Natrona County DA: Officer Left With ‘Few Choices’ In Fatal Shooting
The Casper Police Officer who fatally shot a man following a traffic stop acted within the scope of his duties, police announced on Friday.
The Natrona County District Attorney's Office, through a written announcement, said Officer Jake Bigelow had few options left other than to shoot 42-year-old Thomas Joseph Roeber.
According to police, the shooting happened during an early morning traffic stop near East H Street and North Elma Street on May 6.
Casper Police Chief Keith McPheeters described the incident to reporters during a news conference on Friday afternoon.
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Police say officers approached the vehicle to speak with the occupants when the driver unexpectedly got out and the passenger moved to the driver's seat and tried to flee the scene.
McPheeters said the original driver made it clear to officers that he no longer wanted to be involved in the situation. Meanwhile, Bigelow attempted to pull Roeber from the vehicle but was pulled in as Roeber sped off.
Eventually, with Bigelow still in the vehicle, Roeber made it onto Interstate 25 driving into traffic.
Police say the vehicle was traveling at an estimated speed of 60 to 70 mph. Throughout the incident, Bigelow repeatedly told Roeber that he was going to shoot him if he did not stop the vehicle.
Roeber reportedly replied, "Shoot me."
A struggle over the vehicle's transmission ensued before Bigelow was able to place it in park, severely damaging it.
However, Roeber reportedly reached for an object that appeared to be a firearm and dropped it on the vehicle's floorboard. At that point, McPheeters said, Bigelow fatally shot Roeber.
Police later learned the object was a butane lighter that is held in a pistol grip.
Both the district attorney's office and McPheeters said Bigelow told Roeber multiple times that if he did not cease reaching for the object, he would shoot him.
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McPheeters said Roeber was entirely in control of the outcome throughout the entire incident.
McPheeters said both officers involved in the shooting, Bigelow and Andrew Linkowski, have been cleared to return to work.