Over 999,000 readers this year!

Charges dropped in Cheyenne murder investigation

Benjamin Ketcham (Courtesy of the Laramie County Sheriff's Office)

Charges have been dropped in the shooting death of a person in Laramie County, after the District Attorney there said that the case looked to be “defensive force.”

District Attorney for the First Judicial District of Wyoming, Leigh Anne Grant Manlove, issued a statement regarding the dismissal of the single count of second-degree murder against Benjamin Ketcham.

“After a thorough briefing by detectives from the Cheyenne Police Department regarding their investigation, and an analysis of those facts under Wyoming law, I made the only decision I could, which was to dismiss Mr. Ketcham’s case,” Manlove said.

On May 22, 2020 at around 11pm, officers with the Cheyenne Police
Department say they responded to The Lamp Lounge, in Cheyenne, regarding a male, later identified as Aaron Briggs, 36, of Cheyenne, who entered that location and was bleeding from his upper body.

Briggs reportedly collapsed and was transported to Cheyenne Regional Medical Center for treatment and was declared deceased by medical staff on May 22, 2020 at around 11:45 pm.

“Between May 23, 2020 and May 27, 2020 detectives with the Cheyenne Police Department conducted multiple interviews with witnesses and examined multiple pieces of evidence collected as a result of two search warrants executed in Cheyenne and the autopsy of Briggs in Fort Collins, Colorado,” Cheyenne Police say. “Video was also reviewed from The Lamp Lounge and surrounding businesses.”

A Cheyenne PD statement says the investigation determined that earlier in the day of May 22, 2020, Briggs arrived at The Lariat Motel, room #7 under the influence of alcohol and became aggressive with Benjamin Ketcham, 31, of Cheyenne, and others present in the motel room.

Ketcham was one of the current residents of the motel room. Briggs was told to leave the motel room and ultimately did so. Police say that later that evening, Briggs returned to The Lariat Motel, room #7 and began to threaten and intimidate Ketcham and others.

“Briggs was carrying a large metal chain he wore looped over both shoulders. Briggs was again told to leave the room and refused to do so,” Police say. “Ketcham, who was on the bed, stood up and pulled out his handgun and told Briggs to leave. Briggs, upon seeing Ketcham holding the gun, removed the chain from his neck and swung it at
Ketcham. As Briggs swung the chain at Ketcham, Ketcham raised the handgun and fired one shot, striking Briggs in the upper torso. Following the gunshot, Briggs ran to The Lamp Lounge.”

While Wyoming law provides for immunity for an individual who exercised reasonable force in self-defense, it is only available under certain, narrow, factual circumstances. After a thorough investigation and collaboration with the Laramie County District Attorney’s Office, a mutual decision was made to dismiss charges of 2nd Degree Murder against Benjamin Ketcham.

“Based on the information available on May 22, 2020, there was probable cause to believe that Mr. Ketcham committed the crime of second-degree murder,” Manlove continued. “But as the investigation matured and the facts were fully developed, it became clear that under Wyoming’s reasonable defensive force law, Wyoming Statute § 6-6-602, Mr. Ketcham is immune from prosecution.”

The charges against Benjamin Ketcham will be dismissed and he will be released from custody, Manlove said.

“It is my hope that this information will not just inform, but help the public to understand that while Wyoming law provides for immunity for an individual who exercised reasonable force in self defense, it is only available under certain, narrow, factual circumstances,” a written release quoting Manlove said on Friday. “Those facts were present in Mr. Ketcham’s case, but I have deep concerns that this dismissal will be misconstrued as a ‘get out of jail free card’ for anyone who wants to use lethal force for any reason,” she said. “It is not.”

“In this discussion we have to remember, and be sensitive to the sad truth, that a man lost his life,” Manlove concluded. “Aaron Briggs was someone’s son, someone’s father, someone’s friend, and they will always mourn his premature death,” Manlove said.