Prosecutor: Platte County officer justified in shooting

CASPER — A Platte County sheriff ’s captain was justified when he shot and killed a man carrying an ax last month near Wheatland, that county’s top prosecutor announced Monday. 

The decision comes almost six weeks after Capt. David Russell killed David Matthew Cain, 36, while responding to a family fight report at Cain’s home. Body camera footage shows Cain holding an ax and advancing toward Russell, ignoring three commands to drop the weapon, according to a letter summarizing the investigation, which was released Monday by Platte County Attorney Douglas Weaver.

 “David Cain is responsible for his own death as he chose to threaten Captain Russell with the ax and refused to drop it when ordered to do so,” attorney John B. Robinson concluded in the letter. 

Robinson is a Wheatland attorney, and he reviewed the Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigation report into the shooting, along with body camera footage and the medical examiner’s report. Weaver said he also reviewed the material and agreed with Robinson’s findings. 

A toxicology report found Cain had amphetamine, methamphetamine, a synthetic opioid and THC in his system at the time of the shooting. 

The level of meth in his blood, according to the letter, “is consistent with his violent and irrational actions at the time he confronted Captain Russell with the ax.” 

Cain’s mother, Donna Persefield, called authorities when her adult sons, David and Nathan Cain, were fighting on April 1. Russell responded to the home and was let inside by Cain’s sister. 

David Cain, according to the letter, told Russell to leave while holding the ax. 

“Captain Russell drew his duty weapon and ordered David to drop the ax,” according to the letter. 

“In the span of ten (10) seconds from the time Captain Russell observed David with the ax, he ordered David to drop the ax three times, saw David continue to walk toward him, saw David raise the ax with both hands in an threatening manner, ordered David to drop the ax the third time nine (9) seconds after first observing him with the ax. 

“David continued toward Captain Russell who fired his weapon a second later when David was within a few feet from him,” the letter states. 

In a previous interview with the Star-Tribune, Cain’s mother and brother had disputed parts of the law enforcement account. 

They say the fight between the brothers had already ended and David Cain was on his way to chop wood when the deputy arrived. 

They also say he didn’t have time to react to the deputy’s instructions to drop the ax before the officer fired three times. 

However, the letter states Nathan Cain told authorities he thought his brother was using meth and told Russell, “F— you. I’m not going with you. Try and take me.” 

In an interview prior to the letter’s release, family members claimed David Cain was not on drugs at the time of the shooting. Nathan Cain, according to the letter, asked his mother to call law enforcement after he got into an argument with his brother about religion and the two began wrestling, with David Cain getting the upper hand and holding Nathan Cain down. 

His sister told investigators David Cain had a history of fighting with the family and had told them, prior to Russell arriving, that her brother said he was going to burn down the house, the letter states. 

Cain was later pronounced dead at Platte County Memorial Hospital. Russell, as normally occurs after law enforcement shootings, was temporarily placed on administrative leave.