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May 08, 2012 7:44 am

EDITORIAL: ‘Every officer’s nightmare’

Written by Tessa Schweigert

The fatal shooting of an armed man by a Powell police officer in February left the Powell community reeling. Last week, residents received the answers and explanation they had waited for.
Park County Attorney Bryan Skoric’s review of the incident concluded that the Powell officer, Paul Sapp, was justified in shooting Nicholas A. Ungar on Feb. 9.

The review revealed details of the four-hour standoff leading up to the fatal shooting at the Park Motel. Ungar had falsely told police he had hostages and explosives. He also fired multiple shots, including one that skipped over the head of officers on the scene. Ungar also had methamphetamine and marijuana in his system, according to autopsy reports. In the final moments, he waved a handgun out the window of the motel room and swept it toward police. He also was seen holding his gun to the head of the woman with him. She was the room’s only other occupant, it turned out.
By all calculations, it was a very dangerous and unstable situation.
A peaceful resolution was not reached. Ungar refused to come out of the motel room or release the hostages he claimed to have.
Skoric’s three-page review released Wednesday was based on an extensive investigation by the Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigation.
The report confirms Powell police were forced into a perilous situation where they had few options. Based on the information they had and Ungar’s dangerous behavior, police reacted appropriately.
Still, this is a tragic ending no one wanted. A 31-year-old man is dead, leaving behind family and friends.
As Powell Police Chief Roy Eckerdt said, being involved in a shooting is “every officer’s nightmare.”
We’re thankful it’s a rare nightmare here.
On a daily basis, law enforcement officers must deal with difficult situations and make tough decisions, often without recognition or even thanks.
Next week is National Police Week, honoring thousands of officers who serve across America. Fifty years ago, President John F. Kennedy signed a proclamation to recognize law enforcement officers during the week of May 15. During a candlelight vigil next week, 162 officers who were killed during 2011 will be added to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial in Washington, D.C. 
The events that unfolded on Feb. 9 remind us of the risks officers take, even in Powell.

 

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