Vigil attendees ask police to release shooting information
September 26, 2019
CASPER — Dozens gathered in Riverton Thursday evening to remember the man police fatally shot Saturday while calling for authorities to disclose more information about the incident.
A police officer shot and killed 58-year-old Northern Arapaho man Anderson “Andy” Antelope Saturday afternoon outside of the Riverton Walmart after he allegedly stabbed and then continued to attack the officer with a knife.
Carrying signs with messages like “Justice 4 Andy” and holding candles outside of the Riverton Police Department and City Hall, about 50 family members, tribal citizens and other community members called for more information — like the name and disciplinary records of the officer who killed Antelope and security camera footage — while recalling memories of him and calling for change to how police interact with Native American and other minority communities.
“We can’t bring Andy back,” said Leslie Big Back, who traveled from Montana for the vigil and Antelope’s funeral. “All we can do now is just bring some awareness.”
Antelope’s funeral was held on Thursday morning.
While he lived in Riverton at the time of his death, he had lived on the Wind River Reservation for much of his life, according to his online obituary.
He had five children and enjoyed spending time with his 20 grandchildren, his obituary read. He also liked bull riding, drawing and watching eagles in their natural habitat. Antelope was a citizen of the Northern Arapaho Tribe, member of the Native American Church and a Sun Dancer. Others at Thursday’s vigil recalled his love of riding horses.
Family members said Antelope was a kind and caring man who could cheer up anybody but struggled in recent years with health problems. Antelope’s demeanor and treatment of others has made it hard for those who knew him to reconcile that with the alleged attack authorities said forced a police officer to kill him.
“He was the kindest soul,” said Shilo Two Bulls, a nephew of Antelope and a Northern Arapaho citizen.
Authorities have so far disclosed few details about the shooting. Family members, however, confirmed that Antelope was the man involved.
The Riverton Police Department, Fremont County Sheriff’s Department and Wyoming Department of Criminal Investigation all responded to the scene of Saturday’s shooting. A Riverton Police Department spokesman — while not responding to a list of questions — said the department “had an officer-involved shooting” on Saturday but otherwise referred requests for comment to the state Department of Criminal Investigation, which he said was handling the investigation. That agency typically investigates officer-involved shootings.
DCI and the Fremont County Sheriff’s Department have not responded to requests for comment.
Fremont County Attorney Patrick LeBrun has said that according to eyewitnesses, a police officer was forced to fatally shoot someone — who family members identified as Antelope — after he stabbed the officer and continued attacking. The officer’s body armor prevented the knife from penetrating, LeBrun said.
The officer was attempting to arrest Antelope for “observed violations of the law,” he said. The alleged violations weren’t disclosed. Antelope died at the scene.
Mark Stratmoen, the Fremont County Coroner, previously said he plans to hold a public inquest once an investigation is completed. But he said an inquest could take more than a month to arrange and wouldn’t comment more until then.
While the lack of information may be frustrating, one of Antelope’s sons, Anderson Antelope Jr., said he’s hopeful the truth will become known.
“Everything’s going to come out,” he said.
Antelope Jr. said what he wants to know is if the officer attempted to use other non-lethal methods before shooting his father.
For Antelope Jr., “his laugh and smile” is what he’ll miss most about his dad. About a year ago, Antelope Sr. briefly stayed with Big Back and his family in Montana.
What stood out most about him, Big Back said, was how much he cared about his family. Big Back, a member of the Northern Cheyenne Tribe, said Antelope was his uncle.
“He was a really friendly guy,” he said. “He talked a lot about his family.