RIVERTON — The Fremont County Coroner’s Office will hold a public inquest into the officer-involved shooting that resulted in the death of Anderson Antelope, 58, of Riverton, on Saturday at Walmart.
Officials said the Riverton Police Department officer who shot Antelope was not injured, despite being “stabbed… in the center of the chest” with a six-inch knife, according to a Monday statement from Fremont County Attorney Patrick LeBrun.
LeBrun said the knife failed to penetrate the officer’s body armor.
Antelope then “continued the assault, with knife in hand, and was shot,” LeBrun said.
He died at the scene.
The Division of Criminal Investigation is conducting the investigation into the shooting. The agency has not responded to requests for information.
In a press release Monday, Fremont County Coroner Mark Stratmoen said it is his policy to convene an inquest to determine cause and manner of death whenever a fatality is caused, or suspected to be caused, by a law enforcement agency 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 has said in published reports.
“Otherwise there is room for doubt, justified or not, (or a) feeling in the public that something was covered up.”
He estimated, however, that it would take “more than a month at the earliest” to schedule the inquest, which will take place after the investigation into the incident is complete.
Until then, Stratmoen said, his office will issue no further comment on the shooting, or the circumstances surrounding it.
On Tuesday chief deputy coroner Erin Ivie said she would not even confirm Antelope’s name or age until the inquest takes place.
The proceeding involves three jurors whom Stratmoen selects to examine the information collected in the course of the investigation into Antelope’s death.
The jury and Stratmoen also may question witnesses during the inquest.
Antelope’s death took place after the RPD responded to a report of intoxication at about 1:30 p.m. Saturday at Walmart, police records show.
Witnesses said Antelope had been in the area for some time, but when the RPD arrived he was sitting on the sidewalk outside of the south entrance to the store, creating an obstacle for shoppers.
Witnesses said the responding RPD officer approached Antelope, who remained seated while the two spoke.
Witnesses said the officer appeared to be asking Antelope to vacate the area around the store, and Antelope appeared to refuse. The officer then bent over and grasped Antelope’s shoulder, witnesses said, and Antelope attacked the officer with a knife. The officer, who was protected by his body armor, drew his sidearm, pointing the gun at Antelope and ordering Antelope to drop the knife, witnesses said; when Antelope failed to comply — one witness said Antelope moved toward the officer with the knife again raised — the officer fired once, shooting Antelope in the head.
Antelope’s body was fully visible for several minutes before officers covered him with a sheet that still left his right hand and part of his right arm protruding, witnesses said. He was lying face down, and there was blood on the sidewalk.
The Fremont County Sheriff’s Office strung yellow crime-scene tape around the area, and law enforcement vehicles, expandable metal barriers and shopping carts were used to block the public’s view of the body.
Walmart remained open throughout.
A Saturday press release from the Northern Arapaho Tribe indicates that Antelope was a tribal member.
“We are working diligently with local and federal officials to learn more details regarding this incident,” the press release states. “Our prayers are with the family and loved ones of the tribal member.”
By Katie Roenigk
The Ranger Via Wyoming News Exchange