Bar fight ends in stabbing

by nathan oster

A 41-year-old Shell man has been charged with attempted second-degree murder and two counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon after he allegedly stabbed another Shell man during a bar fight Friday night at the Antler Inn.

Raymond Ryan Tatom was arrested on Saturday and made his initial court appearance on Wednesday morning.

During that hearing, bond was set at $1 million and a preliminary hearing was scheduled for 11 a.m. Wednesday, Feb. 8.

The other combatant in the bar fight, Tim Mills, 60, was transported from the scene to South Big Horn Hospital, then on to Washakie Medical Center in Worland where he remained hospitalized on Wednesday.

Tim’s wife Anita said he was moved out of the intensive care unit on Sunday, but that he is by no means “out of the woods,” citing his other health issues and the severity of the stab wounds, the worst of which were to his abdominal area.

“He was already a sick man (with several different health conditions) … and this is not going to help him,” she said.

Police were called to the Antler Inn, which sits in the middle of Shell on U.S. Highway 14, at 9:22 p.m. on Friday following a report of a fight in which a man had been stabbed with a knife, according to Big Horn County Sheriff Ken Blackburn.

Blackburn said police do not know for certain who threw the first punch or what the fight was about, just that at some point in the altercation, Mills ended up on top of Tatom.

It was that point, Blackburn said, that Tatom allegedly pulled his knife and stabbed Mills.

Other patrons in the bar — owner Al Martin said there were about eight or nine people in there at the time — were able to break up the fight, and in the aftermath of the stabbing, they provided critical care for Mills until ambulance personnel arrived on scene.

Blackburn described the weapon as a “folding, lock-blade knife.”

One patron, in particular, was credited for his fast thinking. A former EMT, he took possession of the knife  until authorities arrived, and using rubber gloves retrieved from his vehicle, re-inserted Mills’ inner organs and continued to apply pressure until emergency personnel arrived on scene.

Blackburn said Tatom left the bar immediately after the stabbing, returning to his home.

Not long after that, dispatch received a call from the home where Tatom was living, requesting medical attention for him as well.

Blackburn said sheriff’s deputies responded, and that like Mills, he too was transported initially to South Big Horn Hospital, where he was treated and released that same night.

Blackburn said that after Mills, Tatom’s medical care was “first and foremost” in the minds of his deputies, and that there was initially some concern about an injury to his neck.

Tatom was arrested the next day after law enforcement officials interviewed eyewitnesses who reported that they had heard Tatom threatening to kill Mills.

Blackburn said his department is continuing its investigation.

One eyewitness told authorities that Tatom had made derogatory comments about Mills’ family. At one point, Mills left the bar. When he went back inside, the dispute reignited and eventually led to the start of the fistfight, Blackburn said.

Martin, who owns the Antler Inn, supported the eyewitness’s account of the fight and said he never felt like Tatom’s life was in jeopardy.

Martin called the experience “very traumatic” for him and the patrons in his bar, but that he was thankful for the way everyone on scene responded, from breaking up the fight to assisting Mills.

Blackburn credited the Greybull Police Department for the response of one of its officers, Shannon Armstrong, to the scene, and the Basin Police Department for keeping watch over Greybull while the Greybull officer was in Shell.

Martin, too, credited all of the emergency responders for their quick arrival on scene.

Anita Mills said Tuesday that when she arrived at the bar after the fight she found her husband lying on the floor “with his large intestines hanging out.” The aforementioned EMT was by his side, rendering aid.

Tim lost a lot of blood — more than a pint, said Anita.

“He has an infection, which they say is normal in a situation like this, so they are giving him antibiotics,” she said. “When the knife went in, it broke the inner lining of his abdomen. It also ripped away a piece of his liver, so they needed to repair that too.”

Tim also suffered a bruised pancreas during the altercation, Anita said.