all busy with their own individual lives. 

Triton’s father Daniel had been going to school and working several jobs trying to become a journeyman electrician. Jessica, meanwhile, had been putting in long hours and lots of overtime at her job at a casino to try to save money to open her own bakery. 

His siblings, older brother Titus, younger brother Derek and sister Emma, had been busy with their own activities in school.

Shared Mission



When Triton was diagnosed with cancer at age 6, the family dropped everything and coalesced around the shared mission of saving his life. 

When his cancer continued to get worse – save for periods of respite provided by a few operations along the way – the family decided to take the bull by the horns and go enjoy life.

This meant a trip to Disneyland in which Triton rode his first roller coaster. Prior to that experience, he’d been too timid to risk it. After that first ride, however, he was hooked.

This past summer he even went on a zipline, which shocked his mother and encouraged younger brother Derek to also give it a try. Jessica had a hard time recognizing her son in that moment. Prior to these outings, he’d been more of a homebody. Now, he was intent on living big.

What’s the worst thing that could happen to him? He could die, Triton joked. 

It was a somewhat morbid message, Jessica admitted, but realistically, he’d earned the right to say it. 

Sometimes laughter – dark humor and all – is all you get. 

Laugh. Live. Be Kind

This is Triton’s message to the world, Jessica said. Laugh. Live. Be kind.

“He’s not concerned with the world remembering him,” Jessica said, “but he wants people to know what truly matters.”

He’s seen parents and families taking the grief of their children’s illness out on each other in screaming matches outside hospital rooms and emergency rooms. He’s seen those same families wringing their hands in grief at their loss.

These encounters, as well as his own experience, have given Triton a sense of empathy he likely would otherwise never have, she said. She recounted the time that Triton watched a young girl come unglued when it was time to get her “ink tattoos,” marks injected in the skin for radiography. 

She was inconsolable that the doctor wanted to stab her with pins until Triton walked over and lifted up his shirt to show his own marks on his stomach.

“You know what,” he told her, “the tattoos are super cool.”

Hearing this from someone her own age did the trick. She acquiesced, and the next time Triton saw her, she came over to show off her own marks.

It makes a big difference when children can share their experiences and help one another, Jessica said, which is exactly the purpose of Triton’s book. When enough money has been made from sales, Triton has asked his parents and aunts to use the proceeds to print more copies and donate them to doctors’ offices and hospitals all over the country.

Books were Triton’s saving grace on many occasions, Jessica said, and he’s hoping to share as many as he can with other children and families.



Life Isn’t Fair

For now, the family has gone from taking life one day at a time to taking it one moment at a time as they relish their final hours with Triton, appreciating the fact that their little boy is no longer in the extreme pain he suffered at various times throughout his years of fighting cancer.

For the family, Triton is the little hero who continues to inspire them with his good will.

Starting with his little brother. Jessica recently overheard Derek telling Triton that he wished it was him who had cancer and was sick to which Triton replied, he’s not. He was glad it was him because he’s older.

He’s ready, he told his family, and likes thinking about all the people who have written him letters and reached out in other ways, such as Pastor Philip Taylor, who drove from Texas to pray with Triton, only to learn after his return to Texas that he had cancer. He died six months later. 

Life isn’t fair, as Triton’s parents have explained to him. He understands this better than most people and the only thing to do under those circumstances is to be the best you can. Both he and his parents can rest assured that they’ve literally tried everything to stop his cancer and he’s fought it like a champ, living up to his name as the Greek god of the sea.

Now, he’d like to share his message with others: don’t be afraid of trying something new because it will just hold you back, and live life to the fullest. Most of all, laugh and be kind to one another, especially your family. 

To purchase the book, click here.

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Blowing Snow, Low Temps Lead to Multiple Accidents, Closures Along I-80

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By Jennifer Kocher, Cowboy State Daily

Gusty winds, cold temperatures and blowing snow led to multiple accidents and closures across southern Wyoming on Friday as motorists on Interstate 80 waited out the weather as a winter storm gusted through the state’s southwestern corner.

In the 24 hours between noon Thursday and noon Friday, the Wyoming Highway Patrol reported 91 weather-related accidents between Rawlins and the Utah state line alone, according to Sgt. Jeremy Beck, WHP public relations spokesperson.

To his knowledge, Beck said none of the accidents involved any fatalities.

Closures

As of Friday afternoon, all of the eastbound lanes of 1-80 between Evanston and Cheyenne were on rolling closures with an estimated opening time of 19 to 21 hours.

All lanes in both directions of the interstate between Rawlins and Laramie were closed Friday afternoon, with drivers being diverted to hotels, truck stops and businesses in neighboring cities.

The purpose behind implementing rolling closures is to ease the burden of stopped traffic on cities and towns along the 1-80 corridor.

The technique allows stranded drivers to get to the next location for greater access to the parking, fuel, hotel, restaurants and other services when a particular town hits peaks capacity.

The rolling closures were effective Friday, said Jordan Achs, WYDOT senior public affairs specialist, who added feedback so far has been positive.

“We don’t want people to be stuck without a place to stay or be without resources during long- duration closures,” she said.

WYDOT and Wyoming Highway Patrol work together to reach out to the hotels and businesses in these towns and cities to monitor resources. Friday’s storm was pretty localized, Achs noted, with a heavy amount of fallen snow being blown by heavy winds at higher elevations.

Gusts between Laramie and Rawlins were measured at 70 mph.

Over the past day, the southern border has received 5 to 10 inches of snow with some spots getting as much as 13 inches, according to meteorologist Don Day. 

Despite the weather conditions, some drivers had blown past the snow gates closing the interstate and gotten stuck.

Achs didn’t know how many vehicles had done so, but she did say rescuing the vehicles and getting the drivers to safety has diverted resources from other tasks.

She added that ignoring a snow gate comes with a $750 fine.

“It can be frustrating to commercial truck drivers,” she said. “But these closures are for their health and safety.”

Waiting it out

Mark Telkamp wasn’t expecting to go anywhere too soon Friday afternoon. 

The jet fuel truck driver for MG Oil/Heartland was parked at the Love’s Travel Stop in Green River and settling in for a long wait while WYDOT snowplow drivers work on clearing 1-80.

This was his second stop of the day. He had been parked down the road at Rock Springs for the 13 hours waiting out the storm and made it about 45 miles before he was stopped due to interstate closures.

It’s just part of the job, Telkamp said. He’s been trucking in Wyoming for the past 25 years and being shut down by weather is par for the course. 

“I feel resigned,” he said, “but it doesn’t mean it’s fun.”

Mind the plows

A reported 15% shortage of snow plow drivers this year was having no impact on the department’s work on Friday, Achs said.

She added since the storm is limited to the state’s southwestern corner, the department is having no trouble meeting staffing needs with available workers.

In the case of significant snow events, the department will move resources to areas most affected.

That said, snow plows in general have had a rough couple of years, with with more hit by drivers in the past two years that at any other time in the department’s history, Achs said. She didn’t have numbers readily available but she did  encourage drivers to stay back and give snowplows room to work.

“Sometimes plows can create their own whiteouts,” she said. “Please give them space to do their job.”

Up-to-date road closures can be found on WYDOT

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Casper Legislator Supports Move To Increase State Employee Salaries

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

At least one member of the Wyoming Legislature’s Joint Appropriations Committee thinks it is definitely time to increase state employee salaries.

Sen. Drew Perkins, R-Casper, told Cowboy State Daily on Thursday that he was not surprised to see Gov. Mark Gordon include a raise for state employees in his proposed 2023-2024 biennium budget. Gordon included $53 million in his budget proposal to go toward employee compensation.

“We’ve had some pretty tough budget years and it’s been quite a while since there’s been any raises given to state employees,” said Perkins, chair of the Joint Appropriations Committee. “With inflation and the cost of living not going down, it’s getting to the point where it’s affecting the ability to get and retain qualified employees.”

The money for raises is part of Gordon’s proposed $2.3 billion biennium budget which is being reviewed by the Joint Appropriations Committee. The proposal for raises would boost salaries for employees of the executive branch, judicial branch and educational institutions across the state.

Currently, state employees are paid below the 2017 market comparison rate, Gordon said when he unveiled his budget, and a recent survey conducted by the Wyoming Department of Administration and Information revealed 38% of workers had a second job.

A report from the same survey also found that 3% of the state workforce took advantage of SNAP, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families and other assistance services.

Perkins noted that during Joint Appropriations Committee testimonies, he heard over and over from department managers who were losing employees due to the low pay from the state. Some were going into the private sector, but some people were getting jobs with other state governments.

“We lost some support people who went to work for the state of North Dakota, because they offered better pay and benefits, but the other thing was that they didn’t have to leave Cheyenne,” he said. “They could telework from home.”

Perkins said it was important to make the cost of living and salary adjustments to retain quality employees.

“If we’re going to have any kind of efficient government services provided, we have to make sure we’ve got to retain who have expertise,” he said.

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Wyoming Energy Authority Chairman: Biden’s Oil Release “Drop In The Bucket”

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A plan to release oil from the nation’s strategic oil reserve to reduce gasoline prices will not amount to much, according to Wyoming Energy Authority chairman Paul Ulrich.

The White House on Tuesday announced the U.S., along with five other countries, including China, will dip into its national reserves in an effort to ease soaring gasoline prices. President Joe Biden ordered the release of 50 million barrels of oil.

However, Ulrich said that the number amounts to about two and one-half days of oil consumption in the United States.

“It truly is just a drop in the bucket,” he said.

America’s Strategic Petroleum Reserve holds about 605 million barrels of oil in underground salt caverns in Texas and Louisiana. It was created following the 1970s Arab oil embargo to store oil that could be tapped in an emergency. 

There is also a limit to how much can be released at once.

While the hope is that the release of the oil will reduce prices, but Ulrich said he did not believe that Biden’s move would make much of a difference at all.

“Aiming for policy change to address rising natural gas and energy prices would be enhancing, encouraging and incentivizing oil and gas production on federal lands,” Ulrich said. “We in Wyoming have a long track record of balancing major emission reduction efforts and conservation efforts while providing affordable and reliable energy.”

Other experts agree with Ulrich’s assessment.

“We’re talking about adding, at best, a day’s worth of supply to the global market,” Troy Vincent, an analyst at market research firm DTN, told CBS MoneyWatch.

Gas prices are 50% higher than they were one year ago, averaging a little more than $3.40 per gallon nationally. Wyoming’s average gas price Wednesday was about $3.42 per gallon.

Once cheaper fuel hits the market, it takes between three and seven days for consumers to see lower prices at the pump, Patrick DeHaan, head of petroleum analysis at GasBuddy, told CBS MoneyWatch.

The reason for the delay? Gas stations, even when they get cheaper fuel, lower prices at the pump by only a cent or two in order to preserve their profits, while carefully watching what their competitors are doing. 

Anyone in southeast Wyoming might want to consider heading to Buford, home of some of the state’s lowest gas prices, to fill up if they are going on a longer trip.

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Wisconsin Parade Tragedy: Could That Happen In Wyoming?

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

The former chief of the Cheyenne Police Department is not too concerned about possible safety threats during the city’s Christmas parade on Saturday.

While Brian Kozak was in charge of the police department, he said he and his department worked on measures to prevent incidents such as the one seen Sunday in Wisconsin, when a sports utility vehicle was driven into a Christmas parade, killing five people.

“We started preparing for instances like Wisconsin a few years ago, after I noticed several events like this around the country,” Kozak, now a candidate for Laramie County sheriff, told Cowboy State Daily on Monday. “Some of them were intentional, but not all of them were. So we started thinking about how we could prevent something like that happening, not just for the general parades, but Cheyenne Frontier Days, too.”

On Sunday evening, a car drove through a crowd of participants and spectators at a Christmas parade in Waukesha, Wisconsin, a suburb of Milwaukee. At least five people were killed and 40 were injured.

According to CNN, the driver has been identified as Darrell E. Brooks, 39, of Milwaukee. He faces five charges of intentional homicide and more charges are possible.

Over the last few years, the Cheyenne Police Department has stepped up its security forces at big events in the city. For example, Kozak said that large dump trucks filled with sand were stationed around the Cheyenne Depot Plaza for the CFD parades and pancake breakfasts.

“A few years ago, we partnered with the city’s recreation department to purchase these heavy steel barriers that can stop a car,” he said. “We spent close to half a million dollars to purchase them. Obviously, we can’t put them all along the routes, but we can put them in places where a car might be able to pick up more speed and hurt more people.”

Kozak said that while people may believe that Cheyenne and Wyoming are immune to events similar to that seen in Wisconsin, he said it is important to be vigilant in order to keep residents safe.

“This Christmas parade coming up is going to be safe, because the police will have an incident command team out there and there will be a good contingency of police officers,” he said. “But you’ve always got to be ready and prepared. If you’re on the parade route, keep an eye out for a good barrier you can jump behind, if you need to.”

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Wyoming Legislators, Politicos Praise Rittenhouse Verdict

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A number of Wyoming elected officials, former lawmakers, and politicos offered up praise for the “not guilty” verdict handed down Friday in the murder trial of Kyle Rittenhouse.

A jury found Rittenhouse not guilty on Friday of charges stemming from the shooting of three men — two fatally — in Kenosha, Wisconsin, last year. He faced charges of reckless homicide and endangering safety.

Rittenhouse argued that he fired in self-defense after the men attacked him.

Legislators reacted swiftly to the news of Rittenhouse’s acquittal.

“Kyle Rittenhouse acquitted! The truth wins out. Great moment for our country!” Rep. Chuck Gray, R-Casper, wrote on social media.

“It’s a good day for liberty and the protection of our rights,” said Rep. Dan Laursen, R-Powell.

Rep. Landon Brown, R-Cheyenne, retweeted a post from former Democratic presidential candidate Tulsi Gabbard that said the jury was right in clearing Rittenhouse.

“Man – I like @TulsiGabbard more and more every day!” Brown wrote.

Sen. Anthony Bouchard, R-Cheyenne, also was positive about the acquittal.

“Social Media, Big Tech and The Fake News Already Prosecuted Kyle Rittenhouse. Good thing they weren’t the Jury,” he wrote on social media.

Carbon County Republican Chairman Joey Correnti IV also felt the Rittenhouse verdict was good news.

“Kyle, Liberty defended, WELL DONE!!!” he wrote on social media Friday. “Alec [Baldwin], your sorry ass is next, Feelin lucky???”

The Wyoming Gun Owners organization posted three memes and videos to its page on Friday, telling readers to show their children a video of Rittenhouse and explain to them that the Second Amendment would not be infringed upon.

While former Rep. Scott Clem did not respond to the news of the acquittal immediately on Friday, he did make a social media post about the Rittenhouse trial on Thursday, praising the judge for throwing an MSNBC reporter out of his chambers.

“MSNBC gets kicked out of the court for the duration of the Rittenhouse case. Way to go Judge! A MSNBC reporter was instructed by his superiors at NBC to follow the the transport bus which escorts the jurors everyday,” Clem wrote on Thursday. “This isn’t freedom of the press. It’s reckless and repugnant behavior that threatens due process and our justice system. Their actions show they don’t care about the safety of citizen jurors.”

“They don’t care about unbiased judgment,” Clem continued. “They don’t respect civilized society. They’re no better than rioters, looters, and arsonists. These people are scum, sons of Belial, and lawless. They’re a plague on society. For the good of society they should be dealt with swiftly and harshly. I imagine MSNBC aren’t the only ones. They just happened to get caught.”

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Only Two Cities In Wyoming Considered Safest For LGBTQ People

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Wyoming’s largest cities are deficient when it comes to protecting its LGBTQ residents, according to a recent report by the Human Rights Campaign.

On a scale of zero to 100, Human Rights Campaign said most Wyoming communities scored between zero and the teens, although one, Laramie, earned a score higher than the national average.

The scores were listed in the campaign’s Municipal Equality Index, which examines how inclusive municipal laws, policies and services are of LGBTQ+ people who live and work there. The researchers look at five categories when compiling the data: a city’s non-discrimination laws, the municipality as an employer, services and programs, law enforcement and leadership on LGBTQ+ equality.

Seven cities in Wyoming were evaluated for their LGBTQ protections: Cheyenne, Casper, Laramie, Jackson, Gillette, Rock Springs and Sheridan.

Rock Springs received a score of zero due to its lack of non-discrimination rules in its city employment, no transgender-inclusive health care benefits and the lack of a public position from its leadership on LGBTQ-related issues and more.

Casper received the second-lowest score, an 11, which was achieved due only to some of its pro-equality policy efforts and non-discrimination rules for city employment.

Next was Sheridan, which received a score of 12 only because the city reported its 2019 hate crime statistics to the FBI.

After that was Cheyenne, which received a 16 due to the fact the city and Laramie County have a non-discrimination rule in place for employment and for the city’s leadership’s public position on LGBTQ+ equality.

Gillette followed this with a score of 22, because the city reported its 2019 hate crime statistics to the FBI, the stated positions of its leadership on equality issues and for having a non-discrimination rule.

Jackson and Laramie had the highest scores in the state, with 62 and 72, respectively. Laramie received a higher score as it reported its 2019 hate crime statistics to the FBI, had leadership who sided with LGBTQ issues and the city provides services to people living with HIV or AIDS.

Jackson‘s score was tied to the fact that it has a LGBTQ liaison/task force within the police department and does not discriminate when it comes to LGBTQ people applying for jobs, housing or services.

According to the report, the national average hit 67 points, a report record. One hundred and ten cities achieved a perfect score on the report, including Denver and Fort Collins, Colorado, and Salt Lake City.

Gillette, Cheyenne and Casper saw incidents regarding the LGBTQ community this year. A transgender woman was beaten in Caspe, and a bar in Cheyenne was discovered to be selling anti-gay t-shirts, which it has since stopped producing.

The Gillette library canceled an appearance by a transgender magician when the performer and library staff began to receive threats.

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University Of Wyoming Hosting Rock Art Exhibition In Honor Of Boy Attacked By Dog

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

The University of Wyoming is hosting an exhibit of some of the thousands of rocks sent to the young Cheyenne boy who saved his sister last year from an attacking dog.

A reception for the exhibit, where people can meet hero Bridger Walker, will be held at the UW Geological Museum in Laramie from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Friday. The event is free and open to the public.

“In 2020, Bridger saved his younger sister from an attacking dog, and news of his heroic act went global. As a result, thousands of fans sent Bridger rocks, paintings and even videos from celebrities recognizing his bravery,” said Laura Vietti, collections manager for the UW Geological Museum. “Here, for the first time, Bridger and his family are sharing some of his favorite rocks and art pieces as a temporary exhibition at the UW Geological Museum.”

Bridger, who was 6 at the time, stood between his little sister and a charging dog last July. He was bitten “several times” on the face and head, but managed to grab his sister’s hand and run away with her to keep her safe.

His wounds required about 90 stitches and he has also received laser treatments to reduce the scars from the attack.

When the story went viral last year, the boy’s heroics were noted by many actors who play superheroes in the “Avengers” movies, including Robert Downey Jr. (Iron Man), Chris Evans (Captain America), Chris Hemsworth (Thor), Tom Holland (Spider-Man) and Mark Ruffalo (the Incredible Hulk). Other actors who sent encouraging messages included Hugh Jackman, who starred as Wolverine in the “X-Men” films and Anne Hathaway, who played Catwoman in “The Dark Knight Rises.”

Bridger and his family will be at the museum reception to celebrate “Bridger’s honorary exhibit,” Vietti said. The event also will include an interactive activity table put up by the Wyoming NASA Space Grant Consortium at UW.

The exhibition will be on display through June 2022.

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Sheridan Museum Raising Funds To Buy Headstone For Cop Killed In Line Of Duty In 1921

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A museum in Sheridan is raising money to purchase a headstone for a county undersheriff killed in the line of duty almost 100 years ago

Museum at the Bighorns is trying to raise $850 to purchase a headstone for Undersheriff William McPherren, who was killed in the line of duty in October 1921.

Museum officials did not immediately respond to Cowboy State Daily’s request for comment about how much money they have currently raised.

According to a post on the museum’s website, museum Collections Manager Jessica Salzman was recently preparing a cemetery tour for Sheridan law enforcement officers when she discovered McPherren did not have a headstone.

There is a temporary grave marker at the head of McPherren’s grave, but nothing else to indicate he is there or who he was.

McPherren was the second, and as of 2021, the last officer to be killed in the line of duty in the city’s history.

“We feel that he should have a headstone so we are reaching out to the community to help raise funds for the purchase of a headstone to honor his sacrifice for Sheridan County,” the website post said.

According to the museum, McPherren served 14 years in the Sheridan Police Department, serving as chief from 1918 until resigning in 1921 to become undersheriff.

“McPherren was so well liked in the community that it’s likely that his move away from the Police Department to Undersheriff was to prepare to make a run for Sheriff. We will never know if this was the case or not,” the museum wrote. “News articles describe him as a well-liked and well trusted.”

He was killed during a Prohibition-era moonshine raid outside of the ghost town Monarch on Oct. 7, 1921. According to the museum, Earl McKenna was fingered by other officers as the man who pulled the trigger, but he was ultimately found not guilty of the murder charge.

“McKenna’s attorney spoke so passionately about the necessity of acquitting his client that the audience was moved to tears several times as he painted McKenna and McPherren as victims of a blundered and unjust raid,” the museum wrote. “The jury’s reason for acquittal was that it could not be proven beyond a reasonable doubt that McKenna fired the fatal shot.”

The Sheridan Post at the time reported that McPherren’s funeral was well-attended.

“The large hall was filled to overflowing and it is doubtful if there was a single person present to whom Mr. McPherren was not known and whose heart was not filled with the poignant grief that comes only with the loss of a dear and valued friend… No larger funeral was ever held in the Elks home, the members of the order entirely encircling the spacious hall while friends occupied the center over flowing into the halls and filling the sidewalks,” the newspaper wrote.

When the fundraiser for McPherren’s headstone was launched this week, the museum was originally going to raise $1,450, but Champion Funeral Home in Sheridan agreed to donate the cost of installation and the granite foundation for the headstone, lowering the price tag to $850.

Wyo Company That Promised Free AR-15 With Roof Job Disappears; Owners Sued

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By Kevin Killough, Powell Tribune
Photo: Courtesy Powell Tribune

In the spring, Wiggins Construction LLC began aggressively pushing a new promotion, offering a free AR-15 rifle with the purchase of a new roof. The campaign generated a lot of praise and controversy on social media and elsewhere, and it received local and national media coverage.

In April, Wiggins Construction’s then-marketing director, Matt Thomas, told Fox Business that the company had more than 120 people around the state inquire about getting a new roof. The roofing promotion was set to run through the end of the year, and Thomas told the Tribune that the company was booked up with other construction jobs for nearly the next two years.

“As much business as we want, we can have it,” Wiggins Construction co-owner Josh Wiggins said in April.

However, the Powell company appears to have gone dark following a change in ownership, with some customers complaining of poor work and an inability to get in touch with the company.

Basin resident Tony Harrison is taking legal action against Wiggins Construction, alleging in a pending lawsuit that the company defrauded him out of over $45,000.

Two other Big Horn Basin residents are making similar claims against the company, but say they don’t want to spend the legal fees for a settlement they don’t believe will ever be paid.

“This is way bigger than screwing over one person,” Harrison said.

Two customers in the Powell area have filed complaints with the Better Business Bureau and the Wyoming Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Unit; the BBB suspended Wiggins Construction’s accreditation on Aug. 19, after the company failed to respond to the complaints. 

Multiple calls to the main number for Wiggins Construction seeking comment for this story were not returned. Thomas, the former customer relations and marketing director, said he is no longer with the company. Reached at a private number, former co-owner Todd Wiggins said he has also severed ties with the business. He referred questions to his brother, Josh Wiggins, who the Tribune was unable to reach.

Lawsuit

Harrison hired Wiggins Construction earlier this year to build a home on his property in Basin. In his lawsuit, Harrison says he paid the company $66,100 from a construction loan he took out. However, he says Wiggins Construction only performed about $28,000 in excavation and foundation work before abandoning the project.

The lawsuit Harrison filed this month against Wiggins Construction and Josh and Todd Wiggins alleges breach of contract and fraud, accusing the company of taking money for services that were never rendered. 

The suit is asking Wiggins Construction to pay back $45,145, which includes Harrison’s legal fees so far. 

In an interview, Harrison said the work Wiggins Construction did on the foundation was substandard. No floor joists or framing for the house were ever completed after the work on the foundation. In late June, Harrison said Josh Wiggins told him Wiggins Construction had money stolen from it and he wouldn’t be able to complete the rest of the work Harrison had hired the company to do. 

Harrison said he’s talked to other area residents, who claim to have similar experiences with the company.

Cold welcome

Stan and Debbie LaBlue paid Wiggins Construction over $90,000 to set up their doublewide mobile home northeast of Powell, and build a garage and backyard patio. 

In California, Stan worked decades as a truck driver and Debbie spent most of her career as a supervisor in a warehouse. Like many former residents of the Golden State, they wanted to get away from the politics and high cost of living in California, and decided to spend their retirement in Wyoming. 

But their move to the Cowboy State hasn’t gone as planned. The LaBlues said not only did Wiggins Construction not complete the work it was paid to do, what work the company did complete was shoddy.

The LaBlues expected to move into their house in April, when Wiggins Construction estimated the work would be complete. However, the residence wasn’t ready by the April date. Having already sold their place in California, the LaBlues came out to Wyoming and stayed weeks in hotels and an Airbnb rental. Rather than continue paying for lodging, they eventually moved into their home before it had heat, water or sewer. 

Wiggins Construction poured the foundation and set up the home, but much of the work, Stan LaBlue said, wasn’t done properly. One worker from another company, he said, fell through the floor in a hallway where there was nothing but tile over a space between studs, along the seam of the doublewide. 

By that point, the couple had already cut a few checks to Wiggins Construction totaling over $60,000. In June, Wiggins Construction reorganized as Breianna Wiggins Construction LLC, and the LaBlues made out a final check directly to Breianna Wiggins for $20,667, dated June 18, to complete the work on their home. Debbie LaBlue said Josh Wiggins kept assuring them the work would proceed, but it never happened.  

At one point, a lumber company threatened to put a lien on the LaBlue’s property for materials that Wiggins Construction had not paid for. The LaBlues said they had paid Wiggins Construction for the materials, but had to cut a $7,000 check to the lumber company to avoid a lien.

“They were coming after us,” Debbie LaBlue said.

Today, their house has heat, water and sewer, but it’s missing siding. The concrete for the garage and sidewalks is unlevel or unfinished. The drainage is all wrong, meaning water will run toward the house. Wiggins Construction put rebar down for the patio, but never poured the concrete. Wiggins also left a bunch of extra concrete on the approach to the garage, which the LaBlues had to tear up. It will cost them over $400 to dispose of the material. 

Cody Regional Health

The LaBlues have since hired another company to complete the patio, and the LaBlues’ son, Arend, is finishing the garage, which was left with a few walls, no drywall, uneven concrete, and no roof. 

Debbie LaBlue said they received the free AR-15 rifle Wiggins promised — a photo of the couple posing with their gun and the company’s marketing manager was featured in a story highlighting the promotion — but they have since sold it. 

The LaBlues contacted lawyers, but eventually decided it wasn’t worth the cost to pursue legal action.

“We’re not rich. We’re running out of money, and we’ll never see a dime from them [Wiggins Construction],” Stan LaBlue said. 

“You can’t get blood out of a turnip,” Arend LaBlue added. 

They filed complaints with the Better Business Bureau (BBB) and the Wyoming Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Unit, and are hoping they can help prevent others from getting taken.

Missing materials

Mike Foster also filed complaints with the attorney general and BBB, saying he had similar experiences with the company. 

Foster hired Wiggins Construction in the spring of 2020 to repair the roof on his father’s mobile home, which is on the same lot as his own house. Foster dealt with Todd Wiggins on that job and said the work was done properly and on time. Wiggins Construction even used photos of the house, with Foster’s permission, in promotional materials for the AR-15 rifle giveaway.

Based on that experience, Foster hired Wiggins Construction again in December 2020 to build his new house. As material prices were rising, Foster said Josh Wiggins asked for an advance to buy the materials before prices climbed higher. Foster paid Wiggins Construction $42,500 to order doors, windows, tile, flooring, and cabinets. Foster said the windows and cabinets were delivered, but he never saw the rest.

“These materials just didn’t show up,” Foster said. 

Wiggins Construction, Foster said, poured the foundation and put up the frame of the house, but that’s where the work ended. Foster said he spoke weekly with Josh Wiggins, and Wiggins gave him different reasons why the work wasn’t proceeding. Foster said Wiggins at first told him the siding hadn’t come in, but when Foster called the supplier to find out what was causing the delay, he was told no order for siding had been placed. 

Finally, in July, Foster decided to fire the company. 

“It came to a point where we couldn’t believe anything he [Josh Wiggins] said,” Foster said. 

New name

Wiggins Construction came under fire from several area residents on Facebook in July, around the time that the company took down its website, changed its name to “Breinna Wiggins Construction” on Facebook and created the new LLC.

In a July Facebook post, the company sought to address what happened, saying the changes were partially the results of a change in ownership. The company also denied various accusations that had been made on the platform.

“The bottom line is this. Wiggins Construction is not going out of business, we are not currently in a law suit, we did not steal $400,000. And please don’t believe everything you read online,” the company wrote on July 11. “We are looking forward to serving more customers and knocking out more roofs this year.”

However, in the comment section below the post, a couple customers posted in August that they were having a hard time reaching the company.

“Wiggins recently put a new and expensive roof on my house. The new roof seems to be excellent with the exception of the need for a gutter apron required to keep rain water out of my sunroom,” one area resident wrote on Aug. 19. “Why won’t you answer your phone or return my calls?”

Another request for a callback was posted days later, but by Friday, the entire Breinna Wiggins Construction LLC Facebook page had been deleted.

Tips for dealing with contractors

Most municipalities, including the cities of Powell and Cody, require general contractors to hold a license and be properly insured. However, rural Park and Big Horn counties do not have any such requirements.

The Better Business Bureau recommends that people research contractors before hiring them. Individuals can verify licenses and insurance, ask the company for references, get all estimates in writing and get a signed contract that specifies who will obtain permits and who is responsible for cleanup. It’s also a good idea to get a lien waiver that states that all suppliers and subcontractors have been paid for their work. 

Lastly, never pay a contractor up front for any work. Arrange a payment schedule, the BBB recommends, that staggers the payments at certain intervals when parts of the project are completed satisfactorily. All checks should be written out to the company and never to individuals.

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Governor Gordon Orders Flags Be Flown at Half-Staff Statewide Through August 30

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Wyoming Gov.Mark Gordon, pursuant to President Joe Biden’s Proclamation, has ordered both the U.S. and State of Wyoming flags be flown at half-staff statewide immediately to honor and pay our respects to the U.S. service members and other victims killed in the terrorist attack on August 26, 2021, in Kabul, Afghanistan. 

Flags should remain lowered until sunset on August 30, 2021.

The Presidential Proclamation follows: 

HONORING THE VICTIMS OF THE ATTACK IN KABUL, AFGHANISTAN

– – – – – – –

BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, A PROCLAMATION

As a mark of respect for the U.S. service members and other victims killed in the terrorist attack on August 26, 2021, in Kabul, Afghanistan, by the authority vested in me as

President of the United States by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, I hereby order that the flag of the United States shall be flown at half-staff at the

White House and upon all public buildings and grounds, at all military posts and naval stations, and on all naval vessels of the Federal Government in the District of Columbia and throughout the United States and its Territories and possessions until sunset, August 30, 2021. 

I also direct that the flag shall be flown at half-staff for the same length of time at all United States embassies, legations, consular offices, and other facilities abroad, including all military facilities and naval vessels and stations.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this twenty-sixth day of August, in the year of our Lord two thousand twenty-one, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and forty-fifth.

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Low Streamflows Have Northwest Wyo Water Users On Edge

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By Wendy Corr, Cowboy State Daily

Just a couple of weeks ago, the south fork of the Shoshone River in northwest Wyoming was fast-moving and full of water.

Today, there’s just a trickle.

The Shoshone River provides water for more than just agriculture, although that’s the reason Buffalo Bill Cody and his partners designed the region’s irrigation system over 100 years ago. Recreational fishing and boating are also big draws for visitors, which boosts the economy in a state in which tourism is the No. 2 industry. 

Tim Wade, a fishing guide in Cody for 37 years, said because this year’s summer temperatures rose quickly, the snow built up in the surrounding mountains has already melted flowed out of the area. The result is exposed dry creek beds that shouldn’t be seen this early in the summer.

“All of our rivers and streams are dependent on snowpack,” Wade said. “And we don’t have snowpack any more. Everything blew out early, came out in May, and June runoff was over by mid-June. Usually it’s over by the second week of July. And it’s been hot, which hasn’t helped the snowpack.” 

Wade said the water levels and the heat are a concern for those involved in recreational fishing, which is a big draw for tourists coming to this area.

“We’re keeping an eye on our fisheries, to make sure that the fisheries stay healthy on our guided trips and things like that,” he said. “We’ve not experienced severe water temperature increases, like other states are saying, there are some tail waters in the state that are a little warm in northwest Wyoming. But not the ones through Cody.”

Although the low water level is a problem for people who are relying on that stream flow from the mountains, the situation isn’t as dire for people who utilize water below a dam.

Layton Blanchard is the manager of Wyoming River Trips, a family owned business that has been guiding float trips down the Shoshone for over 40 years. Blanchard said when they’ve seen low water years like this before, they’ve modified their river trips to stay below the Buffalo Bill Dam.

“Below the dam, we’ve been able to kind of maintain a pretty consistent flow,” Blanchard said. “The water has been low, but it hasn’t dipped below a flow that’s runnable for us still, for it to be enjoyable for everyone.”

Blanchard noted that trips upstream of the Buffalo Bill Dam were cut short this year.

“We do full day trips up there that usually last into the first few weeks of July,” he said. “And this year, I think we barely made it to the last week of June, just because it has gotten so low. And you know, those rock exposure and things like that.”

Wade said the dam does protect fisheries by keeping water levels higher, which helps keep temperatures lower.

“The lower Shoshone is about 46 degrees coming out of the dam. And by the time it gets down to Willwood, I think it’s still in the low 60s, which is tolerable for our trout,” he said.

It’s a better situation in northwestern Wyoming, he said, than in Montana or in Yellowstone. Last week, biologists there implemented a ban on fishing in rivers and streams after 2 p.m. as the heat makes it difficult for fish to recover once they’ve been caught and released.

And Wade says his company is adapting to make sure that people who travel here to fish aren’t disappointed.

We are changing our destinations for the float trips,” he said. “And we’re keeping those on waters where the water temperatures are low.” 

The agriculture industry is seeing the need to make changes, as well, to adapt to the current situation. One irrigation district in Park County has asked water users to be patient, as there is currently insufficient water available to meet everyone’s needs.

“With the extreme heat and less-than-average snowpack, water flows in the South Fork of the Shoshone have rapidly decreased,” said a Facebook post from the Lakeview Irrigation District. “Water levels continue to fluctuate greatly over a 24-hour period at the diversion. If you are currently watering, please be quick and efficient with  the water so that it can be sent to the next user. With current conditions, it is unlikely that we will be able to meet everyone’s needs but will do the most with the available water.”

Wade said while this year is a tough one for water flows, it’s not the first time it’s happened in recent years.

“It’s not our first low water year, we seem to go through this about every four or five years in Wyoming,” he said. “1996 was a much lower water year than this year. 2004 was close. And 1988, the year of the fires, was historically low. So we might be setting some record heat temperatures, but we’re not anywhere close to any record low flows.”

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Worland Airman Welcomed Home After 54 Years

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By Wendy Corr, Cowboy State Daily

In January 1967, U.S. Air Force pilot Lt. Alva “Ray” Krogman was shot down over Laos during the Vietnam War — and his family back in Wyoming was unable to say goodbye.

Until now.

After 54 years, the Worland native has finally returned home. Krogman, a 1964 graduate of the Air Force Academy, was just 25 when he was killed in action during the Vietnam War while serving with the Forward Air Controller (FAC) wing in Vietnam. 

His last transmission, “I’m hit,” was sent Jan. 17, 1967, after his aircraft was struck by 37-mm anti-aircraft fire. Although others flying with him saw his plane go down in flames, his final resting place wasn’t discovered until Feb. 14, 2019, and his remains were identified in July of last year.

After the identification, efforts began to send the decorated airman home to Wyoming, culminating with a grand ceremony at the Billings, Montana, airport on Monday, July 19, followed by a procession, with an honor escort, to Worland.

More than 100 motorcyclists, members of the Patriot Guard Riders, joined in the official procession to bring Krogman home after so many decades.

“He’s been in his plane for the last 54 years,” said Kevin Curtis, the Wyoming state captain for the Patriot Guard. “So it’s time to bring him home, and bring him home right.”

The Patriot Guard Riders made up only a fraction of the huge crowds that traveled with Krogman or lined streets in communities throughout the Big Horn Basin — in 111-degree heat — to welcome the Worland pilot back to his hometown. 

The funeral service was held at the Worland Middle School Auditorium, where hundreds of people gathered to honor the young man who gave all to his country. 

A veteran himself, Gary Hobbs, Patriot Guard Riders’ assistant state ride captain for the procession, said the honor and respect shown by the people along the route were befitting of the decorated war hero.

“All the way from Billings, even through the Big Horn Basin, it was just an outpouring of love and respect,” Hobbs said. “And that’s what is very emotional for me, not only to help bring that veteran home, but to see the support in Wyoming, in Montana. Farmers, ranchers, people standing off, completely the whole way along the route.”

As the lieutenant was laid to rest — finally — at the Riverview Memorial Gardens in Worland on Wednesday, family, friends and community members were there to celebrate his life, and honor his sacrifice.

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Cheyenne Tavern Selling ‘Pride’ Shirts In Response To Sale Of Anti-LGBTQ T-Shirts

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A Cheyenne tavern has created T-shirts to sell in response to another bar’s past sale of a T-shirt some found offensive because of its depiction of gun violence and use of a derogatory term to describe homosexuals.

The Midtown Tavern will soon be selling “Pride” T-shirts which depict a rainbow-colored bison with the tavern’s logo and “Wyoming Pride” and “Wyoming Proud” written on one sleeve, according to a posting on the bar’s Facebook page.

All of the proceeds raised from the sales will be donated to pro-LGBTQ organization Wyoming Equality, the Midtown announced. It wasn’t clear when the shirts would be available for sale or how much they would cost. The tavern’s staff did not respond to a request for comment by press time.

The shirts are being made as a response to T-shirts sold by the Eagle’s Nest, a Cheyenne bar that primarily caters to motorcyclists, that was roundly criticized on social media last week when a photo of the T-shirt it sold began circulating. The T-shirt depicted a man pointing a pistol and a caption reads “In Wyoming, we have a cure for AIDS, we shoot f—–‘n f—–s.”

Wyoming Equality executive director Sara Burlingame posted her thanks to the Midtown on its Facebook page.

“Oh golly. Wow. What a thing. I can’t even tell you how surprised and grateful I am. Thank you,” she wrote on the tavern’s post about the shirts.

Wyoming Equality also shared the social media post on its Facebook page and thanked the tavern.

“Thank you to our new friends at Midtown tavern for stepping up — we’re so honored and grateful by how some folks are responding. You know where we’ll be this rodeo. #midtownpride,” the organization wrote.

The Eagle’s Nest’s owner told The Cheyenne Post last week that the shirts had sold out and he had no intention of getting any more.

Ray Bereziuk said that he is “in the bar business, not the apparel business,” and that he would not be reordering the shirts.

It marked an abrupt change as Wyoming Equality previously asked the bar to stop selling the shirts, but the staff refused.

It wasn’t clear how long the bar had been selling the shirts.

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Nashville’s Allie Colleen To Make Cheyenne Debut During Frontier Days

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Allie Colleen wants the audience members at her live performance to leave their expectations at the door.

She isn’t the type to smash her guitar or wear a cowboy hat. Her dad, Garth Brooks, might do that during his sold-out concerts, but Colleen is using her music to tell stories, connecting with her audience on a much more intimate level.

“People expect me to show up in a bus, I don’t have one,” she said. “I think a lot of them expect me to come out and know what I’m doing, which was your first problem, because I don’t. My family has never talked about music. We’re all about sports.”

Colleen, who has dropped her family name as a performer, will appear at the Outlaw Saloon in Cheyenne alongside country singer Carter Winter for a concert between from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Tuesday, July 27. Tickets for the show are $15 and all proceeds going toward two charities.

The concert is family-friendly and other activities will include face painting and roping and bucking contests.

Colleen said that she and Winter are storytellers, so they will spend an hour going back and forth, sharing tales of their lives and the road and playing acoustic songs. They will also perform a duet the two recorded that will be released in early August, “Love Like I Drink.”

“We’re so appreciative to be in a genre where we get to tell stories and we love that vein of country music,” she said.

While this won’t be a typical concert for either Winter or Colleen, the latter will be selling her debut album, which was released in April.

While it may seem unsurprising that the daughter of one of the biggest country music artists in history leaned toward that genre, Colleen said country music continues to evolve all the time, which appeals to her. Two of her biggest influences are country singers Jo Dee Messina and Ashley McBryde.

“I love the storytelling aspect of country music, where we get to have a voice about stuff that’s much bigger than we are,” she said. “Country’s kind of absorbing all these genres, sucking in all these little elements. But the one thing that’s never gone away is our ability to speak about the things we care about.”

She hopes to especially drive home the message to young women that they shouldn’t care about what other people think.

“We’re really pushing for females to see that we are so smart, so creative and we think about things differently,” Colleen said. “If females can sing about the things we want, it’ll really change the songwriting market.”

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“If You Take Off With Me, I Will Kill You:” Casper Police Release Body, Dash Cam Footage Of Police Shooting

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Video footage of a man being shot and killed by a Casper police officer after the man drove off in a car with the officer inside it was released Friday, more than two months after the shooting occurred.

The Casper Police Department released body and dash camera footage of the shooting during a news conference Friday.

The officer involved in the shooting, Officer Jake Bigelow, was cleared of any wrongdoing in a Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigation probe, according to information provided for the news conference. The Natrona County District Attorney also declined to press charges.

The man shot was identified in May as 42-year-old Joseph Roebener.

The footage, edited so viewers could not see Roebener’s body after he was shot, was not streamed during the news conference, but was made publicly available. However, it does contain graphic images and explicit language.

According to police reports and video footage, around 4 a.m. on May 6, Casper officers stopped a vehicle and approached it to speak with its two occupants.

At one point, the driver unexpectedly exited the vehicle and the passenger moved into the driver’s seat in an attempt to flee the scene. Bigelow tried to stop the vehicle by getting into it, however, Roebener accelerated from the scene at a high speed.

“If you drive away with me, I will f–king kill you,” Bigelow told Roebener as the man attempted to put the vehicle into drive.

While inside the moving car, the officer ordered Roebener to stop the vehicle multiple times, even threatening to shoot the man if he did not stop. Eventually, Roebener drove the vehicle onto the oncoming traffic lane of Interstate 25, although this cannot be clearly seen in the video.

The officer eventually fired his times weapon four times at Roebener and safely stopped the car along the side of the interstate.

The entire incident in the vehicle lasted just over a minute, although Casper Police Chief Keith McPheeters said Bigelow told him it felt like a lifetime.

An search of the vehicle later revealed an ounce of methamphetamine stashed inside.

“The rapidly-evolving events portrayed in the video abundantly show the difficulty the officer was placed into by the actions of the suspect,” McPheeters said.

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Cheyenne Mayor Disappointed In Biker Bar’s Sale Of Anti-LGBTQ Shirts

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

The mayor of Cheyenne on Friday expressed his disappointment with a local bar that was selling offensive T-shirts up until this week.

Mayor Patrick Collins addressed the offensive shirt that was sold by the Eagle’s Nest, a bar that primarily caters to motorcyclists, in his weekly column on the City of Cheyenne’s website.

“This week I have had many folks write with concerns about the homophobic tee shirt that was being sold at the Eagle’s Nest bar here in Cheyenne,” Collins wrote. “I cannot tell you how disappointed I am that any one in Cheyenne would espouse thoughts like these, let alone put them on a shirt to sell.”

The Eagle’s Nest was roundly criticized on social media over the weekend when a photo of the shirt the bar sold began circulating. Many commenters opposed what they called the shirt’s violent imagery and use of a derogatory term for homosexuals.

The shirt features a man pointing a pistol and reads “In Wyoming, we have a cure for AIDS, we shoot f—–‘n f—–s.”

“I know Cheyenne people to be loving and accepting and this abhorrent episode is in no way reflective of our people,” Collins said. “We are the capitol city of the Equality State, and it is important to let our LGBTQ neighbors know we believe they are a valued part of our community.”

The bar’s owner told The Cheyenne Post on Monday that the shirts had sold out and he had no intention of getting any more.

Ray Bereziuk said that he is “in the bar business, not the apparel business,” and that he would not be reordering the shirts.

It marked abrupt change as over the weekend, pro-LGBTQ organization Wyoming Equality asked the bar to stop selling the shirts, but the staff refused.

It wasn’t clear how long the bar had been selling the shirts.

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Trans Magician Responds To Messages Of Love Following Cancellation Of Gillette Show

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

An Iowa magician who canceled her appearances in Gillette this week after being threatened because she is transgender said she has been experiencing a “whirlwind” of emotions after receiving messages of support.

Mikayla Oz said she has received an outpouring of support and kind messages from Wyoming residents since being forced to cancel her scheduled shows at the Campbell County Public Library this week.

Mikayla Oz, who has performed in libraries across the nation, is a transgender woman. After that fact was disseminated around Gillette, Oz began receiving threats regarding her performances in the city.

Oz said the incident stemmed from one earlier in the month when some members of the Gillette community saw a post on the library’s social media account about “rainbow books,” books that address LGBTQ content and issues.

“These books are meant to help serve someone who might be struggling or have family who is struggling with the gender identity, sexuality, etc.,” Oz said in post on her Facebook page. “A small group of people who were upset by this, decided to research into the library and found me, a woman of a trans experience. They started pushing around the idea that because I was a trans woman, my shows would then sexualize minors, turn kids trans and in turn, expose kids to pedophilia.”

Oz said her magic shows in Gillette would have all been family-friendly with no mention of her gender identity, the LGBTQ community or anything else. Instead, she wanted to share with children the magic of reading books.

“The past few days I received a threatening email, call, protest threats and series of messages telling me not to come (to Gillette) or there will be issues,” she wrote. “Which has resulted in me unfortunately cancelling these shows for the safety of myself and the community in Gillette.”

However, since the library announced Oz wouldn’t be coming to perform, she has received an outpouring support and kind messages from people in Wyoming, she said. She thanked the library for doing everything in its power to make her feel supported and safe.

“The Library Staff at this library is amazing and the community is lucky to have them,” Oz wrote. “It breaks my heart that a small portion of the community prevented what was supposed to be a fun, magical couple days for the families in this town.”

The incident prompted a protest of the library Wednesday as a group of people marched outside of the building, carrying signs expressing their opposition to having transgender individuals perform at the library.

Former state Rep. Scott Clem, R-Gillette, was one of the residents who posted about the magician performing at the library, sharing a video about Oz’s transition from male to female.

“What concerns me is that these types of events are orchestrated, not simply for fun and entertainment, but as a cover to introduce and glorify something more insidious and harmful,” Clem wrote in a Facebook post. “As a pastor and parent I have some questions. Is this simply a fun magic show? Or is the magic show a cover for this person to talk about sexual issues with our teens?”

He questioned why the library was promoting the “base things of life” and not higher virtues.

Many of the comments on Clem’s post agreed with him, saying the library was “liberal” and pushing a “dark agenda.”

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Former Casper Businessman Denies Sex Assault Allegations

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By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily

A former Casper businessman is denying allegations that he sexually assaulted a woman in 2017 and is asking that a lawsuit filed against him by the woman be dismissed.

Tony Cercy, in a response to the lawsuit filed against him in June, denied all of the allegations it raised and said the woman failed to state a reason in her civil lawsuit why Cercy should be required to pay damages.

“Mr. Cercy asserts an award of punitive damages would be in violation of his rights under the United States Constitution and the Wyoming Constitution, including, without limitation, his rights to due process and equal protection,” said the response, filed in U.S. District Court on Monday.

The lawsuit stems from an allegation that Cercy, now a Texas resident, sexually assaulted the woman at his house at Alcova Reservoir after she fell asleep on his couch.

A jury in 2018 acquitted Cercy on two charges stemming from the incident. In a second trial, Cercy was convicted on a charge of third-degree sexual assault.

The conviction was overturned by Wyoming’s Supreme Court on the grounds the jury in his second trial was given improper instructions. Prosecutors declined to seek a third trial.

The woman, now South Carolina resident, then filed her civil lawsuit in U.S. District Court. The lawsuit said the woman was “very intoxicated” when she went to a party at Cercy’s house and fell asleep on his couch.

She alleged she awoke to find Cercy performing oral sex on her.

But Cercy, in his response, denied all the allegations of sexual assault, along with accusations he threatened to have the woman killed if she mentioned the incident to anyone.

“Mr. Cercy denies that he was a party to any event, act or omission giving rise to this action,” the response said.

In addition to dismissal of the lawsuit, Cercy’s response asks that he be compensated for any fees and costs associated with his defense.

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Trans Magician Cancels Gillette Library Appearance Over Death Threats

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

An Iowa magician canceled her performance at the Campbell County Public Library in Gillette this week after receiving death threats because of her gender identity.

Mikayla Oz, who has performed in libraries across the nation, is a transgender woman, which caused enough of an uproar in the Gillette community that Oz began to receive death threats regarding her performance in the city.

“With great regret, regret shared by Campbell County Public Library System, Oz canceled her programs in Gillette and Wright due to safety concerns for herself, library staff, and library patrons,” the library announced on Tuesday. “Oz’s transgender identity was shared on a social media post made by a Gillette citizen. From there, misinformation about the performances was spread via social media and a call to protest the events was made by a group of citizens. The cancellation came after threats were made directly to Oz and to library staff.”

In addition to appearing in libraries, Oz has appeared on the Travel Channel and been profiled by the Huffington Post and USA Today for her high energy, comedic magic melded with storytelling.

Former state Rep. Scott Clem, R-Gillette, was one of the residents who posted about the magician performing at the library, sharing a video about Oz’s transition from male to female.

“What concerns me is that these types of events are orchestrated, not simply for fun and entertainment, but as a cover to introduce and glorify something more insidious and harmful,” Clem wrote in a Facebook post. “As a pastor and parent I have some questions. Is this simply a fun magic show? Or is the magic show a cover for this person to talk about sexual issues with our teens?”

He questioned why the library was promoting the “base things of life” and not higher virtues.

Many of the comments on Clem’s post agreed with him, saying the library was “liberal” and pushing a “dark agenda.”

Sara Burlingame, a former legislator and executive director of the pro-LGBTQ organization Wyoming Equality, planned to travel to Gillette on Wednesday to appear during a “listening party” with members the group Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays during a dinner at Pizza Carello. Discussion was expected to center around the current climate for LGBTQ-identifying Wyomingites.

This situation in Gillette comes on the heels of the library receiving some backlash in the community due to its LGBTQ-related programming during Gay Pride Month in June, according to Wyoming Public Media.

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Lander Pastor Makes Emergency Landing On Wyoming Highway After Airplane Engine Blows Up

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By Bill Sniffin, Cowboy State Daily

Pastor Danny Bauer of Lander can say he’s a little more familiar with the phrase “with God as my co-pilot” after successfully landing his plane on a state highway after the engine blew up on Friday.

“So, so thankful for Gods protection!!!” Bauer said on his Facebook page. “In over 30 years of flying, my only engine-out emergency landing at night. All is well. As my friend Tom Mullins says, they make ’em new every day! Mooney N118RC it was a good run!”

According to local Lander flying authorities, Bauer was flying alone from Rawlins to Lander when he noticed the oil pressure on the engine of his Mooney single-engine plane was acting erratically. 

Concerned, Bauer took his plane to 12,000 feet reasoning that if the engine quit, he would have enough time to glide safely to a forced landing.

Upon reaching that altitude, the engine quit and then caught fire.

Bauer radioed the Salt Lake City airport to give them his coordinates and to line-up firetrucks at the Lander airport.

He didn’t make it that far.

Rawlins is 118 miles from Lander. He made it to within 13 miles of his hometown before having to set the plane down on a long stretch of U.S. Highway 287 east of the Rawlins Junction known as “Onion Flats.”

Cowboy State Daily was told that the landing was “OK, but not perfect”.

Some delineator posts were taken out, as was one larger highway sign, before the plane stopped.

Bauer and friends later towed the plane to Lander where it sits in a lot behind the Blue Ridge Apartments.

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Statement From Former VP Dick Cheney & Dr. Lynne Cheney on Passing of Former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld

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From Cowboy State Daily

Former Vice President Dick Cheney and Dr. Lynne Cheney issued the following statement on the passage of former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld:

“We are so sorry to learn that the world has lost Don Rumsfeld, but sorry most of all for the great empty space we know his passing has left in the lives of his family.

“He was a great man, who excelled in so many ways, not only through his decades of distinguished public service, but as a private citizen. He lifted others up. We think of the bright, eager-to-learn young people from Central Asia that he brought to our house one day and imagine all the others who have an expanded view of the world thanks to the foundation that he and his beloved wife, Joyce, created.

“In the Navy, in Congress, at the Pentagon, and at the White House, Don’s unwavering belief in the greatness of this country was always evident. During some of our nation’s most serious challenges, he was entrusted by presidents to help guide America through turbulent times. He did so with strength and resolve that came to embody who he was as a person.

“We think often about the huge change he made in our lives, the events and people we would never have known without him. So many memories, from world-altering events to the simple enjoyments of the Chesapeake, plus all the times that we laughed together, usually at ourselves.

“We will miss him.”

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Laramie County DA Gets More Time To Respond To Incompetence Charge

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By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily

Laramie County’s district attorney has been given more time to respond to allegations she violated the rules governing the actions of attorneys.

Leigh Anne Manlove has been given until July 20 to respond to the formal charge filed against her with the Wyoming Board of Professional Responsibility, the Wyoming Bar Association told Cowboy State Daily.

Manlove is accused of violating several of the Rules of Professional Conduct for attorneys. Among other things, Manlove was accused of exaggerating budget pressures facing her office to justify the dismissal of almost 1,000 cases in circuit and district court in Laramie County and misrepresenting the facts surrounding the case of a man accused of killing two people five days after being released from police custody on misdemeanor charges.

Manlove on June 17 said she was confident she would be cleared of the allegations.

“This process will unfold as it must, according to the Rules of Disciplinary Procedure, and I am confident I will be exonerated,” she said.

The charge filed with the BPR on June 11 recommended that Manlove be the subject of a disciplinary hearing before the BPR.

The BPR’s recommendations stemming from that hearing will be forwarded to the Wyoming Supreme Court for action.

Manlove was initially given 20 days to respond to the charge, which would have put the deadline at July 9.

Manlove said in her June 17 statement she was looking forward to presenting her side of the issue.

“Now that this matter is public and I am permitted to speak about it, I welcome the opportunity to ensure that the people of Laramie County who elected me get to hear all of the facts,” her release said. “I will be filing a formal response so that the public has the benefit of hearing both sides of the story.”

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Eastern Wyoming College Still Disabled Following Cyberattack

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Eastern Wyoming College in Torrington was still operating at a limited capacity on Wednesday after being hit by a cybersecurity attack earlier this week.

Unknown persons attacked the school’s administrative network, disabling its computer, phone and email system sometime early Tuesday morning. All three systems were still down as of Wednesday afternoon and there was no estimate as to when they might be restored.

“We are still investigating and digging through things,” Tami Afdahl, EWC director of college relations, told Cowboy State Daily on Wednesday. “We’re honestly just trying to process what happened.”

All EWC employees at both of the college’s campuses in Torrington and Douglas have been affected by this cyberattack, with no one able to access their email or use their phones or computers.

Officials are continuing to investigate the incident and are working to restore service to the campus.

People can visit either the Torrington or Douglas campuses or leave a message at the college’s general voicemail at 307-532-8200 if they are trying to get in touch with the school. Afdahl said employees are still working, albeit without access to certain critical equipment.

She was unable to share any information about how the attacked happened.

“We’re still looking for concrete information, so it would be premature to share anything,” she said.

This is the second time a higher educational institution in Wyoming has been hit by a cyberattack this year. In February, the University of Wyoming was hosting a virtual Black History Month event when people began sending racist and pornographic messages to disrupt the event.

Apparently, the UW was one of many schools across the country to have Black History Month events disrupted by such attacks. Institutions including the University of Southern California, Washington’s Gonzaga University and Rutgers University in New Jersey were “Zoom bombed” with similar hateful, violent words and images.

Cybersecurity attacks have been popping up across the United States this year.

In one incident, hackers shut down an East Coast pipeline in May.

Earlier this month, the Greeley, Colorado, meat processing plant JBS was attacked and its servers in North America and Australia were targeted.

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Sheridan Woman Identified As Steamboat Point Falling Victim

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A Sheridan woman has been identified as the person who fell from Steamboat Point in Sheridan County on Tuesday.

Calli Aust, 28, was identified by the Sheridan County Sheriff’s Office on Wednesday. Aust had gone on a planned hike with her husband to see the sunrise at the point.

It is still unclear how Aust fell, but police noted foul play was not being considered and that Aust’s death was an accident.

The woman fell more than 200 feet and landed at the base of the point.

Around 6 a.m. Tuesday, the Sheridan County Sheriff’s Office received a report of a woman in her late 20s who had fallen off of Steamboat Point, west of Sheridan in the Big Horn Mountains. Aust’s husband wasn’t sure where she fell when he called for emergency services and due to poor reception, his location couldn’t be traced.

The sheriff’s office, Sheridan County Search and Rescue, Dayton Fire-Rescue, the Rocky Mountain Ambulance, Sheridan Fire-Rescue and the Wyoming Highway Patrol all initially responded. A life flight was also asked to search the area.

Emergency personnel arrived in the area around 6:30 a.m. to search for the woman.

Around 7:15 a.m., Aust’s body was found at the base of the southwest side of Steamboat Point. The life flight was canceled and personnel from the Bighorn National Forest Service arrived to assist with recovery of her body.

Police are continuing to investigate the incident.

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Wyoming Wolf, Originally Thought to Be Male, Is Female and Bonded With Colorado Wolf

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A wolf found in Wyoming that was originally thought to be a male is actually a female and has bonded with a male wolf in Colorado, according to game officials.

This is the first time a pair of bonded wolves has made its home in Colorado in nearly a century, according to Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

The female wolf was originally part of Wyoming’s Snake River wolf pack, but traveled to Jackson County, Colorado, (which sits close to Laramie) in 2019. She was originally thought to be male, but has actually been identified as a female and has been spotted traveling with a male.

“The news of potential denning behavior of wolves in Jackson County is a real credit to Colorado Parks and Wildlife’s on the ground scientists,” said Colorado Gov. Jared Polis. “We know wolves are resilient, hardy animals and in this case two of them hundreds of miles from their home packs found each other and are now making a home in Colorado. While these wolves have a head start, I look forward to our state moving ahead with a well-planned and inclusive process to restore gray wolves in Colorado, fulfilling the will of the voters.” 

Biologists believe the wolves are preparing a den, raising hopes that cubs could soon be born in the wild.

“I’m so excited that we may soon have new wolf parents in Colorado,” said Michael Robinson of the Center for Biological Diversity. “The state’s last confirmed wolf pups were born in the wild almost a century ago. Unlike them, these new pups will not be the last of their kind, but instead could meet potential mates as more wolves are brought into the state.” 

Colorado Parks and Wildlife, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department and Grand Teton National Park collaborated to make the discovery. The female wolf was originally captured and collared by a crew hired by the park in January 2017.

CPW staff will continue to monitor collar data, trail cameras and sighting reports to watch for any additional changes in behavior or denning behaviors that may indicate more wolves in the area. 

Gray wolves in Colorado remain a state endangered species and killing a wolf in Colorado is a crime punishable by jail time, fines and/or the loss of license privileges.

“Confirmation that we have a male and female pair of gray wolves and observing what may be denning behavior in the state is an interesting development as we begin our planning and implementation process for reintroducing gray wolves to the state,” said CPW Director Dan Prenzlow. “We have not yet determined if reproduction has occurred. As we begin the discovery process with our Technical Working Group, we can now also observe how a naturally migrating pair is adapting here in Colorado and use that information to help inform plans moving forward.”

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Officials Investigate Death Near Frannie, Wyoming

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By Wendy Corr, Cowboy State Daily

Big Horn and Park County officials are investigating the death of a man whose body was found Monday near Frannie.

On Monday afternoon, the Park County Sheriff’s Office received a report of a deceased male in the road on Lane 5W, a short county road which runs east to west between Deaver and Frannie.

Deputies from both counties responded, along with North Big Horn Hospital Emergency Medical Services. The man was pronounced dead at the scene.

The Park County Sheriff’s Office reported that the investigation is ongoing and involves three agencies – the Park County Sheriff’s office, Big Horn County Sheriff’s Office and the Wyoming Department of Criminal Investigation.

The identity of the man has not been released, as authorities are notifying next of kin. An autopsy is also being performed.

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South Dakota Attorney General Being Promoted to Colonel, Months After Killing Man

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Just a few months after being charged in relation to the hit-and-run death of a man, South Dakota Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg is being promoted by the U.S. Army Reserves.

Ravnsborg announced on his social media account Thursday that he was being promoted to a full colonel position in the Reserves.

“It is quite an honor and I have been proud to serve our great nation for over 24 years!” Ravnsborg wrote. “Through 3 deployments, Battalion Command and 4 company commands serving with so many other great Americans! HOOAH!”

Ravnsborg was elected South Dakota AG in 2018.

In September, he was involved with a hit-and-run collision that resulted in the death of Joseph Boever.

Authorities said Boever was walking along the shoulder of U.S. Highway 14 west of Highmore when Ravnsborg’s vehicle veered onto the shoulder and struck Boever.

Ravnsborg has been charged with three misdemeanor offenses related to the collision: operating a vehicle while using a mobile electronic device, illegal lane change and careless driving. Each carries a maximum penalty of 30 days in jail and fines of $500 each.

In a 911 call made by Ravnsborg the night of the incident, the dispatcher asked him if he might have struck a deer and he responded that he did not know, later adding that it could have been a deer and that it was right in the roadway.

The Hyde County Sheriff arrived on scene to assess the damage to the AG’s vehicle and look for the deer.

Neither the sheriff nor Ravnsborg saw Boever’s body in the ditch, even though Ravnsborg used his cell phone flashlight to search the area.

Ravnsborg borrowed the sheriff’s personal vehicle to drive back to Pierre that night.

He returned to the scene of the crash the following morning on his way to return the sheriff’s vehicle. He and an employee stopped to look for the animal again, but instead found Boever’s body nearby.

South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem called on Ravnsborg to resign, but he refused. Impeachment proceedings began in late February, but have been put on hold.

Wyoming Police Send Messages of Love, Support to Family of Slain Boulder Officer

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Various Wyoming law enforcement agencies have sent messages of love and support to the family of the Boulder police officer killed in a shooting Monday.

Officers from all over the state have posted messages to social media expressing sympathy for the death of Boulder Police Officer Eric Talley. Talley was killed in the line of duty Monday during a shooting a King Soopers grocery store in Boulder, along with nine other victims.

“The men and women of the Laramie Police Department carry heaviness in our hearts for the death of Officer Eric Talley of the Boulder Police Department,” the Laramie Police Department said Tuesday. “Our thoughts are especially with his seven children, his wife and his family. Our thoughts are also with his extended Public Safety Family, who are will carry on. Please know that you are not alone.”

The victims in Monday’s shooting ranged in age from 20 to 65. The shooter, Ahmad Al Aliwi Alissa, 21, of Arvada, Colorado, was apprehended on Monday, but taken to the hospital due to a wound to his leg, according to NPR.

Alissa has been charged with 10 counts of first-degree murder.

Talley was the first officer to respond to the shooting Monday afternoon. He was a veteran of more than 10 years with the Boulder Police Department.

“Our thoughts are with the Boulder, CO community as they bravely face an unspeakable tragedy,” the Cheyenne Police Department wrote Monday night. “Many lives were lost during the course of today’s events and we extend our deepest condolences during this difficult time.”

“Our heartfelt prayers go out to our neighbors to the south, and especially to the family of Officer Eric Talley,” the Douglas Police Department said. “Family both blood, and blue…. Our hearts are heavy for you…..God Speed Officer. Thank you for your service and sacrifice, even though those thanks will never mean enough.”

“Our thoughts are with the Boulder, CO community,” the Green River Police Department said. “We extend our deepest condolences during this difficult time.”

According to the Officer Down Memorial Page, 79 police officers have been killed in the line of duty this year, 13 by gunfire.

Gov. Mark Gordon and President Joe Biden each declared that the Wyoming and U.S. flags, respectively, would be flown at half-staff until March 27 to honor the victims.

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