Wyoming news briefs for July 13
Enhanced penalty means up to 50 years for aggravated assault
GILLETTE — A man accused of trying to hit a man over the head with a crowbar has been convicted of aggravated assault and battery.
But an additional habitual criminal enhancement means that Brennan Tomas Baker, 30, will spend 10 to 50 years in prison.
It took a jury 34 minutes to convict him of the crime Thursday after a two-day trial in 6th Judicial District Court.
A surveillance video shows that during an altercation in a parking lot on South Douglas Highway on Oct. 11, Baker waited in his car for the victim to leave the coffee shop. When the man left and headed toward his van, Baker drove toward him, got out and headed at him.
Baker reportedly raised a crowbar with both hands and swung it at the man, narrowly missing his head but hitting his arms, which the man had raised defensively.
Police said Baker twice aimed for the man’s head and counted him making 10 swings at the man. The man had cuts and swelling on his left arm and hand.
Baker is considered a habitual criminal because the aggravated assault and battery is a violent felony and because he had two other felony convictions for burglary in Campbell County from 2019 cases.
Sentencing will be in about 75 days.
Black bear euthanized in Sheridan after second capture in three weeks
SHERIDAN — Wyoming Game and Fish Department wildlife managers euthanized a two-year-old male black bear on Monday morning after capturing it along Big Goose Creek between the 8th and 11th street bridges.
Personnel had responded to multiple reports of a bear in the north area of town for more than a week, but previous attempts to immobilize or trap it were unsuccessful.
Based on information from an ear tag, this bear was previously captured in Sheridan on June 20 near the Holly Sugar building off Sugarland Drive. It was released that day in the Bighorn National Forest.
“Unfortunately, after the relocation attempt, the bear returned within approximately ten days and we had no further management options,” said Tim Thomas, Sheridan Wildlife Biologist. “Because it traveled more than 30 miles through quality bear habitat, showed no aversion to being in a residential setting and had received several food rewards of residential garbage in recent days, the decision was made to euthanize it.
"Relocating bears is our preferred management option when possible, but as we see in cases like this, bears will sometimes travel long distances to return to where they were captured and the relocation effort is unsuccessful. This is a very dry year and bears are likely roaming more widely in their search for natural foods.”
Man gets 8-10 years for thefts
CODY — A local man has been sentenced to 8-10 years in prison for his role in at least 16 auto burglaries in Cody and six break-ins at a storage unit complex in Powell.
Bryan Nihei, 31, was sentenced by Judge Bill Simpson on May 18 and was also assessed $3,749 in restitution as part of a guilty plea agreement.
Nihei has been connected to a series of thefts that occurred in Cody and Powell through December and January last winter.
A total of 27 auto burglaries occurred that were possibly connected to Nihei.
The first four auto burglaries started in mid-December, when Nihei breached vehicles in the County Road 2AB area of Cody and stole binoculars and a few wallets.
Cody police were able to connect Nihei with 13 auto burglaries, including a string of nine vehicles broken into early Jan. 29.
The Park County Sheriff’s Office received a report of 10 storage units broken into at Dash Storage, with items including jewelry and a 7mm Remington rifle stolen.
In the investigation, Nihei admitted to living out of his storage unit at the facility.
Nihei was initially charged with 21 felonies but only ended up being charged with one count for burglary. Those charges were dismissed with prejudice.
In a separate case, Nihei was sentenced to 2.5-5 years in prison in Big Horn County in May for theft of $3,685 in rare coins. He will serve this sentence concurrently and must also pay $3,000 in court fines and $3,658 in restitution.
Yellowstone Regional Airport aims to get bigger aircraft
CODY — Yellowstone Regional Airport is making a commitment to attracting larger commercial jets to its runway with the recent purchase of equipment specifically made to work on the bigger and more reliable planes.
The $314,715 purchase for three pieces of ground equipment from AERO Specialties will now allow the airport to facilitate 70-passenger Embraer E175s, and even planes as large as a Boeing 737, on its runway.
“All together, they just provide better service,” said Aaron Buck, YRA general manager.
Currently, YRA can only serve the smaller and mostly outdated Bombardier CRJ 200s and the larger, but also outdated CRJ 700 jets. Not only do CRJ 200s, which make up the vast majority of YRA flights, carry fewer people, but Buck said they are also outdated and riddled with maintenance issues that delay and sometimes cause cancelled flights.
By acquiring the equipment, the airport could bring in more passengers and offer them better service.
The E175s tend to garner higher-level air flight crews as well, said YRA Board Member Bucky Hall at a June 9 meeting. Less experienced pilots have more restrictive caps on the amount of hours they can fly in one day.
The three new machines purchased by the airport include an Aircraft Start that initiates the plane’s engines, a GPU power mount that gives a plane power without having to be turned on, and a tug that can push the plane away from the terminal to avoid engine blasts on the terminal building.
Buck said the equipment will arrive by Sept. 1 and will be put to use shortly thereafter.