Police Chief: Heavily Armed Man Arrested Sunday in Thermopolis
Law enforcement officers carried out a high-risk traffic stop and arrested a man Sunday in Thermopolis after local police were told he was possibly suicidal, heavily armed and looking for his ex-girlfriend.
Thermopolis Police Department Chief Julie Mathews told K2 Radio News on Monday that the 43-year-old suspect, whose name she withheld pending further investigation, was wearing "body armor" when she encountered him.
Mathews held the suspect at gunpoint and, after he was taken into custody, officers discovered four fully-loaded firearms in his vehicle along with at least 20 magazines and "massive quantities of ammunition."
"He came to town with the intention of something very bad happening," Mathews said.
On Saturday, according to Mathews, the suspect reportedly shot up a vehicle in Park County. He also allegedly used a backhoe to damage the same vehicle.
Sunday, Mathews was notified that the Wyoming Highway Patrol was looking for the suspect after he was reported to be headed to Thermopolis, suicidal and heavily armed.
Mathews called in a number of her off-duty police officers, but she herself intercepted the suspect's vehicle and stopped him near the intersection of Sixth and Arapahoe in Thermopolis.
There, the suspect got out of his vehicle and Mathews, holding him at gunpoint, ordered him to surrender.
"I could see he was wearing full, rifle-plated body armor," Mathews said. "He followed all commands and complied with my requests and was subsequently arrested."
Mathews continued to hold her gun on the man while another officer took him into custody. Inside the suspect's vehicle, Mathews told K2 Radio News, officers found additional cause for concern.
"There were multiple firearms that were fully loaded, to include an M-1, a two-twenty-three, a Mossberg shotgun, a forty-five Kimber handgun and a significant amount of ammunition and fully-loaded magazines," Mathews said.
"He was ready to be taken down," she added. "It could have been very, very, very ugly."
Due to the intervention of law enforcement officers including Mathews, the suspect did not reach his destination in Thermopolis and was not able to physically endanger whomever he may have been seeking on Sunday.
"I think it could have been an active shooter, had it come to that, but we didn't get that far," Mathews said. "I also believe this was a possible attempt at suicide by cop."
The suspect was arrested on a recommended charge of DUI, with further charges pending, Mathews said.
"I'm just very grateful that this ended the way it did, because it certainly had the potential to be a more volatile situation than it ended up being," Mathews added.