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NEWS BRIEFS for Thursday, May 9, 2019

Man facing five felonies in Cheyenne chase

CHEYENNE (WNE) — The man who shot at law enforcement while leading them on a high-speed chase through Cheyenne on Friday is facing multiple charges, including five felonies.

Dominique Childers was arrested Friday after leading the Cheyenne Police Department and Wyoming Highway Patrol on a high-speed chase that went through downtown Cheyenne. Childers is also accused of firing multiple shots at the pursuing officers while trying to evade capture.

At the time, Childers and his passenger, Chastity Jacobs, were allegedly in a stolen 2016 Toyota Camry.

On Friday, CPD Sgt. Dan Long confirmed the suspect had two gunshot wounds and was taken to Cheyenne Regional Medical Center for treatment. There was no information on Childers’ condition as of press time Wednesday night.

According to court documents, Childers currently is facing nine charges, including two counts of felony assault and battery, threatening with a weapon, one count of felony theft related to the stolen car, and two counts of felony property destruction in relation to damage done to Cheyenne Police Department and the Veterans Affairs Medical Center property.

He’s also facing four misdemeanors, including possession of methamphetamine, eluding and reckless endangering for driving at excessive speed in Cheyenne while discharging a firearm.

The maximum sentence for the nine charges Childers is facing is about 53 years.

Friday night, Long told the Wyoming Tribune Eagle the chase began on Interstate 25 north of town when Wyoming Highway Patrol troopers tried to stop a stolen vehicle, described on police radio as a black Toyota Camry.

Winding its way through downtown at speeds close to 65 mph, the chase included multiple shots fired at pursuing officers.



‘First gentleman’ Nichols takes Montana job

LARAMIE (WNE) — The University of Montana announced Wednesday afternoon Tim Nichols, husband of outgoing University of Wyoming President Laurie Nichols, will become the dean of the University of Montana’s honors college in July.

Tim Nichols has been teaching honors courses at UW during his wife’s presidency.

Laurie Nichols told the Laramie Boomerang in an email she doesn’t yet have plans to take a job in Missoula, Montana.

“I am still moving toward returning to the faculty at UW for at least a year,” Nichols said.

When legislators discussed UW at an Efficiency Commission meeting last week, Senate President Drew Perkins, R-Casper, said he’s glad Nichols isn’t making a quick departure from the Cowboy State.

“We’re glad she’s still here,” Perkins said. “I have a tremendous amount of respect for Laurie.”

Tim Nichols led the honors college at South Dakota State University from 2008-2016, during which time his wife served as provost of SDSU.

He was named to the new dean position after what UM said was a “competitive national search.”

“Dr. Nichols presented a compelling vision for the future of public honors education during the interview process,” University of Montana Provost Jon Harbor said in a statement. “I am confident that the Davidson Honors College will flourish under Dr. Nichols’ direction and that the DHC will continue to contribute significantly to the outstanding reputation of the University of Montana.”


Alleged hospital shooter pleads not guilty

CASPER (WNE) — A Casper man accused of breaking into Wyoming Medical Center and shooting at two staff members pleaded not guilty Wednesday morning to four charges related to the early March incident.

Mitchell D. Taylor, 20, was formally arraigned in Natrona County District Court on two counts of aggravated assault for threatening to use a drawn, deadly weapon; one count of property damage; and one count of possession of a deadly weapon with unlawful intent. 

Taylor faces 10-year maximum sentences for each aggravated assault charge and for the property damage charge. The possession of a deadly weapon charge carries a five-year maximum penalty. 

Taylor has been in custody since he was arrested in the early hours of March 4, when he allegedly entered Wyoming Medical Center through an unlocked back door, according to previous testimony and court documents. Taylor was allegedly high on LSD at the time, and he had driven to the hospital to seek help because he felt suicidal. He allegedly had a Springfield 9 mm handgun. It’s unclear how long he was in the hospital before a housekeeper discovered him at roughly 1 a.m., according to court proceedings.

Taylor allegedly asked the housekeeper what she was looking at before she turned and ran and he fired three shots. He then allegedly was met by a physician who was exiting a nearby doctors lounge. The doctor fled after seeing Taylor, according to court proceedings, and Taylor fired four more shots after him.

The hospital was placed on a lockdown, and police responded to the scene. They found and arrested Taylor in a tunnel beneath the facility, subduing him with a Taser in the process. 


Wyoming blockchain company certified by USDA

SUNDANCE (WNE) — BeefChain, a Wyoming-based blockchain company, has now been certified by the United States Department of Agriculture’s Process Verified Program. Software created by BeefChain is now sanctioned by the USDA and provides the highest level of assurance for cattle buyers globally that their Wyoming beef is premium.

BeefChain uses blockchain technology to provide immutable proof of source, age and health of individual cattle. The software creates a digital trail of records that are tamper-proof and transparent all the way through the supply chain, creating a digital identity for each animal and all participants and aiming to guarantee proof of value-added attributes, ownership and change of ownership.

“This is all about giving the best Wyoming beef producers the tools to better market their

Wyoming beef,” said Rep. Tyler Lindholm, R-Sundance, BeefChain’s program manager. “Customer demand for naturally-raised beef has never been higher and now producers can market their cattle with this USDA-certified program.”

Lindholm said BeefChain is the first company in the State of Wyoming and the first blockchain company in the world to receive USDA certification.

“This is a big deal,” Lindholm said. “The USDA recognizes that our products are sound. This means that Wyoming cattle producers can provide proof to buyers all over the world about where the cattle was born, how they were raised, where they were raised, and the overall health of the cattle.”


Hearing for man charged in Rock Springs shooting postponed

ROCK SPRINGS (WNE) — A preliminary hearing for an accused shooter was postponed Wednesday.

Rock Springs resident Joaquin Leon-Guzman, 33, is accused of shooting a man outside the Bareback Saloon.

His hearing was rescheduled to 3:30 p.m. May 29 after the defense made a motion to change the date, according to the Sweetwater County Circuit Court.

Leon-Guzman faces three counts of alleged reckless endangering and aggravated assault and battery, causing or attempting to cause serious bodily injury.

If he is found guilty of all the charges, Leon-Guzman can face a maximum of 13 years in prison and a $12,250 fine.

At around 1:30 a.m. May 5, he was reportedly thrown out of the Bareback Saloon. He later entered his car, drove up in front of the club and fired rounds out of a .22 caliber rifle injuring Kory White in the leg. 

He also allegedly knowingly fired shots in the direction of Jose G. Rodriguez, Stormie Olson and Jacob Olson.

Leon-Guzman currently remains inside the Sweetwater County Detention Center with bond set at $750,000 cash or surety.

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Two killed in crash near Kemmerer

KEMMERER (WNE) — Two people were killed in a head-on collision involving two trucks in southwest Wyoming. 

The Wyoming Highway Patrol says the crash occurred about 2:50 a.m. Monday on U.S. 30 east of Kemmerer when a westbound 2004 Volvo Conventional crossed into the eastbound lane, where it collided with a 2017 Freightliner. 

The driver of the Volvo has been identified as 63-year-old Portland, Oregon, resident Volodymyr V. Boyko. Boyko was not wearing his seatbelt and died at the scene. 

The driver of the Freightliner has been identified as 40-year-old Bessemer, Alabama, resident Candi L. Guy, who also died at the scene. 

A passenger in Guy’s truck was taken to a hospital. 

The patrol says driver inattention or fatigue on the part of Boyko is being investigated as a contributing factor.


Tribe cuts work week to save money

RIVERTON (WNE) — To address a projected deficit of $5 million, the Northern Arapaho Tribal government has adopted a 32-hour work week for all employees.

The new, shorter hours began last week.

Shortening the work week was not an easy decision for the council, said Northern Arapaho Business Council chairman Lee Spoonhunter.

Councilman Stephen Fast Horse added, “This is very tough news to have to be given to all of you.”

This move will save $72,000 a week, which is $1.3 million saved a year. “But we are looking for a way to return to 40 hours,” Spoonhunter said.

There is also a hiring freeze for tribal programs.

The change does not affect the staff or hours of the Wind River Casino, which is not a tribal government institution.

“We are right now against a brick wall,” said Spoonhunter, noting that the business council also will adopt the shorter work week.

Tribal offices will remain open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. The council charged the program directors to figure out how to balance that with the reduced worker hours.

“We don’t have the resources to pull from this year like last year,” said Spoonhunter, referring to the changed price of oil and natural gas. “We expanded services years ago because our revenue went through the roof. This cycle happens every few years. We are an energy state and an energy tribe. We ride the boom and bust.”


Dry conditions predicted for Bighorn Mountains

BUFFALO (WNE) — Below-normal precipitation in the Bighorn Mountains in March and April and slightly above-normal temperatures at higher elevations have forecasters projecting an earlier-than-normal spring meltout in the Powder River Basin.

As of Monday, the Powder River Basin had 78% of normal snow-water equivalent for this time of year, according to numbers released this week by the Natural Resources Conservation Service.

The last time the snow-water equivalent in the basin was below normal this week of the year was 2015, when there was only 65% of normal snowpack.

Despite a wetter-than-usual April in Buffalo, the Bighorn Mountains did not receive as much precipitation as is typical during March and April, which are traditionally the two biggest months for snowfall in the Bighorns.

“Unfortunately, that portion of the state has been sort of our drier spot, especially the Bighorn

Mountains,” said Chris Nicholson, director of the Water Resources Data System and Wyoming State Climate Office.

Nicholson said that using the drought index, the Bighorn Mountains are rated as D1, meaning the area is experiencing moderate drought conditions. 

“Drought has been progressing  getting worse  in the Bighorns,” he said. “It’s not looking good into the spring.” 

For most of the winter  December through February  the Bighorn Mountains snowpack was just slightly below normal, but without adequate snowfall in March, the snowpack did not build.

“We’re past what we would normally consider peak,” Nicholson said. “We’re on the declining side of when we’d be building snowpack.” 


Men sentenced for hunting Yellowstone mountain lion

POWELL (WNE) — Three Montana men have been sentenced in federal court for illegally hunting a mountain lion in the northern part of Yellowstone National Park in December. 

Austin Peterson, 20, Trey Juhnke, 20, and Corbin Simmons 19, all of Livingston, reportedly crossed Yellowstone’s marked boundary to hunt mountain lions on Dec. 12. 

Each hunter admitted to shooting the lion and transporting the carcass back to their vehicle, court documents say. However, Simmons falsely claimed to have harvested the animal north of the park boundary in Montana. This affected the state’s quota system by denying a legal hunter the opportunity to legally harvest a lion. 

Authorities say the men actually killed the lion north of the Yellowstone River and inside the park. They ultimately pleaded guilty to violating the Lacey Act, a federal law that prohibits hunting in the park. 

On Friday, Peterson was ordered to pay approximately $1,700 in restitution and fees and to serve three years of unsupervised probation. During that time he’s banned from hunting, fishing, or trapping worldwide. Juhnke and Simmons received similar sentences at hearings in April. 

Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, law enforcement officers at Yellowstone National Park, the National Park Service’s Investigative Services Branch and the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Wyoming all had a hand in the case. 

“Their thorough work spotlighted this egregious act and the consequences incurred for hunting illegally in Yellowstone National Park,” said Pete Webster, the park’s chief ranger. 


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