Case Dismissed for Cheyenne Man Previously Charged With Murder
Saying that he "exercised reasonable force in self-defense," Laramie County District Attorney Leigh Anne Grant Manlove on Friday evening announced that she had dismissed a second-degree murder charge against Benjamin Ketcham.
Ketcham was arrested on a warrant for second-degree murder on May 27 for the May 22 shooting death of 36-year-old Aaron Briggs of Cheyenne.
"Based on the information available on May 22, there was probable cause to believe that Mr. Ketcham committed the crime of second-degree murder," said Manlove.
"But as the investigation matured and the facts were fully developed, it became clear that under Wyoming’s reasonable defensive force law Mr. Ketcham is immune from prosecution,” she added.
Police say Briggs was drunk when he showed up at Ketcham's room at the Lariat Motel on May 22 and became aggressive with Ketcham and others in the room. Briggs was told to leave and ultimately did so.
Later that evening, Briggs returned wearing a large, metal chain around his neck and began to threaten and intimidate Ketcham and others.
"Briggs was again told to leave the room and refused to do so," said Officer David Inman. "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," Inman added. "As Briggs swung the chain at Ketcham, Ketcham raised the handgun and fired one shot, striking Briggs in the upper torso."
Briggs, who ran to the nearby Lamp Lounge after he was shot, was taken to Cheyenne Regional Medical Center where he died.
"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," said Manlove.
"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 added. "It is not."