A photograph from a real estate website shows the entry to a development called Cody's Country, where local LGBTQ residents say they were accosted by neighbors and told to leave. (Zillow)

An LGBTQ Wapiti couple says a group of neighbors accosted them at home and told them they needed to leave because “their kind” weren’t welcome in the area.

Colin Monahan and Shannon Lastowski have lived in Cody’s Country, a real estate development near the border of Yellowstone National Park, for four years. They moved to the area to be close to the park and enjoy the region’s hunting and fishing opportunities after Monahan retired from her job as a public health expert at the University of Illinois at Chicago, she told WyoFile.  

The couple had just sent off some visiting friends the afternoon of Oct. 9 when a group of five residents from the sprawling development arrived on their front porch. The group arrived in two trucks and represented four different households in the neighborhood, Monahan said.

The neighbors had ostensibly arrived to complain about the construction of the couple’s large new garage, Monahan said. The visit changed, however, when one of the neighbors told Monahan that “our kind was not welcome here and we needed to leave Cody Country,” Monahan said. 

“I said, ‘well you need to leave our porch’,” Monahan said. The group refused, Monahan said, at which point Monahan’s partner, Shannnon Lastowski, called 911. Once a Park County Sheriff’s deputy was on the phone, the group left, Monahan said.

Park County emergency dispatch records document a 911 call for a trespass complaint made from a road in Cody’s County at 5:46 p.m. on Oct. 9. The time matches Monahan’s account of the incident and the road matches her address. 

A spokesperson for the Park County Sheriff’s Department said an investigation is ongoing but that the agency wouldn’t comment further about an ongoing investigation. Park County Sheriff Scott Steward did not respond to emailed questions sent Tuesday evening. 

Colin Monahan says a resident of her neighborhood previously made this homophobic Facebook post in response to a post from Monahan in a neighborhood group. (Facebook)

Monahan — a decorated Coast Guard volunteer, epidemiologist and respiratory therapist, according to Lastowksi — had a run in with one of the neighbors a year earlier, she said. The man had replied to a Monahan post in a neighborhood Facebook group with a threatening rant about “homosexual transvestites,” she said. Monahan told the group on her porch that she would not speak to them with him present, she said, after which he waited in a truck.

Monahan provided WyoFile a screenshot of the Facebook post. “The homosexual transvestites wanted to push their demented agenda down the throats of regular conservative Americans! ! Here in wapit, wy! Not going to happen…EVER!!!!!!,” the post read.

WyoFile left several unreturned voicemails and Facebook messages for the man at his personal account and at a phone number listed for his business. Facebook messages to another woman alleged to have been at the scene were also not responded to on Wednesday. The woman had shared several homophobic posts about the Obama family, according to a review of her Facebook activity.

Initially reluctant, Monahan and Lastowski agreed to speak on the record about the incident as named sources in hopes of generating a positive community response, they said. 

“I know that we have more people here that are good than are bad,” Monahan said. “The bad people are really a minority. But they get a loud voice if people don’t do something about it. They can successfully shoo people out of their neighborhoods.”

Steward was initially investigating the incident as a trespassing crime, Monahan said following a meeting with the sheriff on Tuesday. She had urged him to investigate for harassment as well, and said she wanted to press harassment charges. 

Monahan did not see any firearms or weapons, but felt threatened by the visit and message nonetheless, she said. 

“It felt very threatening and Shannon was so upset,” she said. 

Hate crime legislation

Wyoming does not have an anti-discrimination statute specific to LGBTQ people, or a hate crime law. The issue has been politically divisive in the Wyoming Legislature, where attempts at moving such statutes have repeatedly failed. In December 2018, the Legislature’s leadership removed language providing specific protections for people who worked in the Capitol against discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity after conservatives opposed the protections. 

“If Wyoming had a hate crime legislation this would clearly be a hate crime,” Monahan said. “But because there is no hate crime in Wyoming you have to look at as trespassing or… you have to kind of get around what the issue is.”

Word of the incident has spread quickly in the area. Monahan and Lastowski have received an outpouring of support including food and offers of shelter from their neighbors, Monahan said. 

The owners of a local outdoor sporting goods store made a lengthy Facebook post, writing that people who engage in acts of hate were not welcome in the shop. 

“Our community has been exceptionally good to us in the last ten years,” Sunlight Sports owners Wes and Melissa Allen wrote. “You all have had a part in carrying us through bear spray blowing up in our store, economic downturns, bad snow years and other situations that might have put Sunlight Sports out of business if we weren’t surrounded by such good people. We’re here because of you. And make no mistake – we believe that 99% of county residents are good people.” 

“Unfortunately, recent events have reminded us that some of them aren’t good people. Some of our neighbors are broken. They feel that it’s ok to let their hate spill out in a way that makes this a worse place to live for everyone, but especially for people that are different in some way from them. This willingness to harass their neighbors feels different and wrong.  As a family, as a business, and as part of the community we now feel like it’s our responsibility to stand up and say that what these broken people are doing is not OK in this community.”

In a phone interview, Wes Allen said the post was about more than just the incident in Wapiti, but about other recent incidents of hate or discrimination he had heard about. 

“I don’t want to frame this just as a reaction to what happened in Wapiti,” he said. “I think I’m hearing about more of these things than I did.”  

Word of the Wapiti incident has also reached Gov. Mark Gordon. In a phone call on Tuesday, the governor’s spokesperson said Gordon had been aware of the incident since Monday and had reached out to Park County officials. The governor’s office declined to comment, however, saying they were still gathering facts from officials about what had transpired. 

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Andrew Graham

Andrew Graham is reporting for WyoFile from Laramie. He covers state government, energy and the economy. Reach him at 443-848-8756 or at andrew@wyofile.com, follow him @AndrewGraham88

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21 Comments

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  1. In reality, we’re all adults. My only question is, “what business is it of anyone’s as long as the 2 folks are consenting adults?” That’s the problem in the world today—there are some people that are so unhappy that everyone around them is not a carbon copy. Well folks; that is NOT reality. One certainty in life is for sure: CHANGE WILL HAPPEN! Control YOUR controllables and stop trying to mind everyone elses business. Work on your own selves and YOUR issues. Get a hobby! The world would be a much better place. The articles I’ve read about this is about one thing—not wanting change. You don’t like a new neighborhood being built in what was once an open field or you don’t like some people because they aren’t identical to YOU. Grow up and quite being silly OR buy ALL of the land so you can control it?

    One would think that in 2020 we would have moved past the bigotry/hatred/civil rights issues of the 1950’s. All I can say is the few community members that were bold and inappropriate enough to go to someone else’s home to tell them they were not wanted and to leave are very lucky. Most folks wouldn’t take to kindly to that and the 911 call probably wouldn’t have been that the homeowners felt threatened. The group should consider themselves ‘very very lucky” that these women tolerated them coming to their home with such hate. This is 2020 and people are no longer intimidated. I laugh that people really think there are only 2 homosexuals around the town. So naive!

    The good thing in all this is now the WORLD knows and if anything should happen to those 2 women…well I’d hate to live in that town if something did. Right on for the shop owners who took a stand! And btw, I ‘m not a rightist, leftist or communist or any of the other ‘ist.” I just love AMERICA, the Land of the Free and Home of the Brave. So shouldn’t we ALL be free?

  2. What did Forrest Gump say? “Stupid is as Stupid does.” Probably a Trump fanatic. Not good for freedom in Wyoming. Taking away the freedom of one invariably takes away the freedom of all as injustice towards one group always spreads injustice. There’s another saying: Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. If you are against a few, then you are against all. Don’t take away our freedoms with a malicious, self-serving act.

  3. This whole affair and the reporting of it is amazing. There are no facts here, only one side of a story. Everyone seems to willing to cast jusdgement and state opinions about viture, culture, and “how it is” in Wyoming or Wapiti. When the facts come out I suspect they will be dismissed because they won’t fit the sanctimonious posturing of those that want an example that fits their preconcieved view. This story started with an inflamitory and misleading post on a small closed FB page. Someone reposted this post to a larger audience and the race to judgement was on. Ironically another post was made by the “victim” on this same restricted site that actually contridictied the original post. No one saw fit to repost that one. When the facts come out I’m sure there will be no apoligies from those rushing to judgement. This incident has been blown up and supported by those supporting some type of state “hate crime” legislation. Those with a political agenda won’t be influnced by the facts as long as the story fits their cause.

    1. I believe the gentleman commenting here Richard T. Jones is one of three people running for two seats on the Northwest College board, and the Cody local Conservation District board, as well, if that helps you with your election decision making in Park County.

      1. Seeing the obvious spelling mistakes makes me wonder how fit this person is to sit on the college board. Nevermind the fact that he is trying to justify ignorant comments that he likely has a relation to.

        Hopefully the other two people running for the college board will beat him soundly.

        I’m rooting for the people of park county.

        Cheers

      2. YEE- HAW Dewey! It’s been 15 months since I lived on South Fork in Cody, but I still have many fond memories of reasonable conservative people who lived there and I thus have a particular interest in this story. Thanks for pointing his out. Let the voters decide whether or not they approve of Mr. Jones!! We’ll find out soon!

      3. If this is the Mr. Jones that is running for a board position at Northwest, then he should be disqualified for spelling errors. I understand a couple of typos here and there, but there are misspellings in there that don’t indicate typos. Better yet, he’s not intelligent enough to understand what the small red squiggly line is below all his misspelled words. Not exactly someone we should have in a decision making position for an education institute.

        1. Easy on the spelling errors. I end up with a great many in my posts because A. I never learned to type , and B. some web sites do not allow Apple onboard spellcheck to autocorrect on the fly .

          We all know exactly what Richard is saying. Cut him ( and me ) some slack, please.

      4. Thanks for the endorsement. Since your reputation is well-known your opposition should get me some votes.

    2. Richard Johns,
      Perhaps you are right on the money. Perhaps this one sided story is totally slanted towards a singular perspective.
      Perhaps nobody showed up on the front porch of somebody else, and perhaps the authorities were called for no reasons other than to present a scenario that puts ones neighbors in a terrible light which perhaps might have jeopardized a home owner to create unduly and enormous tension amongst their neighbors. Or perhaps you were one who was standing on that porch; particularly since you live in the thriving city of Wapiti with a population of a few dozen. by your own submission of location.
      Like I said …. perhaps you are right in the money. But…. my money is not “perhaps” on the right horse when I believe this is not a concocted report of people feeling threatened, you comment holds very little merit to justify me changing my mind. My money is solidly in believing the preponderance of testimony that something, at the very least, unneighborly occurred without provocation by the offended parties reporting without a single position representing the contrary on the horse I put my money on.

      1. Preponderance of testimony? The only testimony on record was a Facebook post that was then shared by a person not a party to the event. This post was then shared and reposted as fact along with all sorts of assumptions and speculation. The original poster then had a second post on a closed site that was different than the shared post. That’s the only evidence. Until a report, if any, comes from the SO everything said is speculation. I’m so impressed that you “know” what happened because you “choose” to believe a particular story. Good for you. I’m very comfortable with you being wrong.

        1. Okay, but why did a belligerent group of people literally target and show up on their doorstep with the intent to intimidate the residents and demand that they leave/move, requiring intervention by law enforcement to make this group of people leave the private property? I mean, what exactly are you trying to defend here?

    3. The gentleman commenting sounds like he has enjoyed a different experience of Wyoming than I have. He has never had to decide whether to introduce his wife as his sister, find a way to talk about his spouse without pronouns, or listen politely but not join in when the topic turns to family. While negotiating these uncomfortable social situations has ever threatened my life, I have an appreciation for a more unwelcoming side of Wyoming, and this incident sure does scare me, but does not surprise me as much as surprises Mr. Jones.

  4. Park County is not about hate, and I (among many, many others) strongly condemn those few elements who practice it, We have a long and powerful tradition of welcoming people of all types into our community and of supporting one another in times to trouble. . What happened in that lovely Wapiti subdivision should be a warning of how easy it is to become complacent in our defense of our community values.

  5. As a “regular, conservative American” I am offended that other self declaring “regular” conservative Americans are so mean spirited to others who are only living their lives happily and doing nothing to bother others besides simply embracing who they truly are.
    These self proclaimed “regular” conservative Americans are an embarrassment to both themselves and us truly “regular” conservative Americans.
    Real “regular” conservatives believe in “don’t bother me, do your thing and let me do my thing”. At least, that’s the way I was raised.

  6. I am a native Wyomingite living in San Francisco, where such discriminatory and hateful behavior is highly unacceptable. I am so troubled when I read incidents such as the one described in this article, because that means no one is safe. Women are especially unsafe in communities that tolerate bigoted, even vigilante behavior such as this. Huge thanks to the Allens, who pointed out that this incident is not a lone happening. They risk everything. I am troubled that Wyoming has no hate law. What did Matthew Shephard’s death mean? What does it mean that the Governor has no words when asked to comment? It means Wyoming, the Equality State, has miles to go.

  7. I know Colin and Shannon, and they are two of the nicest, kindest, most generous, and most intelligent people that you will ever meet. That they were subjected to such irrational hatred is absolutely heartbreaking. I would be delighted to have them as my neighbors.

  8. it’s disgusting ignorant stories like these that make me question the worth in other people.

    I can only hope that Colin and Shannon know that these people don’t speak or represent the majority of the people in my state. I wish them well and hope that the authorities follow up and prosecute these fools as much as is allowed by the law.

  9. Colin Monahan and Shannon Lastowski have the same right as every other Cody resident to live happily and be respected as community members. For those that feel differently… live and let live and be respectful of others!

  10. I don’t know Colin Monahan and Shannon Lastowski. However, I am one Cody resident that is very happy they are part of our community. I will tell them that when I meet them.