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Cool heads defused ‘active shooter’ standoff

Sara King is a court compliance deputy for the Teton County Sheriff’s Office. Teton County Sheriff Matt Carr said King was instrumental in de-escalating an active shooter incident Aug. 29. Photo by Kathryn Ziesig, Jackson Hole News&Guide.

• Officers credit probation supervisors for de-escalating dangerous situation in Spring Gulch.

By Kate Ready
Jackson Hole News&Guide
Via- Wyoming News Exchange

JACKSON — Kelsie Bishop had just put her two sons to bed and laid her head on the pillow in Victor, Idaho, when she received a call after 9 p.m. Aug. 29. She was needed on a scene involving an active shooter.

Bishop, a Jackson native, is the district manager for the Wyoming Department of Corrections probation and parole. The caller said Charlie Lucas, 23, was in a standoff with officers, brandishing two firearms and a knife on Spring Gulch Road. Bishop has known Lucas for two years, because probation officers that she oversees have worked with him. She was one of two people he asked to talk to.

Prior to confronting officers near 3000 N. Spring Gulch Road, court documents state, Lucas fired 16 shots at a family member, who fled the residence. Lucas allegedly also shot the tires of a car that another person at the residence was using to get away. Neither person was injured. Lucas drove away from the residence at 9 p.m., when he met officers who had barricaded Spring Gulch Road from Highway 22 to Sagebrush Drive.

Bishop quickly hit the road. For her protection, she didn’t arrive on the scene with Lucas; instead she stopped at an area about a quarter-mile away where officers were stationed. She stared at the surrounding hillside while she talked to him on the phone about 10 times that evening, from 9:30 to 11:30 p.m.

“I just thought of it as this is our client who’s depressed, struggling, and he was asking for guidance,” Bishop said. “So we just went back and forth and talked about things that were going on in his life and how we can get him the help he needs, but right now we need to focus on dropping the guns.”

History attests to the danger of these situations. A standoff in Buffalo Valley on Nov. 1, 1972, ended in trauma. Responding to a call with other law enforcement, Teton County Sheriff Boyd Hall was shot and killed at Buffalo Valley Ranch by Elmer Price, an alleged alcoholic with a criminal history, who shot and killed himself after killing Boyd.

Officers involved in the Aug. 29 standoff said it went as best as it could. No one else on the scene was injured, aside from minor injuries to the shooter. Sheriff’s deputies took Lucas into custody following the 2-hour, 17-minute standoff. Many in law enforcement credited Bishop and another responder for successfully de-escalating the situation.

The incident, which prompted authorities to send text alerts asking nearby residents to shelter in place, shook the community.

Bishop could hear shots fired over the phone, as Lucas allegedly shot six times into the air and at the hillside and at times pointed a gun at officers.

“My heart hurts for anybody who is dealing with this depression,” Bishop said. “And I could tell he didn’t want to hurt anybody … but just hearing in his voice that he was hurt and he was scared. It just really made me want to help him in any way I could.”

Patience was key, she said, as well as her motivational interviewing training.

“We want the client to identify what the issue is,” Bishop said. “What can we do to help you get out of this situation? I think he realized he made mistakes, and he was asking for guidance.”

Bishop recalled him asking for better mental health counseling.

Kelsie Bishop, district manager for Wyoming Department of Corrections probation and parole, helped negotiate with Charlie Lucas to bring his August 29 standoff with law enforcement to a peaceful resolution. Photo by Bradly J. Boner, Jackson Hole News&Guide.

“He said he was asking for help from his counselors, and no one was providing him the help he needed,” Bishop said. “He felt like no one was listening to him.”

She listened, then summarized what he had said so he knew she was trying to understand. This would calm him down, Bishop said, and then she’d ask open-ended questions, such as how he could make better choices in the future. She reiterated that she cared about him, that she wanted to give him a big hug and let him know he was going to be okay.

“My mentality was to figure out what we can do to make better choices in his life,” Bishop said.

Sara King, court compliance deputy for the Teton County Sheriff’s Office, also talked to Lucas off and on that night while standing next to Bishop. King met Lucas when he was an applicant for treatment court. More recently, she’s conducted home visits to ensure he was complying with his probation requirements.

King said she called Lucas right away before she got on the scene around 9:30 p.m. She, too, drove over Teton Pass that night, from Driggs, Idaho.

“The first thing he said was, ‘Sara, I’m only going to talk to you or Kelsie,’” King said. “In that moment, I could tell he was hurting. It just seemed like he needed somebody to listen. I kept telling him how much I cared about him. I think he felt very alone.”

King and Bishop took turns talking to Lucas that night. She credits having good rapport with him and the women empathizing.

Both women kept him talking, which is crucial, Teton County Sheriff Matt Carr said.

“In those situations, it’s about the person who’s going to connect to the person the best,” Carr said.

At the end of the night, while Lucas was in a cop car, Bishop gave him that hug she promised.

“I told him he did the right thing,” Bishop said. “I told him I’d do my best to get him counselors. He was calm and appreciative. He kept making the comment to Sara and I, ‘You saved my life tonight.’”

King then accompanied Lucas to the hospital; later she helped book him into jail. He took a drug test, but she said those results aren’t yet available.

Carr said investigators are still working to track the two handguns — a 9-millimeter semi-automatic pistol and .22 semi-automatic pistol — to determine who they belong to. Carr said the firearms were hidden in Lucas’ room “in cases in drawers.” Lucas was on three years of supervised probation in Teton County at the time of the incident, the terms of which ordered him not to possess firearms. The probation stems from a DUI and controlled substance charge.

He remains in custody, where Bishop has ensured he’s had access to counselors. He’s facing four charges — attempted murder in the second degree, false imprisonment, reckless endangering and property destruction.

After an adrenaline-filled evening, King arrived home at 3 a.m.

“At the end of the day, it was a best-case scenario,” King said. “Everyone did a great job. I think it’s super important to have interagency relationships. It was all very fluid, and it went the best it possibly could have.”

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