RIVERTON — Fremont County’s new coroner says he has no plans to initiate an inquest into the fatal 2019 shooting of Anderson Antelope by a Riverton police officer.
The call for an inquest was renewed last month during a mock proceeding held at Central Wyoming College.
Mark Stratmoen, who was coroner at the time Antelope was killed, had scheduled an official inquest into the death, but the proceeding was suspended due to a lack of cooperation from other local agencies, in particular the Fremont County Attorney’s Office.
Stratmoen has since left his post, and last week interim Coroner Larry DeGraw said he would “probably not” proceed with an official inquest into Antelope’s death.
“I don’t believe an inquest is warranted,” DeGraw said Friday.
Echoing earlier statements by Fremont County Attorney Pat LeBrun, as well as chief deputy coroner Erin Ivie, DeGraw pointed out that inquests are meant to help coroners make cause and manner of death decisions in instances when those determinations are not obvious.
In the case of Antelope, however, DeGraw said the cause and manner of death are clear: homicide and gunshot.
“A coroner’s inquest I don’t feel is going to do anything but open up a bunch more wounds,” DeGraw said. “This has to be put to rest.”
Of course, there still is the matter of Antelope’s death certificate, which, because Stratmoen's inquest was suspended due to a lack of cooperation, lists the manner of his death as “undetermined."
“I can’t change that,” DeGraw said. “I don’t agree with that, but we can’t change it, (and) I don’t know ... how the family can change that, if it can be changed.”
Ivie, who investigated Antelope’s death, agreed that “there is no question as to cause and manner” in the case and said she also does not support Stratmoen’s ruling that the manner of death is undetermined.
LeBrun made similar statements.
“There’s nothing undetermined about it,” he said this week. “That was Mark Stratmoen. ... He just decided to change it to ‘undetermined.’ ... It’s a shame.”
When asked whether Antelope’s manner of death determination could be amended in the future, Ivie said that process usually takes place after new evidence comes to light, or when previous evidence is reviewed and reveals a need for a change.
When asked whether an inquest might provide justification to amend the manner of death ruling, Ivie noted that it would be difficult to host an inquest with- out cooperation from area law enforcement agencies, which still have not sent their reports to the coroner outlining their investigations into Antelope’s death.