Dinner guests trapped for hours during active shooter event nearby

One family went to the Amangani for a celebratory birthday dinner. They didn’t expect to spend hours sheltering in place.
The lobby of the Amangani Hotel in the winter. (Ralph Merzbach/KHOL)

by | Aug 30, 2023 | Crime

A suspect is in custody following an active shooter incident in Teton County. A shelter-in-place alert was issued Tuesday, Aug. 29 for the entirety of Spring Gulch Road as law enforcement negotiated with the gunman, who was involved in a domestic dispute.

At around 9 p.m. that night, Nixle alerts were utilized to send alerts to resident’s phones and email — informing them to stay in place, away from windows and lock the doors until close to midnight. Court records later showed the incident took place at a ranch several miles away from the Amangani hotel. 

Lauren Uvarek was finishing up celebrating her mom’s birthday with dinner at the Amangani hotel, when the server told her she couldn’t leave.

“I’m thinking this is a dramatic way of bringing out my mom’s birthday cake and singing happy birthday,” recalled Uvarek, a 43-year-old realtor from Miami who’s family has a house in the region. 

But what followed was unexpected: the server at The Grill informed the dinner guests that there was an active shooter in the area and that they needed to shelter in place while law enforcement barricaded the entire Spring Gulch Road — which the Amangani sits on a hill above.

“Our mouths dropped,” she said. “We didn’t know what to do.”

Uvarek’s first thoughts? Look for exits and stay away from windows — a hard task in a hotel known for its expansive views and floor-to-ceiling windows. 

“Prepare for the worst but hope for the best,” she said.

Sheltering in place for hours

Soon, Uvarek said that Amangani staff brought her family and about 15 other dinner guests into the library and shut big, heavy doors behind them. 

“It was all enclosed and clearly a safe place to be,” Uvarek said.

In the almost three hours that followed, the group looked for information wherever they could, searching news websites and social media, not knowing if it was a family dispute or someone on a rampage. Though law officers were out in full force throughout Spring Gulch Road, Uvarek said she didn’t hear any sirens or see any police activity. 

Eventually, about an hour after the sheriff’s office issued the shelter-in-place alert, they sent out an update, saying they were in a standoff with the gunman. 

“We were hoping it wasn’t a hostage situation. We were just kind of playing all these scenarios in our heads, hoping nobody was hurt.” -Lauren Uvarek, who was having dinner at Amangani Hotel when the shelter-in place was announced 

At one point, Uvarek said the hotel manager came in, saying he’d bring them pillows and blankets since there weren’t enough rooms for everyone. It seemed like they may be in for an all-nighter, she said. 

But, shortly after, at around 11:45 p.m., officers lifted the shelter-in-place alert, saying in text messages and emails to the public that the “situation has been resolved.”

Spring Gulch Road opened back up, and Uvarek and her family were able to return to their home in Teton Village. 

“You just never expect you are going to be in a situation like that until you are,” said Uvarek, adding that it was a surreal experience. 

“I mean in Miami, I would not be surprised about that,” the Florida resident said. “But here, it doesn’t fit.”

This article has been edited to clarify that the active shooter incident did not take place at the hotel. 

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About Hanna Merzbach

Hanna is KHOL's senior reporter and managing editor. A lot of her work focuses on housing and local politics, but also women's health — and whatever else she finds interesting. You can hear her reporting around the country and region on NPR, Wyoming Public Radio and community radio stations around the west. She hails from Bend, Oregon, where she reported for outlets such as the Atlantic, High Country News and Oregon Public Broadcasting. In her free time, you can find Hanna scaling rock walls or adventuring in the mountains.

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