Wyoming news briefs for March 3

Posted 3/3/22

News from across Wyoming.

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Wyoming news briefs for March 3


Powell hospital board member resigns over vaccine mandate

POWELL — The Powell Valley Hospital District and Powell Valley Healthcare boards have an open position as Trustee Richard Stearns has resigned due to a federal COVID-19 vaccine mandate. 

Rich Stearns was one of four candidates who ran for three open positions on the board in 2020. 

He resigned last month over a Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) requirement that all people working or volunteering at health care facilities receiving funding through the federal programs be fully vaccinated by March 15. 

Stearns said he did not make the decision lightly. 

“It still turns my stomach, just that I had to resign,” Stearns said Wednesday, adding, “I really enjoyed serving on the board. The board is great, and the hospital management is just amazing.” 

Stearns said he isn’t against vaccines, but he objects to the mandate itself. 

He said he previously had COVID and that the experience was a “non-issue.” 

The federal mandate does allow for religious and medical exemptions and Stearns said he took a look at the applications. However, he said it would require him to lie about why he isn’t getting the vaccine, and that it goes against his Christian values to lie. 

Stearns added that the position on the board was voluntary, so unlike health care workers, he’s not losing his income. 

“I really feel for those people,” he said. 

As of Wednesday, Powell Valley Healthcare CEO Terry Odom said the organization was 98% compliant with the CMS mandate. Last fall, PVHC officials said they’d had a couple of employees resign over the requirement. 


Man charged after exposing himself multiple times in Walmart

GILLETTE — A man was arrested at Walmart Sunday night after allegedly exposing himself to a child and other shoppers in several aisles and departments of the store.

He has been charged with felony third-degree sexual abuse of a minor and four misdemeanor counts of public indecency, according to court documents.

His name was not released. The Sheriff's Office arrest log identified him as 40 years old.

The investigation began when police were called to Walmart around 7 p.m. for the report of a man exposing and touching himself inside of the store near customers. The suspect was found with Walmart loss prevention employees and “visibly shaking” as they searched through the security footage from the store, according to the court documents.

Employees found a video of the man in the electronics department with himself exposed. Multiple witnesses also claimed to have encountered the man who was exposed and touching himself in several areas inside the store.

According to court documents, one woman said that while in the chips aisle, she saw the man about 5 feet away with his hands near his groin making eye contact with her. She then went to find her husband, who found the man nearby sitting on a bench and touching himself. Another woman said she was with her young son when they saw him in the toy aisle; he was exposed, close to and facing her son. She got her son and left the aisle to call the police.

A store employee tracked him down in the electronics department where she saw him exposed.

The store found video footage of the man exposed in the electronics department but could not find the other incidents because of the lack of camera coverage in those aisles.


Engine trouble leads to fatal crash on I-90

SUNDANCE — A Moorcroft resident was killed on Tuesday in a vehicle crash that took place on the interstate near Moorcroft. 

The crash occurred when a passenger vehicle collided with a semi truck that was experiencing engine troubles. The incident took place at around 8:58 a.m. on February 22, at milepost 162 eastbound. 

A semi truck combination was traveling eastbound in the right lane at around 30 to 40 mph with its hazard lights activated due to engine troubles, says Lt. Tim Boumeester, Wyoming Highway Patrol. 

A passenger vehicle was also traveling eastbound, behind the semi. The driver stated following the crash that his cruise control was set at 76 mph, says Boumeester, and he was adjusting the radio just prior to the collision. 

The driver of the passenger vehicle braked and steered to the left of the semi truck in an attempt to avoid the collision, but was unsuccessful. 

The passenger vehicle collided with the semi trailer, rotating the car into the left-hand passing lane, where it came to an uncontrolled rest facing east. 

The tractor-trailer combination was able to come to a controlled stop approximately 450 feet north of the collision on the right-hand shoulder of the road. 

According to Boumeester, the driver of the passenger vehicle was wearing a seatbelt and survived. However, the passenger, identified as Joe Stone of Moorcroft, was pronounced deceased at the scene.


Cody Representative gets amendment to help gun manufacturers

CODY — Rep. Rachel Rodriguez-Williams, R-Cody, successfully added an amendment to the House budget bill last week in Cheyenne that aims to protect local gun manufacturers.

It comes in response to an issue of Cody manufacturer Big Horn Armory being blocked from Shop Wyoming because the program uses a payment gateway that does not allow firearm sales.

“This is really an embarrassment is what it comes down to,” she said last Thursday on the House floor. “We are a firearm-friendly state and we advertise ourselves as a firearm-friendly state, and this is an industry that is thriving.”

The amendment states that any payment processor utilized by the Shop Wyoming program must be compliant with 9 W.S. 13-10-302(a), a law that prohibits financial institutions and payment processors in Wyoming from discriminating against firearms businesses that support or are “engaged in the lawful commerce of firearms, firearm accessories or ammunition products.”

There is also a mirror amendment on the Senate’s budget bill.

“Rachel Rodriguez-Williams is someone I greatly respect,” said Greg Buchel, president of Big Horn Armory. “She has integrity and is much about following the law.”

Big Horn Armory is known for its big bore rifles, including .50 caliber lever action and AR-style rifles.

The Shop Wyoming program is part of the Wyoming Small Business Development Center Network and funded through a cooperative agreement with U.S. Small Business Administration funds appropriated by Congress through the CARES Act to assist businesses in recovering from the negative effects of Covid.


Pet skunk left behind after domestic fight

GILLETTE — A pet skunk and a cat were left in a hotel room after officers responded to a domestic violence report at 6 a.m. Monday that involved a naked man and woman drunk and fighting.

Someone reported seeing the couple, identified as a 40-year-old man and 32-year-old woman, “naked, screaming and physically fighting” at Tower West Lodge, Police Lt. Kelly Alger said.

Neither were cooperative with police and both appeared drunk and under the influence of a controlled substance. Both were arrested for domestic battery. During the investigation, a meth pipe was seen inside their room.

No other controlled substances were found, but officers did find a pet skunk and cat that needed a place to go. Animal Control later arrived and retrieved the two pets.

The woman was additionally charged with interference after falsely identifying herself multiple times, Alger said.