CASPER – The city of Casper is trying to end a years-long lawsuit over a police shooting that killed a man walking down 15th Street in 2018.
Since the suit was filed in 2019, a federal judge has denied a pair of motions to dismiss the case or to settle it before heading to trial, based on the facts available. The problem is, the two sides can’t agree on the facts.
On Feb. 25, 2018, two Casper police officers shot and killed Douglas Oneyear after responding to a report he had assaulted an employee at a nearby gas station. The department said the shooting was justified, as Oneyear was carrying a sword and refused to stop walking when officers told him to.
Then, on the first anniversary of his death, Oneyear’s mother, Linda Lennen, filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the officers and the city, claiming the shooting violated Oneyear’s constitutional rights.
In late March, the city asked the court to issue a judgment in the case without sending it to trial. About a month later, Judge Scott Skavdahl denied it. Two weeks after that, the city again moved to settle the case outside of trial.
Now, Lennen is again asking the court to deny that motion.
In the month following the shooting, then-District Attorney Mike Blonigen declined to prosecute the officers, saying Oneyear had approached them intending to take his own life.
Video from the night — taken from surveillance cameras at a Loaf ‘N Jug and police dash cameras — shows Oneyear entering the store, walking behind the counter, hitting a lottery machine with a sword and following an employee. The footage has no sound.
The employee then called police, according to court documents, saying Oneyear had threatened to kill her while she was working.
A few minutes earlier, another person had called 911 to report a man walking down the middle of 15th Street had tried to hit her car with a “crowbar.”
Police footage shows officers encountering Oneyear near the Quail Run Apartments, where they later learned he lived. After repeatedly telling Oneyear to stop walking toward them and to drop the sword, officers Jonathan Schlager and Cody Meyers shot at him.
Oneyear died on the scene. He had two bullets lodged in his spine.
The suit states there was “no attempt” to subdue Oneyear without resorting to lethal measures, and that there was no reason to kill him.
The officers’ response denies that claim.
Todd Hambrick, the attorney representing Oneyear’s mother in the suit, told the Star-Tribune in 2018 the sword was a toy he used as a walking stick, and was dull with a rounded tip.
Casper Police Chief Keith McPheeters said in an April 2018 press conference that the sword was not a toy and shared pictures of it that seemed to show a sharp edge.
In the same press conference, McPheeters showed footage of the shooting and said Oneyear suffered from unspecified mental illness and had both prescription and illegal drugs in his system at the time of his death.
The suit, filed in February 2019, was initially brought against Schlager and Meyer, CPD, the city of Casper and the Wyoming Law Enforcement Academy for claims of insufficient training. The police department and WLEA were dropped as defendants two months later.
Court filings indicate confusion over the defendants’ legal representation and filings, as several documents and motions were filed twice — both by attorneys for the city and for the officers.
Many of the documents in the case, including an extensive list of exhibits supporting the defendant’s motion to settle the case before trial, are not available to view.
In October 2019, a judge granted a motion by an attorney for Schlager and Meyer to make certain sensitive documents and information private, viewable only by those involved in the case. Before asking the court to settle the case, the city’s attorney asked the court to accept a list of 131 facts submitted by the defendants’ side, saying that Lennen was eight days late to respond to the list.
It’s standard in some cases heading to trial for both sides to agree on some basic facts that then don’t have to be established in court, but Lennen’s attorney said in response that it should not be used to “address the actual merits of the case.”
The facts requested on the list address Oneyear’s medical and criminal history and other circumstances around his death, but also includes claims about his mental health, past substance use, employment status, relationship with his children and feelings toward the police.
Judge Kelly Rankin ruled to withdraw that list of facts in late April, to give Lennen — who says she never received the list, according to court filings — time to respond. Attorneys on both sides of the case did not respond to requests for comment on Tuesday. The Casper Police Department does not comment on active litigation.