By Ernie Over, managing editor, county10.com
(Hudson, Wyo.) – A 24-year-old Hudson man identified as James “Skip” Crooks was arrested around 4:45 p.m. Saturday afternoon and charged with Felony Aggravated Assault in connection with a fight that sent a Riverton man to a Casper hospital. Riverton Police Captain Eric Murphy said Crooks was arrested without incident at his home by Fremont County Sheriff’s Deputies assisted by RPD Detectives.
Crooks was charged with hitting a 24-year-old Riverton man with one punch in the face one week ago in the 500 block of East Main Street at 1:24 a.m. The victim received broken facial bones which necessitated specialized treatment in Casper.
According to witnesses and the police investigation, the two were arguing as they left the bar. The victim and Crooks exchanged words, with Crooks allegedly calling the victim a racial slur. The victim is of Native American and African American ancestry. Crooks is caucasian.
The two men were reported to have grown up together in the same household and had been friends. After the two exchanged words outside the bar, a Riverton police report indicated the victim took a fighting stance in reaction to the alleged slur, but Crooks struck first, hitting the man in the face and knocking him to the ground with one punch. The man received emergency treatment at Riverton Memorial Hospital and was then transported to the Natrona County hospital.
“As you know, Wyoming does not have a hate crimes law, and we treat such incidents as an aggravated assault,” Murphy said.
Detectives this past week interviewed family members, witnesses and both men as they put the case together.
According to Wyoming State Statutes, a person can be charged with Aggravated Assault and Battery, which is a felony, if they intentionally, knowingly or recklessly inflict or attempt to inflict serious bodily injury on another person “under circumstances manifesting extreme indifference to the value of human life.” The maximum penalty is up to 10 years imprisonment. If convicted, the defendant must pay restitution to the victim, including reimbursement for any expenses resulting from the crime, such as medical bills, unless the court finds the defendant is unable to do so.