Wyoming shouldn’t pretend to be disinterested spectators in the national crisis over policing. Wyoming should take a deeper dive into the police killings in our midst.
Robbie Ramirez. Andy Antelope. Jasen Scott Ramirez. John Randall Veach. Each killed by Wyoming law enforcement officers since 2015.
In non-flyover states, activists speak out, demanding justice for “say their name.” They protest. Ben Crump and Al Sharpton show up and raise hell. But Wyoming is the ultimate social-justice flyover state. Ben and Al and the others just fly over.
That leaves only us. Alone. No flashy media. No national spotlight. Just us. You and I and our pastors, along with political, business, academic leaders and others. Mostly red in the head. We, the people of Wyoming, watch it happen and say less than little. Actually, nothing. Care less. It’s not your child, right? Not your father, grandfather. Blue lives matter. Others? Not so much. Can I get an amen?
Isn’t complacency complicity? What have we been complacently complicit in?
Robbie Ramirez was just some mentally ill guy who everyone in town knew. Grew up in Laramie. A cop, who grew up with Robbie and had already killed someone else’s child, shot Robbie to death after a traffic stop that started when Ramirez drew that cop’s attention by driving too slow down a Laramie street.
Andy Antelope? He was just another drunk Indian, right? His crime was interfering with the joyful experience of Walmart shoppers in Riverton. Jasen Scott Ramirez was killed by law enforcement officers as he left a funeral in a Douglas church.
John Randall Veach was shot by Rawlins police officers in 2015. Cops said he was trying to run them over with his truck, which witnesses say was moving about five miles an hour when Veach was shot.
Three of the cases were investigated by the DCI. Robbie Ramirez’s killing went before a grand jury in Laramie, where the county attorney somehow disproved criminal justice experts who have always said prosecutors could use a grand jury to indict a ham sandwich.
The Fremont County coroner thought an inquest into Mr. Antelope’s death was justified under the facts of the case. But, the county attorney barred it from happening. In Mr. Veach’s case, Carbon County officials said they wanted to avoid any potential conflict of interest between law enforcement and the local county attorney. So, they appointed the Carbon County prosecutor’s old high school classmate to investigate.
Each killing was deemed justified. Maybe so, but it would be better for everyone, including law enforcement, if that determination was made independently.
John Randall Veach’s killing cost taxpayers a $925,000 civil settlement. In Robbie Ramirez’s case, a civil suit is pending. Down the road, that case will likely be settled quietly. The taxpayers will write a check, but never told how many zeroes it included. The settlement will specify that no one admits to any wrongdoing. All will be forgiven, and only the taxpayers will account.
After Ramirez died, there was a discussion of the obvious. Maybe his death and that of the others was justified. Maybe not. Many saw a conflict of interest when cops investigate cops in a state where everyone knows everyone. If I investigate you today, you might investigate me tomorrow. Momentary urges to do something faded.
These are interconnected communities. Relationships between county prosecutors, local law enforcement officers and the Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigation are too close to comfort the families who are left with a loved one to bury and unanswered questions on their minds.
The relationship between law enforcement and Wyoming legislators is also cozy. If you are waiting for lawmakers to solve this problem, you’re ignoring the fact that the current framework for investigating police shootings works to the benefit of everyone in the system except those left behind to mourn.
If Rev. Al won’t come to Wyoming, maybe Merrick Garland should. Perhaps it’s time for the Justice Department to conduct a federal “practices and patterns” inquiry in Wyoming.