Wausau Police: 1 dead after shooting with police, 4 officers on leave

By  | 

WAUSAU, Wis. (WSAW) -- One person is dead after an officer-involved shooting Saturday on Wausau's northeast side. The man was armed with a knife and died at the scene, according to police.

The shooting was reported between 10:20 and 10:30 p.m. Saturday on the 700-block of Gilbert Street. The area of Brown Street between Gilbert Street and North 7th Street was immediately blocked off and remained closed to traffic at 8 a.m. Sunday.

Wausau Police Patrol Captain Matt Barnes confirmed in a 10 a.m. press conference Sunday that the shooting resulted in a death. Officers were first called to investigate a domestic disturbance. Chief Jeff Hardel told NewsChannel 7's Lauren Linder Monday, he believes the domestic abuse happened at an apartment on the 700-block of Gilbert Street, where the domestic-related suspect lives with his significant other. He said at a point after the domestic incident a female left that apartment and called police from a different address around 9:35 p.m. to investigate.

"Officers investigated the report of that disturbance and ultimately determined that there was probable cause to arrest an individual, an adult male on domestic-related charges," Barnes said.

Around 10:20 p.m. officers tried to find the male suspect at his apartment on the 700-block of Gilbert Street, but could not locate him and proceeded to search the immediate area. They eventually found him outside the building.

"Attempted to make contact with him but unfortunately that individual was able to get inside the locked facility," Barnes said.

Barnes said as the officer was trying to get into the locked facility, the apartment complex on Gilbert Street, he came into contact with the suspect. However, as the officer was trying to arrest him on domestic-related charges, the suspect armed himself with a knife.

"The end result of that interaction was the officer discharging his firearm several times, hitting that individual," Barnes said.

Officers attempted lifesaving efforts, but were unsuccessful. The male suspect died at the scene. The officer was not physically injured.

"This is our second one within a year, very traumatic for the officers involved," Wausau Police Chief Jeff Hardel told NewsChannel 7's Lauren Linder Monday.

Hardel confirmed four officers were on the scene Saturday night. Only one officer shot the domestic-related suspect, but based on protocol, all on administrative leave. Hardel said the officers are "fairly new" staff members but declined to comment on the rest of their history.

"Our first thoughts are, are the officers okay? Are they injured? Are they healthy? Then of course we want to make sure that they abide by proper policy," Hardel said.

Police could not confirm whether the department has a history with the man or the apartment complex. Barnes said he was not aware of any specific issues in the area where the incident happened and didn't know if officers had been in contact with the suspect in the past.

Both Barnes and Hardel have said they cannot confirm whether the shooting happened inside or outside the suspect's apartment.

State investigators from the Division of Criminal Investigation, also known as DCI, arrived in Wausau overnight Saturday to handle the investigation and will determine whether the police officer's use of force was justified-- a move required by state law to ensure transparency following police shootings that result in a death.

As of Sunday morning, questions specific to the investigation were being deferred to the DCI. In a statement, Director of Communications and Public Affairs for the Wisconsin Department of Justice Johnny Koremenos told NewsChannel 7 Monday, "agents are busy assessing the facts and there is no new information to report at this time."

Hardel told NewsChannel 7's Lauren Linder Monday morning, he hopes to be able to share the identities of both the officers involved and the suspect by Tuesday morning.

Amber St. Clair lives across the street from the apartment complex.

"I heard three pops, didn't know what it was. I went back to sleep," St. Clair said.

Now St. Clair knows that those pops were gunshots.

Barnes said this was an isolated incident and there is no threat to the community. However, that's not stopping St. Clair from being a little shaken up.

"Me growing up here, it wasn't like that. I didn't have to worry about somebody doing drugs or somebody getting shot or I didn't have to worry about none of that and now I do," St. Clair said.

Raymond Glazner has also been living in the neighborhood since 1999.

"We don't have too much trouble up here at all. Once in a while we get a couple of break ins on a car left on the street, but usually we don't have any big troubles," Glazner said.

Around noon Monday morning there was still crime scene tape on the apartment complex, but by 4:45 p.m. it was gone.

Hardel said this type of event takes a toll on the whole police department, especially with four fewer officers patrolling the streets. Hardel said they still have to maintain control and safety for the community.

"We don't have that kind of extra officers that we can just absorb that without calling in on overtime," Hardel said.

At the same time, Hardel said they've seen a decrease in recruiting officers.

"There's clearly an anti-law enforcement sentiment nationwide by some factions or some groups," Hardel said.

But, Hardel said they've been fortunate enough to get outstanding recruits and hopes it will continue after what's happened this year.

"We've been able to identify you know the people that we are looking for that have high quality and good ethical and moral makeup," Hardel said after swearing in four new officers Monday.

Hardel said this will leave them with around 72 or 73 officers. 75 officers is their cap. In all he said they will probably need to hire four to six officers the rest of the year due to a number of retirements.

Wausau Mayor Robert Mielke reacted to the shooting to NewsChannel 7. Mielke said he's proud and grateful for the Wausau Police Department.

"This was an isolated incident. It's an unfortunate and tragic incident but we're going to move forward and we're going to heal," Mielke said. "I'm sure that everything will turn out. I'm fully supportive as well as the City Council staff, of the Wausau Police Department. These are good people that do an excellent job, very professional and very dedicated. It's just a sad situation all around," he added.

Mielke also said unfortunately violence is more prevalent today than it was years ago, but still said Wausau is a wonderful, safe community to live in.

Executive Director of the Wisconsin Professional Police Association Jim Palmer, an organization which represents law enforcement across the state, said members of the WPPA's field and legal staff are providing support and assisting with the investigation.

"Based upon our experience and the information available to us at this time, we are confident that the officer's use of force was justified," said Jim Palmer, in a statement released to NewsChannel 7.

The WPPA statement continues: "First and foremost, our hearts go out to all those affected by this tragic loss of life. As Wisconsin's largest law enforcement group, the WPPA has more experience in these sensitive incidents than any other organization or agency, and we not only appreciate how these cases impact the officers directly involved, but the communities they serve as well. As such, we look forward to assisting and cooperating in the independent and transparent investigation required by state law."

Palmer said WPPA will refrain from issuing any further details to protect the integrity of the outside investigation now underway.

Wausau Police, Wausau Fire/EMS and the Marathon County Sheriff's Office responded to the initial scene.