Wyoming sheriff’s official resigns amid wrongful death suit

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) — A Wyoming sheriff’s corporal who is facing a wrongful death lawsuit in the killing of an unarmed mentally ill man in 2018 has resigned.

Derek Colling left his job Wednesday, the Albany County Sheriff’s Office said in a release Thursday.

No other information about the personnel matter would be provided, the release said. Colling had no listed phone number and couldn’t be reached for comment.

Colling was a patrol deputy when he shot and killed Robert “Robbie” Ramirez, 39, after a traffic stop in Laramie in 2018. Ramirez drove off during the stop, and police car video shows that Colling followed him to his apartment, where he shot him with a Taser then his gun.

The lawsuit says the video shows Colling “aggressively charge” Ramirez in the apartment parking lot even though Ramirez’s hands were in plain sight and Colling knew Ramirez was unarmed.

In court documents, Colling denies those allegations and others, though he acknowledges shooting Ramirez. Colling’s attorney, Stephenson Emery, didn’t immediately return a phone message Thursday.

A grand jury later found Colling didn’t commit involuntary manslaughter.

The shooting nonetheless raised questions about why the sheriff’s office hired Colling as a jail deputy in 2012 after he’d been fired from the Las Vegas police department.

The lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court by Ramirez’s mother, Debra Hinkel, says Colling fatally shot two people in the line of duty in Las Vegas and assaulted and illegally arrested a man who settled a personal injury lawsuit against the city.

Hinkel’s lawsuit against Colling, the Albany County Commission and former Sheriff David O’Malley seeks a jury trial and yet-to-be-determined damages.

Colling grew up in Laramie and knew Ramirez from school. Ramirez was diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder which relatives say led to run-ins with and fear of law enforcement officers.

An advocacy group formed in response to Ramirez’s death praised Colling’s resignation.

“Derek Colling turning in his badge and gun is because of the efforts made by this community that fought for justice for Robbie Ramirez. Colling’s resignation is accountability, but it is not justice,” Karlee Provenza, executive director of Albany County for Proper Policing and a Democratic state legislator, said in a statement.

O’Malley hired Colling and promoted him from patrol deputy to patrol corporal after the shooting. O’Malley retired in 2020, leading to the appointment of Aaron Appelhans, a University of Wyoming Police Department sergeant, as Wyoming’s first Black sheriff.

Appelhans reassigned Colling to jail corporal in March.


Follow Mead Gruver at https://twitter.com/meadgruver