New details were released Saturday in the death of a 14-year-old boy who was fatally shot by a police officer Wednesday in northern Wisconsin.
According to a news release from the Wisconsin Department of Justice Division of Criminal investigation:
Police on Nov. 8 received a 911 call reporting a man walking on Maple Street in Odanah carrying a knife. Odanah is east of Ashland, located on the Bad River Reservation.
Ashland County Sheriff’s Deputy Brock Mrdjenovich responded to the scene and encountered the boy, who is 5’9? and 300 pounds, fitting the description given by the 911 caller. The boy was later identified as 14-year-old Jason Ike Pero.
Pero approached Deputy Mrdjenovich with a large butcher knife and he refused numerous commands to drop the weapon. On two occasions, Pero lunged at the deputy while the deputy was attempting to retreat. Deputy Mrdjenovich fired his service weapon at Pero, striking him twice. Life-saving measures were initiated; however, Pero was pronounced dead at Memorial Medical Center in Ashland.
The boy’s mother and other relatives have said they’re not convinced Jason had a knife.
The teen’s grandfather, Alan Pero, told The Associated Press on Friday that the boy lived with him and his wife and they had raised him since he was a year old. He said his grandson dreamed of joining the military.
“He got murdered out in front of the house here,” Pero said, according to the Wisconsin State Journal. “He’s a boy. There’s warning shots. There’s Tasers. There’s pepper spray. You don’t go right on a 14-year-old kid and go for the kill zone.”
“I’m really having a hard time keeping my anger in,” his wife added. “You don’t come up to a 14-year-old boy and pull a gun on him and just fire. … That’s baloney. We’re asking questions. We’re not getting answers.”
Pero said his grandson had been sick for a few days. The boy went to school Wednesday morning but came back to the house feeling nauseous, he said. The grandparents weren’t home, but Jason’s uncle was at the house and told the grandparents that Jason got a 7-Up, laid on the couch and started watching TV.
The uncle was downstairs doing laundry when the boy apparently left. Pero said the uncle doesn’t know why or how the boy left the house.
Investigators have determined Jason Pero was the same person that called 911 reporting a man with a knife, giving his own physical description.
Initial information indicates that Pero had been despondent over the few days leading up to the incident and evidence from a search of Pero’s bedroom supports that information, the release stated.
Investigators searched the home and the family discovered a dull butcher knife was missing, Pero said.
Deputy Mrdjenovich has been interviewed by DOJ and is on paid administrative leave in accordance with Ashland County Sheriff’s Office’s policy. Deputy Mrdjenovich has worked for the Ashland County Sheriff’s Office for approximately one year.
DCI aims to turn over all OID investigative reports to Ashland County prosecutors within 30 days of the shooting.
The Bad River reservation covers 124,655 acres along Lake Superior. The area is largely untouched wilderness, marked by thick forests and swamps. Tribal members consider the environment sacred, particularly Gichi Gami, the Chippewa name for Lake Superior.