Sheriff’s Sgt.’s First Thought: “I’m going to die”
"'My first thought is, "I'm going to die."'"
A Natrona County Sheriff's sergeant held that thought for a tiny fraction of a second before diving for cover when he saw Michael Kegler allegedly point an assault rifle at him on April 6, Sheriff's Investigator Taylor Courtney said Thursday during a preliminary hearing.
Kegler, who was 40 when arrested, is charged with one count of aggravated assault and a related misdemeanor.
Natrona County Circuit Court Judge Steven Brown bound Kegler over for trial in district court after Courtney's testimony and cross-examination.
Courtney said a sergeant and corporal were responding to a 9:45 p.m. report of multiple shots fired near the airport, Courtney told Assistant District Attorney Dan Itzen.
Area residents told the sergeant the shots came from a house next door, but the house they referenced had its lights out, he said.
The corporal had been driving slowing with the sergeant walking behind him, parked the car, exited, and followed the sergeant to Kegler's single-wide mobile home.
The corporal shined a light on the home but initially saw nothing, Courtney said.
After walking around a puddle, he shined the light again.
They saw Kegler on the front porch standing with his knees bent, shoulders squared, raising an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle to his shoulder and pointing it directly at the sergeant 23 feet away, Courtney said. The sergeant and deputy recognized the stance as a tactical fighting position.
After "'I'm going to die'" flashed through his mind, he let loose a high-pitched scream, jumped aside, and yelled "gun," "gun," "gun," Courtney said.
The sergeant and corporal took cover behind vehicles in the yard, the sergeant yelled at Kegler to put the gun down and Kegler complied.
The officers called for help, and took Kegler into custody.
According to court records, an investigator found two 9mm shell casings as well as eight .223 shell casings on the front porch next to the AR-15. No 9mm handgun was found, but an empty handgun holster allegedly was seen on the front seat of a nearby pickup.
The rifle, with its safety set on "fire," had live rounds in the magazine and one in the chamber. It also had a holographic sight that was switched on, Courtney said.
During an interview about 1:30 a.m. April 7, Kegler said he was intoxicated and didn't remember firing a rifle, but vaguely remembered two people approaching and a light. The next day, he recalled more, but didn't remember pointing a gun at officers.
Kegler also made a phone call, monitored by jail officers, to a friend who berated him for pointing a gun at sheriff's officers, Courtney said. "According to the phone call, he knew they were cops."
During cross-examination, Kegler's attorney Andy Sears asked Courtney about Kegler's blood alcohol content. Courtney responded it was 0.14 six hours after his arrest.
Sears also questioned Courtney about whether the sergeant and corporal saw Kegler's hand on the rifle, whether his finger was in the trigger guard, and whether either officer saw Kegler track the sergeant with the rifle.
During his closing arguments, Sears cited that lack of information, the lack of bullet holes in neighbors' houses, and that Kegler complied with the command to put down the rifle.
"Mr. Kegler acted incredibly stupid," he said. But that didn't warrant a charge of aggravated assault, he added.
Itzen responded that Kegler knew officers were approaching him. Whether his finger was on the trigger is irrelevant.
Brown agreed probable caused existed Kegler committed the crimes and bound him over for trial.