LARAMIE – Attorneys for Debbie Hinkel, mother of Robbie Ramirez, have filed a notice of governmental claim against Albany County regarding the November 2018 killing of Ramirez by a sheriff’s deputy.
Under the Wyoming Governmental Claims Act, a notice of claim is a requisite first step before a wrongful death lawsuit can be filed against Albany County in Ramirez’s case. The claim demands damages of $20 million.
Ramirez, a 39-year-old Laramie man who had a variant of schizophrenia, was shot dead in 2018 by sheriff’s deputy Derek Colling during a scuffle between the two men when Ramirez drove away from a traffic stop.
The claim listed numerous allegations of negligence on Colling’s part, and also alleges that when the sheriff’s office hired Colling, it was negligent in: testing Colling’s fitness to serve, evaluating his “past pattern of excessive force,” training and supervising him, and other allegations of negligence.
The claim accuses Sheriff David O’Malley of overlooking Colling’s faults because of, in part, the sheriff’s friendship with Colling’s father.
The claim asserts that O’Malley was directly warned – though the claim does not state by whom – that Colling was a “loose cannon” with an “out-of-control temper rendering him unfit to serve in law enforcement.”
“Sheriff O’Malley was further directly advised that Deputy Colling needed mental health care and treatment,” the claim states.
Colling was previously involved in two fatal shootings while working as an officer in Las Vegas. He was fired from that city’s police department in 2011 after what Hinkel’s claim describes as an “eight-month investigation surrounding charges of use of excessive force, police brutality, and false arrest.”
Albany County commissioners simply acknowledged receipt of the claim Tuesday, and Albany County Attorney Peggy Trent said that pertinent officials will “have a dialogue and discussion and will come back with a recommendation on how to proceed on this claim.”
Because of the filing of the claim, Hinkel resigned as the chair of Albany County’s mental health board Tuesday.
Trent said Hinkel’s resignation was accepted with “a heavy heart”; both Trent and Albany County Commission Chair Terri Jones praised Ramirez’s mother for her work on mental health issues in the county.
Trent said Hinkel has “provided us with great direction and leadership.”Despite Hinkel’s resignation, she’ll continue to help working with crisis intervention training in the county, Trent said.
“I plan to advocate for those with mental illness by continuing my work as president of NAMI-Laramie and also as a board member with Laramie Cares,” Hinkel wrote in her resignation letter.