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Riverton police kill man after knife attack

By Steve Peck

Riverton Ranger

Via –Wyoming News Exchange

RIVERTON — A police officer shot a man to death Saturday afternoon outside Walmart after the man attacked the officer with a knife, eyewitnesses said.

The shooting happened on the sidewalk outside the south entrance to the store, adjacent to a temporary hamburger stand that was being operated by Riverton’s Veterans Hall group for a Saturday fundraiser.

The Riverton Police Department officer did not appear to be injured. 

A statement from the Northern Arapaho Tribe confirmed that the dead man was an enrolled member of the tribe.  The Riverton Police Department said the incident is under investigation but through early Monday morning had provided no further information.

Fremont County Undersheriff Mike Hutchison, whose department assisted at the scene Saturday, said Monday morning than the Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigation now is the primary investigative agency because the shooting involved a law-enforcement officer.

Several witnesses, including two Veteran’s Hall men who said they were no more than 20 feet away when the shooting happened, said the man, estimated to be in his mid-20s to early 30s, had been frequenting the area around the veterans’ hamburger setup for some considerable time during the early afternoon. Reportedly, he bought some food from the veterans but, rather than leave afterward, sat down on the sidewalk near one of the store entrances.

Another witness said the man was creating an obstacle near the store entrance, requiring shoppers to step over or around him as they entered and left the store. A shopper who encountered the man said he heard at least one shopper ask the man to get out of the way, but the man ignored the request.

Veterans manning the hamburger stand said an RPD officer arrived on the scene sometime before 2 p.m., but that no one in the veterans group made the call. A single officer approached the man. Witnesses said the man remained seated on the sidewalk.

According to the eyewitness accounts, the officer spoke with the man for several minutes, appearing to ask the man to vacate the area around the store. The man continued to refuse.

The witnesses agreed that the officer then bent over and grasped the man on his arm or shoulder, asking him to stand up and walk with the officer. At that point the man was seen to have a knife in his hand. Witnesses said he slashed at the officer with the knife, the point or blade striking the officer in the chest, where the blow was blocked by the protective vest the officer wore.

The officer gained his balance and drew his sidearm. Pointing the gun at the man with the knife, the officer then ordered the man to drop the knife, which one witness said had a blade four or five inches long.

When the man refused, the officer fired once, striking the man in the head. The man fell to the sidewalk and was dead at the scene.

One witness said he thought the man had stepped toward the officer with the knife raised when the officer fired. 

“The man produced a knife, and when he wouldn’t drop it he got shot,” said a man who said he was near the south entrance watching the confrontation. 

Two witnesses said the man appeared to have been intoxicated, but others were not sure.

“I went into the store and everything was normal, and I came out of the store and this guy was lying there shot,” said one shopper.

As required by RPD protocol, an outside agency was called to take charge of the investigation because of the officer involvement. Fremont County Sheriff’s deputies arrived shortly, as did a Guardian ambulance and other RPD officers. Fremont County Coroner’s personnel also came to the scene. The brief RPD statement confirmed that the Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigation also is involved.