Derek Colling, a police officer with a checkered past, has been confirmed as having killed Robbie Ramirez of Laramie. The 39-year-old was fatally shot Sunday on Garfield Street, between 21st and 22nd streets.
Colling, a corporal with the Albany County Sheriff's Office, also fatally shot a teenager in 2009 and then was later fired from Las Vegas’s police department in 2011 after beating a man who was filming police.
Colling was on-duty at the time he killed Ramirez during a traffic stop. He has since been placed on administrative leave.
When Colling’s past controversies became public knowledge in Laramie four years ago, Albany County Sheriff David O’Malley faced scrutiny for having hired the man. At the time, O’Malley strongly defended the hiring and called Colling “the best man for the job.”
After Colling's role was confirmed Tuesday, O'Malley did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Albany County Attorney Peggy Trent said in a Tuesday statement she is "currently providing updates to the family of Mr. Ramirez as to the status of the investigation."
That investigation is being conducted by the Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigation and Trent said her office will "receive updates on the investigative process, assess and review evidence, request any follow-up investigation, and provide support to DCI regarding legal issues such as search warrants."
"Once the investigation is completed, the Albany County Attorney’s Office will review the investigation as to the reasonableness of the use of force in light of the facts and circumstances and make a determination as to whether the use of force was justified and if not, whether there would be criminal prosecution of the officer," Trent says. "The county attorney’s office will communicate their findings in a decision letter to DCI, the Albany County Sheriff’s Office, and to the public."
Colling was born and raised in Laramie and his father is a Wyoming Highway Patrol trooper.
Ramirez, 39, had a variant of schizophrenia and his family told the Laramie Boomerang that Colling knew Ramirez and was aware of his mental health issues.
While officials have not explained the circumstances of Ramirez’s death, his family said he was being pulled over for a traffic violation when he tried to flee.
“(Robbie) was so paranoid about police that he took off and ran to his apartment where he felt safe,” said Ramirez’s grandmother, Doris Bunn-Manfull.
Both she and Ramirez’s mother, Debbie Hinkel, criticized O’Malley for hiring Colling.
In general, Hinkel said O’Malley has done an exemplary job of supporting mental health issues in Albany County. She told the Boomerang she did not want the incident to affect O’Malley’s re-election.
Bunn-Manfull feels differently.
“I want David O’Malley to resign,” she said. “He was told not to hire (Colling) and did it anyways.”
Officials mostly declined to comment on the shooting for the first 48 hours, but Ramirez’s family helped ensure the death didn’t go unnoticed.
“We want this story to go nationwide — the injustice of this policeman,” Bunn-Manfull said.
Trent said Monday some unofficial accounts of the incident are not accurate.
Colling was fired from the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department following an eight-month investigation into a 2011 incident, when he beat a man who was filming police.
Despite the firing, O’Malley said came highly recommended from Las Vegas police peers and supervisors.
“I wasn’t there, I didn’t investigate him, but I know that, in looking at the backgrounds of people that I talked to, everyone stood behind (Colling) but the top-end,” O’Malley said in 2014.
Las Vegas resident Mitchell Crooks, a freelance videographer, accused Colling, an officer of six years at the time, of beating him when he refused to stop videoing police as they investigated a burglary across the street from his residence.
A video of the confrontation posted on YouTube was viewed more than 100,000 times.
Police arrested Crooks during the incident for battery against an officer, trespassing and resisting arrest, but the charges were later dropped.
The Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department eventually paid the Crooks $100,000 in a March 2012 settlement.
The Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department also conducted an internal investigation into the matter and concluded in 2011 that Colling violated several of the department’s policies.
Before the incident with Crooks, Colling was involved in two fatal shootings in Las Vegas.
In 2006, he and four other officers shot and killed Shawn Jacob Collins, 43, after the man pulled a gun at a gas station, according to an article in the Las Vegas Review-Journal.
In 2009, Colling shot and killed Tanner Chamberlain, a mentally ill 15-year-old who was holding a knife to his mother’s throat, according to the Review-Journal article.
Both shootings were cleared from wrongdoing.
O’Malley said in 2014 he made the decision to hire Colling fully aware of his history in Las Vegas.
“He was terminated — I knew that when I hired him,” O’Malley said. “But … I really take more credence in the guys that he worked with and his supervisors’ opinions than I do some guy with four stars on his shoulder sitting in his office in some large metropolitan. I’m really glad that I gave him a chance. We discussed it. It wasn’t a decision that we made lightly.”
The Sheriff’s Office then did an extensive background check, speaking with 20-30 members of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department. Everyone spoke highly of Colling, O’Malley said.
Colling graduated from the Wyoming Law Enforcement Academy in March 2013 first in his class. He was also awarded Top Shooter, Top Physical Fitness, Top Academic and Top Graduate — the first person to sweep all categories at the academy.