District Attorney: Officer Justified In Shooting Chris Benton in July
The Casper Police officer was right to shoot and kill a man while serving a search warrant in July, according to Natrona County District Attorney Mike Blonigen.
"I find, in all respects, that the use of deadly force by Sgt. (Daniel) Dundas was necessary and proper," Blonigen wrote in a letter dated Aug. 17 to Wyoming Divsion of Criminal Investigation agent Matt Waldock who conducted the investigation of the shooting.
"There are no grounds for any criminal charge against the officer," Blonigen wrote.
About 8:30 p.m. July 12, police were serving a search warrant at Chris Benton's house in the 1600 block of Kit Carson. The warrant authorized law enforcement to look for illegal controlled substances and illegal possession of firearms, according to Blonigen and police reports.
Benton was prohibited from owning firearms because he was a convicted felon.
Police officers approached the house, knocked loudly on the door, and repeatedly identified themselves. A neighbor corroborated the officers' statements, as did a female resident in the house who said Benton got a pistol and headed to the front door.
By this time, an officer had breached the front door. Dundas was the first one inside the house and saw Benton with the gun. Dundas fired a .223-caliber rifle seven or eight times at Benton.
The officers retreated. When they re-entered the house, they found Benton and a .45-caliber Taurus handgun beside him. The handgun had an extended magazine with nine rounds, Blonigen wrote. "The safety was off, the hammer was cocked and a round was found in the chamber. Benton had previously made statements he would not go back to prison."
When police searched the house, they found gallon-size Ziploc bags with marijuana residue inside, packaging material, scales, and about 6.5 ounces of marijuana. There was another loaded .45-caliber handgun in a bedroom.
The autopsy determined rounds hit Benton in the abdomen, the right hamstring and the right buttock. The fatal round entered the right shoulder, entered the chest and struck vital organs, Blonigen wrote. "This wound would have been fatal within a few minutes and was not survivable."
All the rounds were fired from Dundas' rifle. There was no evidence other officers or Benton fired a shot.
"Based on the results of the investigation, it is clear that Sgt. Dundas acted from a reasonable manner to protect his life and the life and safety of his fellow officers," Blonigen wrote. "The responsibility for this shooting lies solely with Chris Benton who chose to meet a lawful warrant with a loaded, illegal handgun."