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By Ray K. Erku
Rawlins Times Via Wyoming News Exchange 

Rawlins residents criticize city for alleged police actions

 

August 22, 2019



RAWLINS – Vehemently saying he supports “people wearing the uniform,” Rawlins City Manager Scott Hannum last week stuck up for the Rawlins Police Department after members of the public accused them of practicing bully tactics and “bias, selective enforcement.”

Members of the public also voiced concerns during a meeting on Aug. 20 over the alleged inaction taken by city officials for not implementing any sort of disciplinary steps in response to several Rawlins Police Department controversies.

Specifically, this year saw the State of Wyoming agree to more than a $900,000 settlement with the estate of John Randall Veach, a 39-year-old unarmed Colorado man who was shot dead by members of the Rawlins Police Department in 2015.

Despite the almost $1 million civil cost to the state, police officers Jared Frakes and Joseph Balestrieri weren’t given any criminal charges following an investigation by Uinta County Prosecuting Attorney Loretta Howieson, who actually attended Rawlins High School with Frakes in the early 1990s.

“We lose sight of somebody that was a wanted felon, had narcotics in their system,” said Hannum, attempting to justify the fatal actions of Frakes and Balestrieri. To this day, both officers still serve for the Rawlins Police Department. “Our police officers were ‘just out there killing an innocent man’ that had a warrant, had illegal narcotics in his system… but our cops are ‘the bad guys.’”

Hannum added, “I don’t know why we’d fire somebody for doing their job.”

Hannum also pointed out the differences between criminal and civil procedures.

“These people went through a criminal process and were found not guilty of a criminal process,” he said. “Once it went to civil court, that’s beyond our control.”

In recent history, the public also specified two controversial incidents that involved officer Thomas Gamblin.

Last year, Gamblin came under scrutiny right as he was running for sheriff of Carbon County.

That July, Gamblin had arrested Carbon County Fire Warden and Rawlins Fire Chief John Rutherford. Gamblin was reportedly conducting a “walk through” at the Hole in the Wall bar, which is owned by Rutherford, when he and Rutherford got into a fight.

Rutherford was subsequently arrested for interference with a peace officer.

Another incident, which occurred last month, alleged that Gamblin, while off duty, had gotten into a road rage incident with a Rawlins motorist, which turned out to be a woman and her child.

According to the complaint submitted to the Rawlins Police Department, Gamblin followed the woman home, forced himself into her yard and carried out threats.

Officer Frakes would later tell the woman who made the complaint that, “No officer would harm her if she was obeying the law.”

“Why is the bully Thom Gamblin being protected?” asked local resident Tonya Lewman, speaking during public comment. “And why hasn’t he been made to apologize to the woman and child?”

Lewman said she expected the council to work on this problem and that the public has a right to know what sort of disciplinary steps Rawlins Police Department has taken.

She also supported the idea of eliminating officers from the force.

“As a right-to-work-state, I feel Thom Gamblin, Jared Frakes and Joseph Balestrieri should be immediately let go,” Lewman said. “Or the council can cut three officers’ pay out of the budget and put it toward training good officers that we have on the force.”

Another city resident, Gene Sikura, agreed with Lewman’s statement.

“That security that we experience as citizens here is deplorable,” Sikura said. “We have police that are killing people. We have police that are chasing women to their residences.”

 
 

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