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Cody man arrested, charged by feds

A Park County man has been charged in federal court with being a felon in possession of a firearm.

Christopher L. Swartwood, 34, made his initial appearance on the felony charge in a U.S. district courtroom in Lander on Wednesday, said John Powell, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Wyoming.

Federal agents with the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms arrested Swartwood around 10:30 a.m. Tuesday following a search of his South Fork home on Bartlett Lane, said Park County Sheriff Scott Steward.

Steward said his department assisted agents with ATF and the Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigation in serving the federal search warrant and arresting Swartwood.

An affidavit from ATF agent John Powley filed in support of the charge against Swartwood says both his agency and DCI had received information from acquaintances of Swartwood that he had guns. In Tuesday’s search, agents seized a .22 caliber Marlin rifle from Swartwood’s residence, Powley wrote. Swartwood has been convicted of felonies in Iowa and Wyoming, Powley said in the affidavit. Wyoming court records show Swartwood had a 2005 conviction in Park County for a felony count of aggravated assault and battery.

Deputies from the Carbon County, Mont., Sheriff’s Department also were on-scene Tuesday “with hopes of gaining evidence on an ongoing investigation they have up there,” Steward said. He said the federal investigation began with a firearms deal in Carbon County.

The Wyoming Game and Fish Department also executed a search warrant at the residence as part of a separate investigation, Steward said.

Swartwood was an outspoken critic of the way law enforcement handled a Feb. 9 stand-off with his friend, Nick Ungar, at Powell’s Park Motel. A Powell police officer fatally shot Ungar after a more than four-hour confrontation in which the man fired shots at police from a motel room and pretended a female friend was a hostage; in the moments before he was shot, Ungar held the woman up to the motel room window with a gun to her head, according to the official account of incident released by Park County Attorney Bryan Skoric. Skoric ruled the shooting was justified. His account, based on dozens of interviews and documents compiled by DCI agents, differed from the one given by Swartwood, who said Ungar never shot at police.

Swartwood told the Tribune shortly after the February shooting that Ungar had been “done dirty” by police and that he personally felt targeted by them.

“So now I got to act accordingly,” Swartwood said on Feb. 9. “Now I got to act on the way I feel and now that I feel threatened, if they approach me in a wrong manner, what am I supposed to do? You’re going to react.”

Swartwood added that he would not “be an ignorant” and go shoot a policeman or kill their family, nor would he bomb the police station, as that wouldn’t achieve anything and wasn’t worth it. He said enough people were already sad from Ungar’s death.

Steward said his department’s tactical team was on standby and “ready to go” if needed for Tuesday’s search and arrest, but Swartwood was taken into custody without incident. Steward said officers had tracked Swartwood arriving at the Bartlett Lane residence, called his phone and asked him to come out. The man cooperated, spoke with officers and then was taken into custody, Steward said.

Swartwood is in the custody of the U.S. Marshals Service at the Fremont County jail, pending a detention/preliminary hearing on Monday, said Powell, the U.S. Attorney’s Office spokesman. Assistant U.S. Attorney Jason Conder indicated in a Wednesday court filing that prosecutors will ask for Swartwood to be detained pending a trial.

Steward said it’s rare that his office assists with federal search warrants in Park County.

“It’s usually somebody who is a higher threat to the community,” Steward said. He said there’s usually a high threshold for the federal government to come in.

“They don’t go around and do a lot of these search warrants unless it’s somebody they really want,” Steward said.

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