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Feds say officer fired intentionally in deadly incident on reservation

Jul 31, 2014 - By Katie Roenigk, Staff Writer

The deceased was the apparent suspect in a weapons offense in the Pavillion area.

Federal officials say the law enforcement officer who fatally shot a man Tuesday on the Wind River Indian Reservation fired on purpose.

"It was not an accidental discharge of a weapon," said Dave Joly, media coordinator for the Federal Bureau of Investigation Denver Division.

The deceased was the apparent suspect in a weapons offense in the Pavillion area. Coroner Ed McAuslan said no identification was found on the body, which was scheduled for an autopsy at 1 p.m. Thursday in Loveland, Colo.

"We're waiting for them to take fingerprints at autopsy," McAuslan said. "We have people tell us who it is, but I haven't been able to confirm that. ... We have an idea who it is, but since I don't know him, and it's just people saying, 'This is who it is,' I need to actually officially confirm it."

Weapon offense

The incident began at about 8 p.m. Tuesday, when someone called police to say a man had shot out the window of a vehicle with a 9-millimeter pistol. The man reportedly was still armed and "walking around town," according to the Fremont County Sheriff's Office.

The reporting party referred to the suspect as "brother-in-law" and said that the suspect had "shot out a friend's car window and is now walking by ... still armed."

Local officials said no one was injured as a result of the gunfire in Pavillion.

While responding to the call, a deputy reportedly saw the victim vehicle with the missing window travelling on Blue Sky Highway -- or Wyoming Highway 132 -- near Ethete. The deputy made contact with the vehicle, which reportedly contained three occupants.

Two of the people were compliant, but reports state the third person was not. Officials said the noncompliant passenger "appears" to have been the suspect in the Pavillion-area weapons offense.

Units with the Wind River Police Department reportedly arrived at the scene and assisted with the non-compliant person. During the encounter with law enforcement, the man was fatally shot by an officer with a federal agency, according to the FCSO. Deputies were present at the scene.

The WRPD is a federal agency under the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

Federal investigation

On Wednesday, Joly said initial results indicate the incident was isolated.

"Public safety does not appear to be at risk," he said in an e-mail.

Joly said the FBI is in the early stages of its investigation into the incident.

"More information will be released when appropriate," he said.

Road closed

Wyoming Highway 132 was closed for almost 24 hours beginning at about 9:45 p.m. Tuesday in connection with the shooting.

The Wyoming Department of Transportation said the closure, which covered the Blue Sky Highway north of Lander from milepost 8 to Kinnear, was "due to police activity." The road reopened at about 8:30 p.m. Wednesday.

WyDOT spokesman Cody Beers said the closure was handled by the FBI. When asked about the road closure, Joly said, "Complex investigations take time to complete; we pride ourselves in being thorough."

Beers said motorists used 17 Mile Road to avoid the closure. He said the area of interest was at the bottom of "Hell hill" about four miles north of Ethete.