Police investigating Cottonwood Park shooting

By on February 2, 2011

Jackson Hole, Wyo. – In a press conference with local media this morning, Chief of Police Todd Smith said information learned since yesterday’s shooting near Jackson Hole High School leads law enforcement officials to believe it was not a random shooting.

Clancy Shaffer, 19, was shot in the shoulder yesterday in the Cottonwood Park subdivision and is being treated for non-life threatening in Idaho Falls. His identity was not officially released this morning. Shaffer is under 24-hour police surveillance at Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center and a police detective continues to interview him.

As word spread yesterday of the lockdown of area schools and the shooting, fear that a gunman was on the loose also radiated through the community. Parents fretted about the proximity of the shooting to the majority of Jackson’s schools and worried if a school shooting had taken place.

“There was a gunman on the loose and people should have been panicked,” Smith said. He said there was never any evidence leading law enforcement officials to believe it was a school shooting.

Smith said a resident of Cottonwood Park reported hearing a single shot gunshot fired in the area but did not call 911. No additional shots were heard.

As of 1 p.m., police officers and Teton County Search and Rescue personnel were conducting a grid search of the area around the shooting, which occurred on the pathway between the 2000 block of Lilac Lane and the Community Park. The grid search is an effort to locate the firearm used in the shooting or any additional evidence.

Smith said the weapon used in the shooting was not a .45 caliber pistol as has been reported.

Official decisions
As police officers responded to the shooting , others were dispatched elsewhere to attend to unrelated calls coming in to 911 dispatchers. Smith said he had about six officers, sheriff’s deputies and Wyoming Highway Patrol troopers at his disposal at the shooting scene.

Smith intimated that the slow response by law enforcement to officially inform the public – a press release was posted to the Jackson Hole Police Department’s Facebook page late last night – was at least partially attributable to the nature of a small town with a relatively small police force.

After researching Shaffer’s background and canvassing the area to ensure the shooting was a single incident and not the start of a shooting spree, and with the clock approaching 3 p.m., law enforcement officials decided to release the lockdown on area schools.

“Do you benefit the situation by keeping [schools] locked down because then you know the calls are going to start coming from the [parents]?” Smith said. He added that police decided there was a greater benefit in allowing parents to pick their kids up from school rather than add to fear in the community by keeping schools locked down.

Police officers served a search warrant at Shaffer’s house and searched his vehicle last night. Smith said no gun was found.

Smith said his department received a number of tips last night and is following up on leads.

Crimestoppers is offering up to $5,000 for information that leads to an arrest and conviction. If you have information, submit it to law enforcement online at the Jackson Hole Police Department Web site or call JHPD at (307) 733-1430.

UPDATE – 1:05 p.m. – Teton County Emergency Management says there is no danger in the area of the Cottonwood Park shooting.

UPDATE – 5:00 p.m. – Fifteen police and search and rescue personnel earlier performed a grid search in the park near where the shooting occurred. The search did not turn up any additional evidence.

Todd Smith said his law enforcement officers continue to locate and identify people associated with leads.

UPDATE - 8:30 p.m. – A press release issued by JHPD tonight states that 17 officers and deputies participated in the search at Community Park earlier today.

Officers sent evidence collected at the crime scene yesterday to the state crime lab for analysis and await the results.

Officers were deployed today in and around area schools to ensure the safety of students, the press release said.

No suspects have yet been apprehended, though detectives are “”following several leads and interviewing witnesses and persons associated with Shaffer,”” the press release said.

We will continue to bring you updates about the case to fill in the blanks as they become available.


Reader Comments

I love how the police wern’t releasing the victim’s name when everybody in town knew who it was. Dumb. Took them a while to find the victim, too.
eyeson jackson

“”””””””””””””Police officers served a search warrant at Shaffer’s house and searched his vehicle last night. Smith said no gun was found.”””””””””””””” So the victim is the main suspect????????????????
jj

I love how critical people are of the police, as if they didn’t deal with it properly. Easy to sit back and criticize a process you know nothing about, as if you did. And didn’t the victim’s dad take him to the hospital with a gunshot wound? My guess is they found him at the hospital.
just sayin’

People need to stop critizing the police and let them do their jobs. They are trained for this type of stuff. The average Joe isn’t. But one should criticize the writer of this article. Why should the readers have to fill in the blanks?
Me

Dear Me. I’m giving you all the info I’m getting. Everyone, including law enforcement, is filling in the blanks. Like most real world situations – and unlike those you’re probably used to watching on TV – this one is full of blanks and likely will be for sometime. I’d fill them in for you if I had the proper pieces.
Benjamin R. Bombard

Furthermore, I could fill in the blanks with rumor, hearsay and speculation, but that’s a job for fiction writers and gossipers, not journalists.
Benjamin R. Bombard

I think everything was handled really well. My daughter sent me a text as it was happening so luckily I was aware of the lockdown. I then looked up both the school website and the jhweekly and they had the information I needed so as not to panick. I commend everyone for their efforts. Police did an outstanding job protecting our kids!
Heidi

If it was a drug related crime (latest gossip)–it might get Whalen to chsange his mind about looking the other way at drug abuse in TC.
eyeson jackson

The truth of the matter is that nobody outsie of the people involved knows for sure what happend. I think the police dept. did what they thought was in the best interest of everyone’s safty, why can’t we just say thank you and leave it at that? As for drug abuse in TC, I have gone to school here since kindergarden and there has always been drug abuse in TC, regardless of who is looking and who isn’t.
sp

Thought I would address “”Eyeson Jackson’s”” comments that the police didn’t release the name when everyone knew. That is simply not true, we were hoping to share with his mother that he was injured before she read it in the paper…seemed like the right thing to do, have her hear about it from us (police) rather than read about it. There were also some investigative reason to do so. As for trouble finding the victim, we drove to the hospital where he was in the emergency room, a place we have been a time or two for one reason or another, not to difficult to find. But that is the example of how in the absence of facts…people such as eyeson jackson will fill in the blanks with what whatever they want to make up. This was a tragic situation for this family and comments that are not based on truth only make matters worse for everyone.
Chief Smith

As long as I’m here, I might as well speak to “”JJ’s”” questions of asking if the victim is a suspect. The simple answer is maybe and maybe not…only those present know if that is the case or not. You always have to consider that sometimes things are not as they are portrayed to be. There are three theories an detective has to consider. 1. It’s exactly as the victim said it was. 2. Someone else caused the injury, but is known by the victim and being protected for one reason or another (ie friend, criminal activity etc) and 3. that the victim injured himself for a variety of reasons. The latter is easiest to eliminate and a logical place to start your investigation, as there are known factors, such as where the person lives and where they may have information stored that would shed light on the case. This is simply logic in a the investigative process and we would be remise not to consider all possibilities…not letting any one theory prevent the facts from determining the truth rather than a theory dictating the outcome and direction of your investigation. It’s the concept of trust, but verify.
Chief Smith

I have to say speaking for myself and most people I know not everyone knew who the victim was. We didn’t. Rumors spread like a wild fire. From the victim was a female to the victim was a middle school kid, being shot in the shoulder to being shot in the leg, the victim haveing been flown to Salt Lake to Idaho. Rumors also went around the the suspect had been caught only for me to wake up in the morning and read that he/she has not been caught. So people need to keep their mouth shut when they don’t know what is true. I’m sure like a few others I do have issues with how fast info was released by the police, however I’m not on the force and am sure they had plenty of reason to handle it the way they have and am pleased with how the overall situation is being handled by them.
Frustrated with rumors

Thank you, Chief Smith, for participating in the discussion. Blogs can get blowing like wildfire sometimes — meandering offtrack and getting spiteful. JH Weekly appreciates figures central to the story sharing their thoughts and caring about their community.
jake

This town runs on rumors. Good to see the PC chime in. The lack of information starts rumors. And many rumors come from inside the PD.
eyeson jackson

I think I owe the Sheriff an apology… Was it the PC who said in the JHW that personal drug abuse wasn’t a priority of his? I think so.
eyeson jackson

I can understand that there would be a very small possibility he did this to himself and that is something to think about. Actively investigating him while he’s fighting for his life is insulting and misguided.
jj

My goal here is to address any misperceptions that may exist, not to be engaged in personal attacks on anyone. I am not sure that leads to anything productive. WIth that being said, I will try to look at the point of the comments. There is a perception by some of a lack of information being given out. Here is the reality of what was provided and when: This call came out at 1:23 with only the information that a young man had been shot and was now being transported to the hospital by his father. Literally there was no additional info. We obtained the name of the person shot from our database, which gave us an address in Cottonwood Park. Officers went to the residence, found it locked and unsure of what would be inside. Other officers went to the hospital to meet the victim of the gun shot. By now its 1:30 or so. The officers at the house had no idea if this had happened in the house or not, or if there could be potentially a second person injured in the house, and maybe a suspect. Officers entered the house to do a protective sweep to make sure everything in the house was ok, and found that it was. There also was no sign of the incident occurring at the residence and were now on standby until information could possible be obtained from the victim at the emergency room. The officers with the victim were attempting to get a statement from him about how he got shot while doctors were trying to give medical aid to him, not to mention he was badly injured and in a great deal of pain. So information came from him slowly over approximately a 20-25 minute period. Eventually some basic information was obtained with the victim claiming he had been shot on the bike path around the corner from his home by a person unknown to him. He gave a very basic description and a direction of travel. This information was immediately given to the radio stations to air to the public and ask for their assistance. THe information was also aired on Nixel a county wide notification system to residence through emergency management that sends the information to phones and emails. The two newspapers (JH Weekly and JH News and Guide) were contacted in person and given the information to get out to the public. The school district was given the same information and the school locked down at 2:09 only because of the proximity to the shooting and as a precautionary measure. THe schools have protocols in place to address these very types of threats through their lock down procedures, but there was no other information to suggest that anyone at the school was in imminent danger. The officers in the Cottonwood Park continued to search the park area and found evidence of the shooting on the bikepath approximately 750 from the house. This was a scene that could easily have been missed. There was a lot of snow in the area and locating a single bullet casing was difficult. It was now approximately 2:30 and detectives began photographing and collecting the evidence found. Once they completed that task of taking measurement, foot print photos etc, they moved to knocking on doors to see if anyone may have information. Some did, with one neighbor having heard the gun shot. Other officers were combing the area ensuring that there was no one roaming around the neighborhood or the school properties matching the suspect description provided by the victim. Its now 2:45 and I am meeting with the reporters for the JH Weekly and the News and Guide to update them. We are receiving calls from citizens that they see a person matching the general description of the suspect. Each of those calls are investigated quickly and it determined that party to not be involved and released. We meet with the school district supervisors and feel we have adequately cleared the area of any threats that are obvious. School has now been locked down for almost 45 minutes and its time when school would be getting released. A decision is made that we will reallocate our officers who are still searching the area to the schools, to assist in the safe release of the kids, believing it is best to get the children home with their parents than to keep them in lock down mode and have the parents be concerned. Any parent who was calling law enforcement dispatch was being advised to tune to our local radio station where the info we had was being broadcast or to Nexil. JH News and JH Guide and News were putting the information on the online paper to keep people updated. But very little new information was coming to light, as the victim was not elaborating on his story, so all we had to go on was what he was telling us at that point. School was let out a few minutes late from normal, with heavy influence of law enforcement as a precautionary measure. That went very smoothly. The focus was now shifting to obtaining search warrants to look for evidence that may exist in the victim’s home. The warrants were written and executed, finding some items of value. Additional personnel was called out form home to enhance our patrol staff to respond to investigate any further leads the public might call in. Detectives also began researching our victim. who is he, what do we know about him, who does he know, what does he do, and asking questions of why he would be the victim of such a random shooting. We see information in his records that suggest there could be motives. We are analyzing the crime scene, what doe it tell us, what does it not tell us. We have at least one additional contact with the local media to give them what information we have on the case to update them it;s now 5:45. Not much has changed in what basic information is known and the victim is not giving any additional information at this point. Records of friends are being located so they can be interviewed to look for motives and finding very little. The last phone call to the media at JH weekly is at 7:45 to update him with the latest info. A meeting is convened at the police department, strategies formed and assignments given. A comprehensive press release given to the media around 10:45, still with very little additional info other than the victim is being sent to another hospital. We send detective and a police officer to meet the victim at the new hospital and continue interviews and provide an element of safety until more information can be gained. Detectives work in to the late hours of the night to process evidence and prepare it for shipment to the Wyoming State Crime Lab. The following morning the Chief of Police hosts a media conference at 8:00. Several media sources are given additional information and questions are answered that they might have. That day a search team is complied to do a grid search in and around the area where the shooting is believed to have occurred searching for additional evidence. Additional search warrants are obtained for the victims cell phone and computer. These devices are reviews and additional insight is obtained. Phone records are obtained, video surveillance is obtained from a local grocery store, numerous people interviewed and a multitude of leads from the public followed up on. A news release is again provided by the end of the business day to all the media outlets. Thursday, a new law enforcement meeting takes place and new assignments and strategies developed. The school resource officers are obtaining leads and following them up to see if they develop any further information, A new search warrant is obtained for other property under the control of the victims family. Additional evidence relevant to the case is found and seized. The information is beginning to take the investigation in a particular direction. The family is being very cooperative wanting to get to the truth of what really happened. The family feels its imperative that they need to provide legal council for their son and interviews seise to continue with the victim. The police department is piecing together the evidence collected and evaluating what it means and how it fits into the story of what was reported to have happened. TIme lines and closely analyzed and scrutinized to see what is possible and what it not. The police department conduct a final search warrant of areas of property owned by the family that was not previous searched. Items of interest are seized and all evidence is sent to the crime lab in Cheyenne to be analyzed. A news released update sent to the media. So that is the long and short of what has been occurring. Regular information has gone out to the media daily and on the first day hourly for the first few hours. Some have been critical that the parents of the kids in the schools were not advised of the lock down. There simply was no way to accomplish that in less than an hour. The school district had a multi-call system, but there phone trunks and lines can not handle that volume of calls and would take multiple hours to get out even a simple message. The only mass contact system is to use the radio as we did, which is a protocol in place with the school district and parents to use during such an event. Every student is and parent is provided this information when children are registered in school. The Nexil system also has regular updates in emergency situations. It was used as well, however you must sign up to receive the messages (free of charge) but not everyone has chosen to do so even after it being advertised heavily to do so by emergency management. So bottom line is there is not a great means in which to make mass notifications. I have spoken with Pam Shea with the School District and we are discussing the possibility of signing every parent up for Nixil at the time they register their children in school. This may be a way to get the information to more people, rather than relying on local media to do so. I realize this is very generic information, but I hope it helps folks to understand what processes were taking place, what notifications, and their frequency. Thank you.
Chief Smith

the chief of police is awesome! thanks for the open door Chief Smith
tw

Chief Smith, no more triple espressos for you! :) Thanks for your time and input. Way to keep up with the community!!
Mary G

Nice reply from our PC. Our political hacks who are afraid to mix it up on a place like this could take a lesson.
eyeson jackson

That is the most coherent and intelligent thing I have ever heard come out of a cops mouth. Mary, maybe we should hire the chief as a freelancer but we would have to expand the paper.
Aaron Wallis

I’d like to know if the PC thinks his officers treated the two people on the cover of the N&G in a respectful manner. I can understand the guilty-until-proven-innocent mentality of officers given the nature of the incident but it seems to me that there’s a better way to handle individuals who are guilty of nothing and stopped for the slimmest of reasons.
eyeson jackson

Eyeson, why were those people stopped? What was the “”slimmest of reasons””? You are obviously an expert in law enforcement tactics, so what is the “”better way”” to handle a contact on a suspicious vehicle stopped in a quickly evolving situation around a shooting? Apparently you could use your ESP to determine they were guilty of nothing before the stop, thereby negating the reason for the stop altogether. BTW can you please tell me who will win the Super Bowl Sunday and by what score? I’m a few bucks short this week and could use a sure thing. I’m sure on Monday morning you will have a clear picture of the outcome and what could have been done better and why.
allears

Thanks for the comment. Obviously you know less than I do. I don’t need to be an expert in Law Enforcement to know when cops could do things in a better way. For example: the cops used a taser on Frank Meek because of a personal vendeta against him for not showing enough deference to them. Frank was guilty of a license plate violation for which he had already been issued a citation and was awaiting a court hearing. The cops stopped him again to harass him. The cops acted poorly and certainly withour the sort of respect they demand others show them. My ESP tells me that the cops have a habit of such behaviour and I wanted to know if the PC thought his officers acted professionally with the 2 individuals who WERE, AND ARE, GUILTY OF NOTHING. It’s a question for the PC. Not a guilty verdict from me for the department.
eyeson jackson

I see, so you have no answers. In other words, no matter what the cops do or how they do it they are wrong simply because they are the cops. Meek is a liar and a cheat, and chose to openly violate the law. When stopped he chose to resist the lawful orders of an officer. This town’s officers are some of the most respectful anywhere. The officer that was injured in a fight at a bar was injured because he chose NOT to use a taser or other more aggressive techniques. I’m sure his injury was due to “”second guessing”” what the public (and political) reaction would be. But, that’s OK, right? I’m sure if an officer over rides his training and suspicions and ends up being killed that would be OK too, right? Better than “”disrespecting”” someone, right?
allears

DO you know anything about the incident with the two who were stopped? No. The fight at the bar is not even rempotely related to Meek or the two who were stopped after the shooting. The Meek case resulted in a policy change at the PD because the PD didn’t think it went well. It wasn’t just me who decide thay acted poorly. They did. If a cop walks into a bar fight, I’m more than happy to see him take down every idiot involved. It’s not “”second guessing”” when you inguire about an event. It’s called gathering more information. The PC can explain what happened and let uis know if he thinks his officers treated those involved with as much respect as the dept demands from othes.
eyeson jackson

Additionally, if you bothered to actually read what I wrote above, you might realize I don’t have a problem with officers putting safety first given the situation. That doesn’t mean you can’t be respectful to those you deatain and handcuff who have done nothing wrong; broken no laws. Had the officers gone around Jackson and handcuffed everyone wearing a hoodie and detained them until they could prove their innocence, I would have had a problem with that. You would not.
eyeson jackson

I will do my best to answer your question. I like to deal with facts, not fiction or rumors. Here is the info regarding the two citizens stopped that were on the front of the paper. Within a few minutes of the call coming out that lead us to believe we may have a shooter in the area, a description was put out that everyone is familiar with. One of our detectives was knocking on doors looking for anyone who may have seen what happened. A neighbor close to where the shooting occurred recalled seeing a white car that was being suspicious, but no further info. About the same time a Teton County Deputy Sheriff received a cellphone call from a citizen who reported a suspicious vehicle parked behind the football stadium, in close proximity to the shooting the way a crow flies. The area is closed due to winter conditions, with the roadway mostly drifted closed. As the deputy goes to check out the suspicious vehicle he airs it on the radio, When he does the detective tells him about the neighbors siting of a white car in the are prior to the shooting. As the deputy gets closer to the area he is flagged down by a completely different citizen who reports the same car as being in an odd place given the condition of the parking lot and reports the car is occupied. The deputy is joined by a second deputy. They go to make contact with the car as it begins to drive away. Not knowing if this could be related to the shooting, the deputies see black sleeves on the drivers shirt. They opt to do a felony car stop, which is nothing more than a way of getting people out of the car safely, without giving the advantage to the potential bad guy (if it is a bad guy). As part of that process an officer would temporarily handcuff the occupant until they can be frisked to ensure they have no weapons and to prevent flight. It keeps all parties safe until you can determine what the situation is. In this case, it was two people in the wrong place at the wrong time. A JPD detective come to the scene where the folks are being detained and immediately clears them as being involved. They are released with an explanation of whey they were stopped and thanked for their cooperation. THey are also apoligized to for being inconvenienced. They were very understanding and told us to “”do what you need to do, we understand””. No harm no foul. It is referred to as “”Terry Stop”” allowed by the U.S. Supreme Court to make investigative detentions until a police officer can determine if a person is involved in a crime or not if there is suspicion that they could be given the totality of the circumstances. That was the contact, actually by the TCSO not the JPD, but I trust they were treated well and were understanding of the need to be checked out under the circumstances. Hope that helps with your questions.
Chief Smith

Thanks. How law enforcement interacts with the public determines how much support they get from the public. It has an impact on funding, investigations, courtroom success, and their own safety. I appreciAte that our PC is responsive to public opinion or inquiry. I expect law enforcement to make mistakes but seek ways to improve.
eyeson jackson

Key words above from Chief Smith regarding law enforcement actions during this incident: “”no harm, no foul””. I can’t think of anything that could have been done differently by TCSO or JPD to make this thing turn out better, given the circumstances. Now it’s on to figuring out how and why this goofy incident happened. I trust Chief Smith and his colleagues will sort it out quickly, and, as he has shown here, reveal details at the right time. Thanks for being so open, Todd. And, eyesonjackson, you ought to be more upset with the Jackson Hole News and Guide, who, knowing full well by presstime that those handcuffed inviduals were inncocent, went ahead and published that front page picture anyway. You want to bring Frank Meek into this thing? Fine. Meek got what he deserved when he dared the police to respond as he broke the law. All he had to do to avoid the taser was not resist arrest.
Anonyholic II

Thanks for the input AII. You and I will diusagree about Meek–yes, he’s an idiot, but idiots can be treated better. I would love to live in a China. Sadly, I’m stuck in America where it’s an appropriate role for the public to have a say in how they are governed. We can question the actions of police, make suggestions for improvement, or demand change. Our local cops do a respectable job. However, like church on Sunday, sometimes people need reminders & further education to keep doing a respectable job. Our PC earns my respect. But I don’t roll over and play dead when I have a question or comment that my be construed as intrusive, second-guessing, embarrassing or harmful. It can be a difficult job and mistakes are common in law enforcement. Sometimes there’s outright criminal activity by law enforcement professionals be they Border Agents in Arizona, cops in New Orleans, or our own Wyoming Highway Patrol. The role of a Free Press, the role of an American Citizen, the role of our Political Leaders, is to trust but verify that our law enforcement community uses its power in appropriate ways. A badge doesn’t make you honest or honorable.
eyeson jackson

It will be interesting to see which side of the fence everyone jumps to in the Roland Fleck case which is very similar to the Meeks case. And if Weichman’s Free Pass is deemed appropriate or seen as special treatment that he doesn’t give to others.
eyeson jackson

Good point, eyes. This Fleck fiasco give me a big case of the WTFs, although I think the Meeks comparison is a bit if a stretch. But we already had that discussion above. At first I wondered why the NaG gave it so much play; then I delved into the story. What a joke.
Anonyholic II

My thinking was that both started out as minor issues and turned into major ones. Both involved resisting arrest. Both involved individuals who felt their rights were being infringed upon. Mr. Meek was vilified by many in our community for interfering with the officers. Mr. Fleck is held out as a modern day JHAF hero. Mr. Meek’s case was going through the courts when officers stopped him again for the violation he was contesting in court. He had a good reason to feel picked upon. The officers decided to dish out their own brand of justice with Mr. Meek. Is Mr. Fleck the hero or just another poorly behaving adult?
eyeson jackson


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