Vince Tropea – County 10 April 4, 2022
(Lander, WY) – A protest aiming to bring awareness to police brutality was held on Main Street in Lander on Thursday, March 31st, after a reported incident involving Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) officers and an Eastern Shoshone elder occurring in early March.
County 10 spoke with Austin Hill, one of the protest attendees and the son in law of Lindberg Shongutsie, the elder who was reported to have been assaulted by BIA officers.
Hill stated that the incident occurred on March 4th, when Eastern Shoshone Department of Family Services (ESDFS) and BIA showed up to his residence “to take away his eight children.”
Two videos of the incident as it progressed were uploaded to YouTube on March 5th by user “Shoshone E.,” with the first depicting the arrival of BIA and ESDFS.
(Warning: The following videos contain graphic language and potentially disturbing content.)
In the first video, Hill and his partner Bobbi Shongutsie (daughter of Lindberg) can be heard being informed by ESDFS as to why their children are being taken into custody, and that their agency would stay there, along with BIA, until FBI Denver Field Office agents arrived in order to interview the children.
The second video shows Shongutsie enter the frame around the seven minute mark, when a verbal interaction then occurs, at which point three officers take him down to the ground, while the other two make their way toward Bobbi to keep her at bay.
“He’s an old man! He just had knee surgery!” Bobbi can be heard screaming as the officers held Shongutsie to the ground and applied handcuffs.
Hill went on to state that Shongutsie had to be taken to ICU for his injuries, and that he was being arraigned the day of the protest for allegedly assaulting one of the officers during the altercation.
According to court documents obtained by County 10, filed on March 17th, Shogutsie faces an ‘Assaulting a Federal Officer’ felony charge for the incident, and faces up to 20 years imprisonment and $250,000 fine.
The indictment states:
“On or about March 4, 2022, in the District of Wyoming, the Defendant, LINDBERG SHONGUTSIE, did knowingly and forcibly assault, resist, oppose, impede, intimidate, and interfere with, and inflict bodily injury…”
Court documents indicate that Shogutsie pled not guilty at the March 31st arraignment, and that he is currently released on bond while awaiting his June 6th jury trial.
County 10 also reached out to the BIA, but their offices were unavailable for comment at the time of the request.
“We’re here to bring awareness to this situation,” stated fellow protestor Jessica Swallow. “Nobody cares that we just had an old man get tackled by three or four police officers. He’s an old man, he just had knee surgery. Now BIA is trying to lie and say that he broke their hand.”
“This is just a week after they shot somebody,” Swallow later commented, referencing the still-under-investigation recent incident where an individual was non-fatally shot by a BIA officer during an altercation on the Wind River Reservation.
“Nobody wants to care. Nobody wants to do anything, so we’re just trying to bring awareness to the situation so it doesn’t get swept under the rug. People like us who don’t have a lot of money and can’t afford a $10,000 retainer fee for the lawyer, we need the awareness here because the system isn’t on our side, and we got to get the people on our side,” Swallow concluded.
Other protestors also echoed Swallow’s sentiments.
“We’re bringing awareness,” commented Lehi Aoah. “We need to protect our elders. BIA needs to be held accountable. There’s corruption.”
“When you call for help, you get investigated and harassed before they will help you,” added Marlo Calhoun.
County 10 will continue to provide updates on Shongutsie’s case as they become available, which can be found here.