Wyoming news briefs for April 21


Jackson nonprofit helps Ukrainians gain Temporary Protected Status

JACKSON — Ukrainians living in Jackson Hole on a visa or an expired visa could qualify for a newly established Temporary Protected Status.

Local nonprofit Immigrant Hope is offering free consultations to help residents in Jackson Hole and Teton Valley, Idaho, gauge qualification for the new status, which protects foreign nationals from deportation.

Ukrainians who entered the U.S. by April 11 are eligible to apply for 18 months of deportation protection and work authorization, according to a Federal Register notice. Applications for the status opened Tuesday.

Immigrant Hope said there are about 30 to 40 Ukrainians living in Jackson who may qualify.

Nationally, about 59,600 individuals will be eligible for Temporary Protected Status, the Department of Homeland Security said. By extending the qualifying date from March 1 to April 11, thousands of additional Ukrainians who arrived in the U.S. by claiming asylum at the U.S.-Mexico border are eligible.

As it stands, those who gain Temporary Protected Status could legally remain in the U.S. until October 19, 2023. If the conflict in Ukraine persists, the Department of Homeland Security could extend the status beyond 18 months.


Cheyenne police seek suspect in connection with shooting

CHEYENNE  Cheyenne police detectives have identified a suspect in the March 29 shooting that took place near the 100 block of West Fifth Street. 

Police are seeking the public’s help in locating Jesus Franco-Ortiz, 30, of Cheyenne, who may have fled to Mexico sometime after the 3:45 a.m. shooting. 

On April 1, detectives obtained an arrest warrant for Franco-Ortiz, who has been charged with attempted murder. 

During the shooting, investigating officers located a 32-year-old male victim with multiple gunshot wounds. He was transported by ambulance for treatment and remains hospitalized. 

The case remains under investigation by the Cheyenne Police Department Detective Bureau. 

Anyone with information regarding Franco-Ortiz’s whereabouts is asked to contact Detective Pendleton at 307-633- 6666 or jpendleton@cheyennepd.org. Additionally, information can be provided anonymously at 307-638-TIPS or at silentwitnesslaramiecounty.com.


Civil suit against Sheridan County school district set for trial

SHERIDAN — Fourth Judicial District Court Judge Darci Phillips held a scheduling conference Tuesday in Calentine et al. v. Sheridan County School District No. 2 et al., a local lawsuit regarding mask requirements at Sheridan County School District 2 schools. 

Although SCSD2’s mask requirement has been lifted since November 2021, the parties asserted the case merits judicial examination and established a timeline for the case. 

In the plaintiffs’ petition for declaratory judgment and damages for deprivation of rights, plaintiff’s attorney Carrie Sisson argued SCSD2’s COVID-19 plan — which initially required children wear masks at school and now recommends mask-wearing for students and visitors — infringed on the fundamental rights of the plaintiffs, four parents of children attending SCSD2 schools. 

This, the suit alleges, irreparably harmed the plaintiffs, and they are entitled to relief. 

In his answer to the petition, attorney for the defendants Kendal Hoopes denied the majority of the plaintiffs’ allegations, arguing instead SCSD2 had proper authority to require masks at school and alleging several procedural issues with the petition. 

The Calentine case is similar to a couple of federal lawsuits in the U.S. District Court for the District of Wyoming. 

One such suit, Smith v. Gordon, was dismissed in March. Another suit against the school district, which alleges free speech violations related to masking issues, will go before U.S. District Court Judge Allen B. Johnson Wednesday.  

Before Phillips Tuesday, the parties preliminarily scheduled a bench trial — or trial before a judge, not a jury — in the case Dec. 5-6, 2022.


Avian flu confirmed in 2 birds found on UW campus

LARAMIE — A pair of turkey vultures found dead this week on the University of Wyoming main campus died of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI). 

The university reported Wednesday that state Game and Fish officials collected the birds and submitted them to the Wyoming State Veterinary Laboratory, which is approved to test for HPAI. 

While this viral disease may be highly lethal to birds, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s assessment is that HPAI is not a human health concern at this time. However, there have been rare human infections with this strain of bird flu overseas, according to a UW press release announcing the test results. 

People should exercise care and avoid contact with sick or dead wild birds and poultry. 

Since being detected in the United States in January, the virus has spread to poultry in at least 29 states, affecting more than 28 million domestic birds and untold numbers of wild birds. The WSVL first detected HPAI in Wyoming poultry in late March. Subsequently, HPAI has been diagnosed in various domestic and wild bird species across the state. Current information on HPAI in the U.S. may be found on the USDA-APHIS website.

People are advised to not pick up or handle any dead wild birds they may encounter and report clusters of dead wild birds to the Game and Fish Wildlife Health Laboratory at 307-745-5865. 

The Game and Fish Department maintains an up-to-date map of wild birds diagnosed with HPAI in Wyoming on the agency’s website at https://tinyurl.com/2p84hafp.