Casper Family Mourns Friend and Neighbor Who Attacked Their House; Shooting Back Was Not An Option
The first shotgun blast came through the kitchen window of Greg and Pamela Kandt's house at 10:43 p.m. Tuesday, June 21.
"We both knew instantly what it was and who it was," Pamela said Monday. "I didn't have to think about it."
They were in bed, watching television with 16-month-old Daphne, the daughter of their friend and tenant Adrienne Morstad who was in the basement. They had recently returned from the Crimson Dawn summer's eve celebration on Casper Mountain.
Meanwhile, next door neighbor Jeffrey Hyde fired his shotgun several more times into their kitchen before switching to a .22-caliber semi-automatic rifle.
For the next 45 minutes, they survived a rare and terrible experience.
For a long time after that, they will mourn the loss of their good friend whose rapid descent into apparent madness lead to his death that night.
Two years ago, Hyde moved into the little house next door to theirs in the 100 block of North Fenway Street.
The Kandts scored the suburban dream of a great neighbor.
Hyde removed whatever was in the back yard and planted rows and rows of tomatoes, potatoes, carrots and peppers. He loved to give away the produce to his neighbors and sell the rest at the summer farmer's market downtown. Hyde also raised chickens.
"We were all the beneficiaries of his garden," Pamela said.
"He made wonderful vegetable-chicken soup," she added.
At 50, oilfield work had carved Hyde lean and muscular.
He was frugal, but not so tight with his money that he could not pass up the opportunity to buy an antique horse-drawn buggy he displayed in his front yard.
Hyde was divorced and lived alone. He adored his two dogs.
He fit the type of a lot of Wyoming guys: single, somewhat reserved, somewhat serious, and a real hard worker who kept to himself.
Eventually, Hyde opened up to the Kandts and other neighbors.
Yet that hardworking, focused and frugal man began unraveling after he lost his job, the Kandts said.
"We're not sure of the time line, but six-eight weeks ago, maybe, his behavior altered significantly, and it got increasingly more alarming," Pamela said.
It started with "I'm busy" brush-offs, Greg said. Then a lot of F-bombs, "stay off my property," and irrational and angry conversations. Several weeks ago, police went to his house where he was outside yelling profanities.
Hyde posted "no trespassing" signs, and built a high fence around his back yard, but curiously not on the side next to the Kandts.
"He was just isolating himself," Greg said.
The Kandts won 't speculate about his medical history, Pamela said. "All we know is that something happened to our friend and he was no longer there."
In the few days before his last, Hyde quit taking his dog to the MacKenzie dog park on Bryan Stock Trail. He moved his garden tractor to his front yard perhaps for the same reason he built the fence -- to keep out imaginary people casing his house.
And the outdoorsy guy spent most of the day holed up inside his house other than to briefly water his garden. On the last day, Pamela noticed his dog wasn't outside.
The worsening situation bugged Greg enough that he dug out from storage his home-defense shotgun.
"I was concerned that his behavior might escalate, he said. "I never expected for him to start shooting at our house."
But after the first blast, they immediately hit the floor.
Greg crawled toward his shotgun and loaded it. Pamela called 911. Greg wriggled into the living room and assumed a prone position facing the door. Pamela put the sleeping Daphne under her. Greg tried to call Adrienne who was already downstairs with her mother, but dropped the phone because of the incoming bullets.
A lull followed the first shotgun blasts to the kitchen. The next volley came through the dining room window, then quiet, and then shots through the living room windows, and more quiet.
They agreed they would be safe as long as they stayed below the window sills of their 1923 brick house with its plaster walls, coupled with the furniture they piled in front of the doors.
"And the police would be here to take care of it," Pamela said.
One bullet hit a wire holding a picture, which fell. Shards of glass from the frame cut Greg on the back of his arm.
He told Pamela to tell dispatch, "'If somebody comes through the door, I will shoot. So before any police officer, fire department or whatever enters the residence, they need to please let us know that the situation is under control.'"
While on the phone to dispatch, Pamela heard neighbors had come out of their houses to watch. She also could hear police asking the yelling Hyde to surrender.
As many as nine or 10 agencies responded within probably five minutes, Pamela and Adrienne said. They never heard sirens.
Law enforcement immediately set up a perimeter, but did not respond with gunfire. Officers knew the Kandts' were safe, so they tried to wait it out with Hyde, Pamela and Greg said. "Police were pretty patient with him," she said.
Greg remained calm because he knew law enforcement could handle the situation, he said. Hyde was shooting high and apparently randomly. "We were not in imminent danger."
But he and Pamela knew it would not end well. Hyde was not going to surrender.
Adrienne said she and the Kandts wanted mediation. Pamela said she heard police ask Hyde to put down his weapon, come out with his hands up, and talk.
But Hyde didn't.
He soon came outside, fired his rifle at police, and a Mills police officer returned fire and killed him.
The Kandts were devastated by what happened with and to their friend. Pamela set up a small shrine in the dining room window with a lit candle.
They have no regrets about their own responses.
They commended the police for their patience.
The police have commended them for their behavior, they said.
But they've encountered those who told them what National Rifle Association Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre said after the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre in December 2012: "'The only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is with a good guy with a gun."
Some have asked why Greg didn't engage Hyde. And some suggested, saying if it were up to them, "'he wouldn't have been alive long enough for the police to get here,' that kind of commentary," Pamela said.
"I just want to say, 'yes, there were good guys with guns,'" she said. "My husband on the floor, (plus) a whole lot of police officers who responded with professional training, the right weaponry and the right protection."
As a practical matter, Pamela wondered how the police would know who the good guy was and the bad guy was if they were shooting at each other.
Police wouldn't know who started the shooting, so her neighbor and her husband were exposed to the same extreme risk of being killed.
Shooting and killing Hyde immediately would have eliminated any chance of mediation or surrender, she added. "All of us know how to shoot, but we're not professionals."
Greg said one neighbor did come out with a gun, but Hyde fired six shots at his house. That neighbor had the good sense, with some police admonishment, to get back inside.
If something went wrong in that situation, Pamela added, "another little girl would have lost her daddy."
Greg had another take on what might have happened.
"Do you think for a second that I want the psychic trauma of killing my friend? To have to live with that?"
He hopes the officer who did have to kill Hyde is doing well, he said. "I'm so grateful that I didn't have to do that."