RIVERTON — A Wyoming Highway Patrol trooper who was shot by and returned fire on a Lander man on Sinks Canyon Road in June acted within the law, according to a Friday statement by Fremont County Attorney Patrick LeBrun.
The incident marks the fourth officer-involved shooting in Fremont County since January of 2019. The previous three occurred in Riverton.
LeBrun’s announcement concludes a lengthy investigation by the Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigation into the June 25 event.
It is standard protocol for DCI to investigate officer-involved shootings and fatalities in Wyoming.
“The county attorney’s office has reviewed the case,” wrote LeBrun, “applied the law to its analysis and reached the following conclusions:”
On June 25 at about 3:20 p.m., the statement reads, a WHP trooper stopped a passenger vehicle for speeding on Sinks Canyon Road, near Lander.
The driver, later identified as 24-year-old David Fann, tried to elude the trooper, reaching speeds in excess of 100 mph, wrote LeBrun, who included a footnote clarifying that most case details were captured on the trooper’s dash camera, for which no audio was recorded.
“There is no sound because the trooper’s microphone was not operable at the time of this incident. The trooper had reported the malfunction more than an hour prior,” wrote the prosecutor.
Fann parked in a private driveway, as if waiting for the trooper’s contact.
There was a female passenger with him.
Because of the evasion and high speeds, the trooper approached the driver’s side vehicle with “obvious caution,” giving verbal commands that resulted in Fann exiting the vehicle.
Fann was armed with a .9-mm semi-automatic pistol “in an open carry position on his right hip,” the statement reads.
The trooper told Fann to put his hands on the roof of the vehicle, with his back to the trooper. After removing his sunglasses from his face with his hands, Fann did so.
When the trooper reached for his handcuffs, “Mr. Fann did not cooperate, and a struggle ensued,” LeBrun related, adding that “Fann said he was going to shoot the trooper in the face.”
Fann retrieved the pistol from his hip. “The trooper had hold of Mr. Fann in a bear hug position from behind,” and appeared to be struggling “to prevent Fann from shooting him.”
Due to the ongoing struggle, the trooper appeared “unable to reach his weapon.”
Fann tried “at least three times during the struggle” to point the gun at the trooper’s face, noted LeBrun, describing footage in which the pistol is “actually observed pointing directly at the trooper’s face for split seconds, while the trooper is depicted ducking his face out of the way of the barrel,” even while still holding Fann from behind.
Fann appeared to have “ceased his efforts to shoot the trooper in the face, and lowered the gun below his left hip, pointing it rearward in an apparent attempt to gain advantage by shooting the trooper in the lower half of his body.”
In what LeBrun called “his haste,” Fann shot himself in the left thigh. The bullet passed through Fann’s thigh, and entered the trooper’s leg.
The pair separated. The trooper pushed Fann away from him.
With his grasp freed, the trooper quickly drew his service weapon and fired three times in a span of about 1.5 seconds. All three of the trooper’s shots hit Fann.
“Experiencing significant blood loss, he then radioed for assistance and continued to hold the passenger and Mr. Fann at gunpoint” until help arrived. While holding the pair at gunpoint, the trooper can also be seen “attempting unsuccessfully to tie a tourniquet around his leg.”
Arriving law enforcement and other emergency personnel attempted life-saving measures on Fann “as quickly as it was safe to do so,” but their efforts were not successful.
LeBrun’s statement contemplates the uniqueness of Fann’s behavior that day.
“Mr. Fann was not known to be a violent person,” said LeBrun, drawing on interviews.
“This level of violence was certainly outside his previously known character… (and he was) suffering from significant life stressors that day.”
Fann also had “significant alcohol, marijuana, and methamphetamine intoxication.”
“I am confident these factors played a significant role,” the statement reads.
Fann was highly intoxicated at the time, according to a case report from the Fremont County Coroner’s Office.
Toxicology testing showed his blood-alcohol content was .412, and his body contained 18 nannograms per milliliter of methamphetamines.
Wyoming’s legal limit for operating a motor vehicle is a BAC of .08.
LeBrun called June 25 a “tragic day.”
“Regardless of the sadness and the reasons behind why Mr. Fann did what he did, the trooper acted heroically and necessarily to do what he reasonably believed he had to do to save his own life that day.”
In Wyoming, a person may take lethal action against another if he has a reasonable believe that such action is necessary “to prevent imminent death or serious bodily injury” to himself or others, statute notes.
LeBrun’s office, which prosecutes crimes in Fremont County, “shall take no further action.”