The Division of Criminal Investigation handed over to Albany County Attorney Peggy Trent a “preliminary package” of its investigation into the fatal police shooting of Laramie man Robbie Ramirez.
Trent said she received that report Friday. However, she’s also put in a request for more material from the state investigative agency and she’s still awaiting an autopsy and toxicology report. Only when all that information is received can she determine “whether there was reasonable force used and, if it wasn’t reasonable, if there should be prosecution,” she said Tuesday.
Once a determination on a potential prosecution of Albany County Sheriff’s deputy Derek Colling is made, Trent said there will be a separate “personnel process.”
During a Nov. 4 traffic stop, Colling fatally shot Ramirez near Garfield Street, between 21st and 22nd streets.
Colling, who has since been placed on administrative leave, also fatally shot a teenager in 2009, then was later fired from the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department in 2011 after beating a man who was filming police.
Colling was born and raised in Laramie. 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.
With the agreement of Sheriff David O’Malley, county commissioners approved funding Nov. 20 for an external review of the Sheriff’s Office’s hiring practices and procedures. Commissioner Heber Richardson said Tuesday the individual or group conducting that review has not yet been selected.
Without offering specifics, Richardson strongly criticized the news coverage of Ramirez’s death at Tuesday’s county board meeting.
“The media has done a terrible job on this — an atrocious job on this,” he said. “What I have witnessed in the media has been malpractice, in my opinion.”
When Colling’s past controversies became public knowledge in Laramie four years ago, 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.”
On Nov. 14, the Sheriff’s Office elected to show dash camera and police body camera footage of the shooting to local media outlets. However, the footage has not been made available to the public.
In response, some Laramie residents and the American Civil Liberties Union have urged Trent to release the video footage to the public.
Sabrina King, policy director for the ACLU of Wyoming, criticized the decision to show video of the shooting only to local news outlets in a Nov. 27 press release.
“There is no basis in Wyoming law for the county attorney to give a press conference where the body camera footage is shown to select media outlets with commentary by the sheriff’s department — the very department responsible for hiring, training and putting on the street the corporal who shot Ramirez,” King said. “This biased approach to the release of public records is inappropriate at best, and an affront to public accountability and transparency.”
Trent said in a Nov. 16 interview with Wyoming Public Media she anticipates releasing the video in its entirety to the public “at a later time.” However, she said input of Ramirez’s family will also influence that decision. A premature release, she said, could compromise a potential prosecution.
When police shot a woman May 26 at Vedauwoo, Trent did not make a determination on prosecution until September. When she did, she sent the Laramie Boomerang a detailed explanation of her decision not to prosecute the officers involved.
With the Ramirez case, Trent said it has taken longer for DCI to finish its investigation. However, she said she’s been working more closely with DCI on the Ramirez case and should be able to make a determination about a prosecution faster than she did with the Vedauwoo shooting.
Trent told the commissioners complaints against the Sheriff’s Office have increased in the wake of Ramirez’s death.
During Tuesday’s public comment period, Albany County resident Carl Meloche complained about a search conducted July 2 at his home. Meloche said an emergency call from the area near his house led deputies to search his home, and others, without first seeking warrants.
Trent said she requested DCI to investigate Meloche’s complaint.
“We’ve been receiving a lot of requests for investigations,” Trent said. “We are responding, it’s just not the answers that Carl’s wanting to hear.”
Commissioners also reviewed a claim Tuesday from a former ROTC cadet at the University of Wyoming. That cadet, whose story was thoroughly documented by Wyoming Public Media in March, alleged she was sexually assaulted by a fellow cadet in 2017.
In her claim, which the county received Nov. 21, the accuser said she reported the sexual assault to Albany County sheriff’s deputies, who allegedly bullied her into a “forced retraction” that led to her dismissal from the ROTC program.
The woman is seeking $1.2 million in damages from the county.
At Trent’s request, the county board denied the claim as a procedural matter Tuesday, opting to have its liability insurance carrier review the allegations first.
Typically, Trent said she has time to thoroughly review such claims before they come to the county board. With the controversy surrounding the Ramirez case, Trent said she hasn’t had time to thoroughly review the sexual assault claim.