CODY — When Colin Monahan, 68, heard a knock on her door and saw a group of people standing outside her porch on Friday night, she said she thought they might be there to complain about a new garage she and her wife had recently built.
She said it quickly became clear that’s not why the five individuals were there. She said they told Monahan and her partner Shannon Lastowski, 63, they were not welcome in Wapiti because of their sexual orientation. The same-sex couple is retired and moved to Wyoming from the Chicago area four years ago because of the beautiful surroundings.
“This woman said, ‘We don’t like your kind’ … and our kind is not welcome here, and we need to leave,” Monahan said.
Monahan asked the party to leave. She said they refused to do so, although she did say one individual they have had prior encounters with did go back to their vehicle upon request when the conversation started.
As the two homeowners and four neighbors crowded around the small porch, she said tensions rose quickly.
“I said, ‘I’ll have to call the police then,’ and (one of the neighbors) said, ‘Fine, call the police,’” Monahan recalled.
She said once she connected with the Park County Sheriff’s Office she offered the phone over to the neighbors to speak with law enforcement officers. That was when Monahan said they finally decided to leave.
The Park County Sheriff’s Office reported on Tuesday the incident was still under active investigation. It would not release any more information as of press time.
When contacted, three of the neighbors Monahan said were involved in the incident declined to comment, while another did not respond to a request for comment.
Monahan, a hunter with three dogs, said she is used to living in a conservative community, and had no illusions about that being true in state before moving to Wyoming, but “didn’t expect the amount of hate that some of the people out here have. It’s at a level I’ve not seen before.”
Monahan is determined to not let this incident drive them out but said Lastowski has had different thoughts.
“She’s terrified,” Monahan said.
Monahan said they have felt “wonderful” support from most people they have met in the community, especially after this incident.
“That’s a good thing,” she said. “There are people who are both conservative and liberal that believe what happened was terrible and I believe they’re in the majority.
“I just want to stop them from doing this to other people and anybody else that wants to do this to people, they’re going to get stopped.”
Monahan said she has had countless people reach out and even one individual who offered large sums of money for attorney fees, which they turned down.
“They’re like, ‘We want to help some way,’” Monahan said. “It’s an incredible outpouring of support from the community here.”
The alleged incident has caused an outcry from the local community – individuals and businesses. “Your Hate Is Not Welcome” stickers – featuring a cowboy riding a bronco with rainbow colors and Heart Mountain in the background – have surfaced.
“People are in the mood right now where they’re not going to be silenced,” Monahan said.
She said Park County Sheriff Scott Steward paid them an in-person visit on Tuesday, and called those accused and told them to have no contact with Monahan or Lastowski.
“He was very helpful,” she said. “The sheriff’s department has been very helpful and supportive in this process.”
But an informal no contact order only extends to their property, and a separate legal process must occur for this order to be formalized and universal.
“This is Wyoming, everybody has guns and long-range rifles, there’s a lot of ways they can get people here,” Monahan said. “We’re not really safe ever.”
Monahan said she thinks the current state of social media is simultaneously bringing those with similar viewpoints together, and also compartmentalizing people into divisive groups.
“It allows people to come out and say all sorts of things,” she said. “It allows people to come out and say what they truly believe. It allows people who are maybe normally cowards to get out there.”
Monahan said she had received harassment from those who came to her home and others on Facebook in the past and said this latest incident is, “bringing it all back again.”
She said Steward had reached out to her on one occasion in response, offering law enforcement help when he saw these posts, but Monahan turned down the offer. She said the personal nature of this new attack brings these threats to a heightened level.
“What they said was a hate crime, what they did was a hate crime,” Monahan said.
Wyoming is one of four states without any hate crime laws, but if the alleged suspects are charged and found guilty, the party or parties could be cited for harassment and criminal trespassing.
“I want a charge for what she did wrong, not some other side thing,” Monahan said. “The lesson should be to everybody that they can’t do that, but I doubt that’s going to happen here.”