SHERIDAN — Clayton Denny set out by bike Saturday to shoot nighttime photos and stop for a beer at the Beaver Creek Saloon on the way home. He wound up in the emergency room with his eyes swollen shut, a broken bone in his face and a severe concussion.
Police arrested two suspects Thursday afternoon in connection with the attack on Denny: Dylan Dygert, 21, and Jacob Robert Olson, 26. Both have been charged with aggravated battery, a felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison. Dygert and Olson are expected to make their initial appearances in Sheridan County Circuit Court Friday afternoon.
Lt. Tom Ringley, of the Sheridan Police Department, said that there is currently no probable cause to charge the suspects under federal hate crime laws, but that the Sheridan County Attorney’s Office will ultimately determine the charges.
The Sheridan Police Department investigation is ongoing.
Denny, 25, is half African-American and half Chippewa and Cree. A native of Billings, Montana, Denny served five years in the Marines and is now studying at Sheridan College to eventually pursue a bachelor’s in exercise science.
Speculation on social media is rampant about what happened and how, but Denny declined to discuss details of the night, citing the ongoing investigation.
What he would say is that he’d visited with his mother earlier Saturday for a quick, pre-Mother’s Day stop on her way through town. She works for the Veterans Affairs outreach clinic in Havre, Montana, and was traveling to a VA clinic in Oklahoma for work.
Then later that night, eager to practice his photography skills — a growing hobby — Denny set out with his camera to shoot photos. He wanted pictures of Sheridan, since he and his girlfriend Annie Shaver plan to return to Billings soon for Denny to pursue a bachelor’s.
But Denny doesn’t need to discuss the incident to show what it’s done to him.
All of his injuries are to his head, except for a few scratches on his body where he hit the ground.
Six staples and more than 20 stitches hold together the skin on his scalp and face. The whites of Denny’s eyes are now bright red, as blood has pooled. The left orbital, a face bone just below the eye socket, is fractured and will require surgery.
Denny’s been on bed rest since the attack, having left the house just once for a doctor appointment.
Shaver said they keep their doors locked now, even during daylight hours. Shaver, a nurse, knows how to function in high-stress situations, but she said after a week, the “disgusting” event is becoming real to her.
“It’s finally just starting to set in — the severity of it,” she said.
Shaver and Denny both noted the outpouring of support they’ve seen from friends, coworkers and others. People have brought the couple so much food they can’t fit it all in the fridge. The lawn has been mowed, and two representatives from the Sheridan College Veterans Services Office came by in person to deliver a check to help cover the bills.
This brought Shaver to tears, Denny said. And he would have cried, too, if it didn’t hurt.
“I do want people to know that the community of Sheridan has been awesome,” Denny said. “We’ve had people stopping by all weekend and all week, just saying, you know— giving their condolences and helping us out.”
Denny does not have medical insurance, and he is, of course, unable to return to work immediately as a personal trainer at The Body Shop Tan & Tone. Shaver, a nurse, is also taking time off temporarily.