RIVERTON — A public inquest into a fatal, officer-involved shooting that took place in January in Riverton will be held next month.

No officers were injured in the Jan. 10 incident, which resulted in the death of Nicholas Garcia, 34, after an altercation with two agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.

Fremont County Attorney Patrick LeBrun determined last month that he will not press charges against the officers involved.

But Fremont County Coroner Mark Stratmoen said it is his agency’s policy to convene a public inquest whenever a fatality is caused, or suspected to be caused, by law enforcement in his jurisdiction.

“The family of the deceased in these circumstances deserves an independent, outside and public inquiry in order to assess the truth of the matter regardless of appearance,” Stratmoen said in published reports.

“Otherwise there is room for doubt, justified or not, (or a) feeling in the public that something was covered up.”

The inquest, which has been scheduled for 9 a.m. April 5 in the old circuit court room at 818 S. Federal Blvd., will determine the cause and manner of Garcia’s death.

In a press release Wednesday, Stratmoen noted that, while the inquest proceeding is open to the public, space in the old court room is limited, and relatives of the deceased will have priority seating.

He requested that all cell phones silent during the inquest and said no photo or audio or visual recordings will be permitted.

“The public will be expected to observe the usual decorum and behavior as for any court room,” Stratmoen wrote.

In previous reports he explained that he will select three people to sit on the inquest jury.

The jury will determine the manner and cause of death in the case after examining the information collected in the course of the law enforcement investigation into Garcia’s death. The jury and Stratmoen also may question witnesses. After the inquest, Stratmoen said all of the evidence presented will be filed with the Clerk of District Court.

In a press release announcing his decision not to pursue charges in the case, LeBrun offered additional details about the incident in order to support his conclusion that the ATF officers were justified in shooting Garcia, who had “ambushed and attempted to kill” the two federal agents.

In the days prior to the shooting, LeBrun said, a citizen “familiar with” Garcia told law enforcement that Garcia had been receiving ammunition “via common carrier delivery.” “Garcia was a felon, and thus prohibited from purchasing or possessing firearms or ammunition for firearms,” LeBrun wrote.

 

By Katie Roegnik

Riverton Ranger Via Wyoming News Exchange