Casper Police Found ‘Justified’ in March Standoff Shooting, But No Bodycam Footage Available
The Casper Police Department recently announced that the officers involved in a March 2022 standoff in Natrona County that resulted in the death of a suspect were found justified in their actions.
Per a release from the Casper Police Department, the Natrona County District Attorney has cleared four (4) Casper Police Officers of any wrongdoing after they fired their weapons during the multi-agency incident.
"In keeping with our long-standing commitment to integrity and transparency, the Casper Police Department is releasing additional information pertaining to the involvement of our agency in this multi-agency incident and officer-involved shooting that occurred on March 19, 2022 in Evansville, Wyoming," the release stated.
K2 Radio News previously reported that Casper Police were in the process of serving a felony arrest warrant on a suspect in the 400 block of 5th Street in Evansville at approximately 5:15 p.m. on March 18, 2022.
"Ultimately, the suspect engaged officers by shooting at them," the press release stated. "In response to the officers being fired upon by the suspect, now barricaded inside the residence, several nearby agencies responded to assist the original DCI team as the situation grew increasingly dangerous. Gunfire from the suspect was emanating out of the house, toward the officers and into the surrounding residential area."
The standoff lasted an incredible 18 hours and included assistance from the Special Response Team of the Natrona County Sheriff's Office and the Department of Criminal Investigations. Everybody involved attempted "negotiating with the suspect, using various non-lethal tactics to get the suspect to leave the residence, and maintaining a safe perimeter to shield citizens from the gunfire coming from the suspect."
"Ultimately, in the early morning daylight hours of March 19, 2022, having already been fired upon several times, officers with the Casper Police Department who were assisting with this incident, returned fire after being shot at yet again," the release said. "It was during these final shots fired by the officers that the suspect was believed to have been fatally wounded by an officer’s bullet. Following an autopsy investigation by the Natrona County Coroner’s Office, this was later determined to be the case."
The release noted that this incident was "uniquely complex." Agencies from both local and state levels assisted, including the Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigations and the Natrona County Sheriff's Office (NCSO).
"The involvement of the Casper Police Department was one of support for the agencies conducting the investigation and the rapidly evolving incident involving the suspect’s ongoing threat to the public’s safety," the release stated. "For this reason, information about the criminal investigation, which resulted in the officer-involved shooting, the tactics used during the standoff, and other details specific to the investigation, are not releasable by the Casper Police Department."
The release stated that various CPD officers, in addition to their duties with the Casper Police Department, also serve on a variety of task forces with the Wyoming DCI and the Special Response Team of the NCSO. Because both of those agencies were involved in the incident, so, too, were the CPD officers who normally serve as part of those teams.
In essence, though the Casper Police Department was not the leading agency during this standoff, CPD officers were involved because of their commitment to the Wyoming DCI and NCSO task forces.
The release stated that on May 17, 2022, the findings from the officer-involved shooting were completed by a joint investigation team from the Wyoming DCI and the NCSO.
"The individual investigators assigned to conduct the investigation from these two agencies were not directly involved in the initial criminal investigation or in the incident itself," the release stated. "The findings of the joint investigation were then submitted to the Natrona County District Attorney for review and a determination as to whether the involved officers were justified in the discharge of their weapons during the incident."
On June 3, 2022, Natrona County District Attorney Daniel Itzen delivered a letter of determination to the Casper Police Department.
The letter revealed that the officers who fired their weapons were, in fact, justified in doing so.
“The question to be answered is did law enforcement use reasonable self-defense," the letter stated. "In answering that question, one must look at the totality of the circumstances. Officers can use deadly force when a reasonable officer under similar circumstances would believe that the person poses a threat of serious harm to himself or others. In this case, it was Clutter [the suspect] who shot first each and every time the officers responded. Law enforcement is entitled to the same rights of self-defense, as anyone else would be. Officers talked about how close the bullets were. In fact, one person’s boots had bullet holes in them. It was painfully obvious that Clutter wanted to kill police officers. When officers were put in this position, they are left with little choice but to protect the citizens of Natrona County, including themselves. All alternatives to end this situation peacefully were tried. It was Clutter’s actions, and his actions alone, that led to this result. Each of these officers have a legitimate selfdefense claim or a defense of another claim. As you are aware, it is the State’s burden to disprove a self-defense case. Given the overwhelming evidence that law enforcement had a reasonable belief that Clutter posed a substantial risk, the State could not meet its burden. Further, given the circumstances, the officers’ actions were reasonable in all respects. For the reasons listed, the State declines this case.”
Following the determination, the four Casper Police Department officers that were involved in the incident returned to full, unrestricted duty.
The press release also states that officers were wearing body cameras. However, the batteries used for the cameras died "hours prior" to the shooting, ensuring there was no actual footage of that incident.
"In this incident, officers of the Casper Police Department were on-scene and placed in critical positions in the area of the suspect’s residence," the release stated. "The officers were on scene and stationed in harm’s way for an extended period of time. In addition, there existed significant hazards surrounding the ability to safely move officers to and from positions of relative safety while being targeted by an assailant. These factors, while competing against the functional battery life of our body worn cameras, ensured that no footage was recorded for the actual incident in which our officers were fired upon by the suspect, nor the officers’ return fire toward the suspect. As each of the body-worn cameras’ batteries wore down, all available footage ends several hours prior to the last shots being fired during the early morning, daylight hours on March 19, 2022."
The release noted that the length and breadth of the standoff "exhausted many of the resources available to the law enforcement officers involved, including the recording equipment we normally rely upon."
Also of note is the fact that the suspect's father apologized to law enforcement on behalf of his son, for putting them in danger. The suspect's father agreed that officers did everything they could to get the young man to surrender.
"Attention," the suspect's father wrote in a social media post. "I want to say sorry to all Law Enforcement Officers for my son [sic] actions during that stand off with him on Friday and Saturday. I'm thankful to God he didn't wound or kill any of you well you all where doing your job [sic]. So happy you all got to go home to your family. I talked to some very good hearted people in the Natrona County Sheriff Department that feeled [sic] me in on how it when [sic] down and ended. I'm very grateful you all tried your hardest to have him give his self [sic] up and surrender even though he was trying to hurt you all. May God always protect you all sincerely! Please people share this so it can hopefully reach the people intended for. My son's acting was way wrong no matter what mind set he was in. He was my son I will miss him. People that need help get it please."
The CPD wrote that they consistently review these incidents when they take place, to verify that all policies were followed but also to "better prepare our equipment, tools, technology, and our officers to deal with similar critical incidents of this nature."
The CPD noted that that process is still ongoing.
The Casper Police Department recognizes the impacts of these significant events on the loved ones of the deceased and on our entire community. Any loss of life in our community is tragic. Our condolences are with all those affected by this incident.
K2 Radio News has reached out to Dan Itzen with the Natrona County District Attorney's Office for a copy of the full letter, and we will update this story accordingly once we receive it.