Hot Springs County deputy settles out of court in horse shooting incident
Thermopolis – Former Hot Springs County Undersheriff David Larson and private property owners Larry and Chris Bentley settled out of court on April 10 on a private property suit.
The Bentley’s filed a lawsuit in the fall of 2012, alleging Larson trespassed on their private property in August 2010 and killed a horse without legal justification.
Two off-duty officers saw the gelding while driving through Bentley’s property on a road with a county easement. The officers summoned Larson, who was on-duty. Legal documents presented by Larson’s attorney, Senior Assistant Attorney General Patricia Bach, state Larson, “shot the neglected animal to end its suffering.”
Larry says the horse, Bud, had a bad knee and had been sick.
“We were doctoring him to see if he’d get better before winter,” said Bentley.
Wyoming Statute 11-24-102 reads, “…When any person takes up an estray, he shall immediately notify (a livestock brand) inspector who shall inspect or cause to be inspected the estray for brands or other evidence of ownership.”
The statutes define “estray” as “…any animal found running at large upon public or private lands, fenced or unfenced, in Wyoming whose owner un unknown… or the owner of which cannot with reasonable diligence be found…”
Tom Christensen, brand inspector for Hot Springs County and District 3 in Wyoming and former deputy, states the sheriff’s department did not contact him regarding this incident.
“If we hadn’t settled out of court, this would have gone to federal district court in Cheyenne,” comments Larry.
The settlement is one part of an ongoing lawsuit the Bentley’s have filed against Hot Springs County and Sheriff Lou Falgoust in the incident.
As part of the judgment, Larson is required to pay to the Bentley’s $2,700 and cover their legal fees.
“The lawsuit is not about the value of the horse,” remarks Larry. “It is about the Sheriff’s Department of Hot Springs County taking law into their own hands, ignoring Wyoming State Laws, trespassing on private property for the purpose of destroying private property and violating our civil rights.”
As of press time, Larson and Bach did not returned calls to the Wyoming Livestock Roundup.