Officers cleared in Gillette shooting

GILLETTE — The officers involved in the shooting that killed a Gillette man this January have been named and cleared of criminal charges.

Park County Attorney Bryan A. Skoric found Gillette Police Department officer Patrick Totzke and Lt. Jason Marcus’ use of force justified in the death of 22-year-old Ismael Trinidad Montes earlier this year.

The incident began when Totzke and Marcus responded to the 500 block of Church Avenue around 7 a.m. Jan. 16 when homeowners reported a man was in their home who had made violent threats and refused to leave.

The police department released an edited 5-minute body camera video from the incident showing officers entering the home and finding Montes inside of the trailer with a machete.

“Ismael, put that down,” one of the officers is heard saying in the video when they first make contact. “Put that down right now, Ismael.”

After drawing a hand gun, the officer whose body camera footage was used in the video swapped it for a pepper ball gun while the other held a Taser and repeatedly asked Montes to drop the weapon.

According to the Park County Attorney’s Office review, Totzke entered the home first and held the pepper ball gun.

In that initial encounter, officers shot pepper balls and deployed the Taser, at which point Montes walked further into the trailer.

Officers followed him inside and down a hallway, where Montes tried opening what appeared to be a locked door before entering and closing himself in a bathroom. Montes opened the door and popped out of the doorway with the machete for a moment, at which point officers fired more pepper balls. He went back into the bathroom.

Eventually, Montes ran out of the bathroom and charged toward officers.

The body camera footage showed Montes absorb pepper balls and push through a Taser probe while moving toward officers with the machete raised. Montes swung the machete twice, appearing to make contact with Marcus while Totzke pulled out his gun and fired two shots, hitting Montes.

Montes dropped the machete, went to retrieve it and advanced toward officers again, at which point both officers shot at him.

Officers performed life-saving measure and EMS was called. He was pronounced dead at the scene. One of the officers was treated for minor injuries, according to the statement.

Marcus was hit at least twice by Montes, including one strike to the head that caused bleeding and another to the groin, which only left a mark on his uniform, according to the attorney’s review.

The Park County District Attorney’s Office received the Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigations report on the incident on Feb. 9 and after its review, deemed the shooting justified and that no criminal charges were warranted against the officers.

“Any sudden loss of life is a tragedy for our community. Sadly, this is a tragic example of the very serious dangers of illegal drug use,” said Police Chief Chuck Deaton in a press release. “We are grateful that our officers were not seriously injured. We are thankful for the dedicated men and women who choose to put their lives on the line every day for the safety of our community.”

A toxicology report on Montes found “methamphetamine, amphetamine, THC and metabolites of cocaine,” according to the review.

The video edits and redactions were made to “protect the identities of those involved and, to the extent possible, compassionately consider the loved ones of the deceased,” according to text from the video.

“The officers reasonably believed they were in immediate danger and were thereby justified in using deadly force,” the review read. “The body camera footage tells the story.”

The death of Montes was the first of two officer-involved shootings in Gillette this year. The second occurred on March 21, when Daren Lee Henle, 57, died from multiple gunshot wounds to the torso after officers responded to the report of shots fired in the 500 block of East Lincoln Street.

Wyoming DCI is still investigating the incident.

At the time of the second Gillette shooting, there had been four officer-involved shootings in Wyoming this year, according to numbers provided by DCI.

Since then, in early April, a Laramie County Sheriff’s deputy was hospitalized but OK after he shot and killed a man while responding to the report of a Laramie County Community College student who was robbed.