By Shereen Siewert
Wausau Police Chief Ben Bliven on Friday held a news conference to issue a statement about the fatal shooting of a man outside a west side apartment on Thursday, but stopped short of releasing the name of the man who was shot or the names of officers involved.
According to the Wisconsin Department of Justice Division of Criminal Investigation, the incident began after police from the Wausau Police Department and Marathon County Sheriff’s Department responded Thursday to the area of Arctic Lane and North 12th Avenue for a report of a suspect attempting to steal vehicles.
Police identified and confronted the armed suspect, who allegedly fired at police and a citizen’s occupied vehicle, according to the DOJ.
Police returned fire and the suspect fell to the ground, still armed, officials said.
“The subject did not comply with continued orders from law enforcement and pointed the firearm at law enforcement,” the release reads. “Law enforcement fired at the subject again. The subject succumbed to injuries at the scene.”
A graphic video that surfaced on Facebook shows the suspect lying on the ground in the snow, barely moving, with officers shouting commands for him to drop his weapon. In the video, the suspect can be seen raising his arm immediately before officers fired about a dozen shots.
In a news conference Friday, Wausau Police Chief Ben Bliven addressed the video, stressing that the footage captured only a small portion of the incident and was recorded after officers had already been engaged with the suspect for more than 10 minutes. Further, Bliven said, the suspect had already fired at officers and did not respond to repeated pleas to drop his weapon.
Bliven urged the public to withhold judgment on the actions of officers involved until the investigation is complete. DCI typically completes investigations in officer involved shootings within 30 days. After that time, all investigative reports are turned over to the district attorney, who will then determine whether any charges are appropriate.
That means the investigation should be complete within 60 days, Bliven said.
Meanwhile, DOJ officials are urging members of the public who have recordings to call DCI at 608-266-1671 to allow investigators to review the recording.
In response to the incident, Jim Palmer, the executive director of the Wisconsin Professional Police Association (WPPA), the organization representing the officers under investigation by the Wisconsin Department of Justice Division of Criminal Investigation (DCI), issued the following statement:
Members of the WPPA’s field and legal staff responded to assist the officers that were involved in last night’s shooting on the west side of Wausau. Based upon the preliminary information that we have obtained thus far, we are very confident that the officers acted in a lawful and justified manner in the face of a deadly and imminent threat. We are also confident that the evidence collected as a result of the independent investigation now being conducted into this matter will demonstrate that the officers’ use of force was justified and appropriate. The officers are all voluntarily cooperating with the investigation being conducted by DCI.
Make no mistake about it, this is a tragic outcome for many – regardless of the circumstances. It is tragic for those who mourn the passing of a loved one, and for the community that needs to understand precisely what transpired. It is also tragic for the officers that will always carry the heavy weight of this incident and the resulting loss of life.
While the circumstances cannot change the inherent tragic nature of this situation, they do matter as they relate to an assessment as to whether the officers’ actions were justified. In that regard, we believe the officers’ acted lawfully and courageously, and that the ongoing independent investigation will demonstrate the same. While we fully respect and appreciate the fact that the public has a right and a duty to question the actions of its officers, we encourage people to reserve judgment until the investigation concludes and the evidence in this case can be made publicly available.
No officers or bystanders were injured during the incident, police said.