LARAMIE, Wyo. — Matthew Riehl, whose rampage ended the life of a Douglas County sheriff’s deputy on New Year’s Eve, was no stranger to authorities in Colorado and Wyoming.
Riehl, a former law student at the University of Wyoming in Laramie, was the subject of a campus safety alert just weeks before Sunday’s deadly shooting.
On Nov. 6, faculty and staff at the University of Wyoming College of Law were warned about Riehl after he posted what was described as vulgar, nonsensical messages online targeting the law school.
The posts prompted university police to increase security at the law school and contact authorities in Colorado.
In 2008, the then-law school student had his only run-in with campus police.
“He was a suspect in a harassment case,” University of Wyoming police chief Mike Samp said.
Samp said no charges were recommended at the time. Nearly 10 years later, Riehl again had the attention of university police after writing vulgar online messages about law school faculty and staff.
“There was enough alarm that we felt that we needed to notify our campus,” Samp said.
That notification, including a picture of Riehl and his car, urged anyone who might see him to call police. Officers also added patrols at the law school after the posts were published online.
“It was pretty apparent early on that there was very likely some mental health concerns with Matthew Riehl,” Samp said.
Former law school classmate and current Wyoming lawmaker Charles Pelkey called Riehl a troubled soul on Facebook. He described Riehl as troubled going back to his law school days.
Pelkey added he could have never predicted the violence that unfolded on New Year’s Eve. Neither could campus police, who said they compared notes with authorities in Douglas County weeks ago.
“They were aware of him and had some previous contacts with him at that time,” Samp said.
In addition to the previous contacts, Riehl was known to Douglas County sheriff’s deputies for posting videos of himself rambling profane rants on YouTube that targeted Sheriff Tony Spurlock.
Riehl graduated from the University of Wyoming College of Law in 2010. His graduation was delayed because of a deployment overseas.
A former classmate said Riehl was “weird” and became even more paranoid after graduating law school.