DOUGLAS, Wyo. – A Wyoming lawman who died last week trying to rescue a girl from a swollen river made the selfless decision to risk his own life, his supervisors said Monday.
Searchers found the body of Converse County Sheriff's Deputy Bryan Gross on Sunday morning about 1.5 miles downstream from where he entered the North Platte River.
Gross was one of several rescuers who went into the river after the girl on Thursday evening, in the eastern Wyoming town of Douglas.
Other rescuers using a canoe steered the girl to the bank and she later was treated at a local hospital. Officials say she wasn't injured.
Sheriff Clinton B. Becker told reporters Monday that Gross' actions went beyond the call of duty.
"He made a decision to do what he did, and he did it to the best of his ability," Becker said. He said Gross was one of 14 patrol officers in the department.
Becker and others in law enforcement have been mum about why the girl was in the river. However, Douglas City Administrator Steve Henning said last week that the girl, who he said was 14 years old, had jumped into the river after becoming distraught over her boyfriend.
Gross, who grew up in Michigan, had worked as a Douglas police officer for a few years before recently joining the sheriff's department. Becker said Gross worked as a drug officer and handled a trained dog named Gus.
Henning said Gross had gotten married within the past month or so to a woman who had worked as a receptionist for the city.
Becker said neighboring Natrona County Sheriff's Office is investigating the incident and will have a report completed in coming weeks. He said he doesn't expect any criminal charges, but said the investigation will document what happened.
Gross' death has hit people in Douglas, a city of about 6,000 people 50 miles east of Casper.
"It's just tragic," said Jim Young, proprietor of the City Shoe and Saddle Shop on North Second Street who said he knew Gross.
"I guess he did what he needed to do," Young said of the young lawman's decision to enter the river, which has been running high with runoff from snow-packed mountains.
Undersheriff Don Schoenleber said searchers from several agencies had searched 24 miles of the North Platte before Gross' body was found.
Becker said the department will consider issuing life preservers for deputies to carry in their patrol vehicles. "We don't do a whole lot of our work by the river — 95 percent of our work is out on the prairie," he said. "But on occasion such as this incident, you just never know."
Funeral services for Gross are scheduled for Saturday at the local high school.