By Shereen Siewert
During a livestreamed media briefing Friday that included graphic bodycam footage, Marathon County District Attorney Theresa Wetzsteon announced that officers involved in a Jan. 16 shooting acted appropriately during the incident.
The man who was shot, 35-year-old Jack Bolinger, of Stratford, fired repeatedly at officers and at two occupied vehicles as the incident unfolded, Wetzsteon said. No officers or bystanders were injured but Bolinger’s actions posted a “significant risk of death or harm” to officers, neighborhood residents and others, she said.
Autopsy results show Bolinger was struck by gunfire at least 13 times. He had a potentially lethal level of methamphetamine in his blood at the time of his death, autopsy results show. The level of methamphetamine in his blood could have caused hallucinations, paranoia and delusions, and is considered a contributor in Bolinger’s death, Wetzsteon said, who called Boligner’s death “tragic.”
During the briefing, Wetzsteon publicly broadcast more than 16 minutes of bodycam footage from several angles that clearly showed Bolinger shooting directly at officers, at one point reaching from behind a protected area and blindly shooting his 10mm handgun toward police. As the incident unfolded, officers were heard repeatedly pleading with Bolinger to drop his gun and surrender peacefully, but he did not.
Eventually, Bolinger came out from behind a protected wall and exchanged gunfire once again with police, eventually falling to the ground. After he was down, officers begged Boliinger to drop his weapon again and told him medical personnel were standing by to attend to his injuries and would do so if he would put the gun down. At one point, the video shows, Bolinger waved his handgun toward officers with the slide in a firing position. That’s when one deputy fired one round and other officers followed suit.
DCI agents investigating the death at the request of Wausau and Marathon County departments subsequently interviewed family members who told them that Bolinger was in a car crash about 15 years ago and was placed on prescription pain medication.
That, Bolinger’s mother said, was the start of a long addiction to pain medications that was compounded by his introduction to heroin after moving out of state.
Bolinger did undergo drug rehabilitation in August and afterward stayed sober for about two months, investigators discovered. But his addiction soon accelerated and in early January Bolinger called his father to ask for gas money and to borrow a firearm, which his father refused. He then borrowed his mother’s vehicle before calling her to report that “something was going on” and that he needed a plane ticket. When Bolinger’s father wired money to his son, Bolinger told him he couldn’t go to retrieve it because he was being followed, Wetzsteon said.
“We’re under siege,” Bolinger is quoted as saying to his father, who told agents his son did not sound like himself.
Investigators also interviewed a woman with whom he had a relationship who told police that she thought he was clean for 30 days leading up to the shooting. But on the day of the shooting, he left a Stratford home to meet with a defense attorney regarding a pending disorderly conduct charge in Wausau, one for which he missed a scheduled court appearance two days prior, but never arrived at his appointment. Bolinger, between 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. on Jan. 16, sent a text message to his girlfriend asking her to text him as soon as possible, but by the time she saw the message she could no longer reach Bolinger.
Bolinger’s girlfriend also told police that Bolinger didn’t agree with anything about law enforcement, thought they had intruded in his life, had a history with Stratford and Marathon County police and was “adamant that he didn’t want to go back to jail for any reason.” Court records show Bolinger was sentenced to nine months in jail for felony retail theft as party to a crime, as a habitual offender.
The shooting itself happened in the parking lot of Urban West Apartments, 1425 N 12th Ave., Wausau, after a nearby resident on Arctic Lane reported seeing a man trying to get into her locked, but running, vehicle. The woman told police she saw the suspect run through nearby yards, prompting the initial police response.
As officers searched for the suspect, they noticed an open garage door at Urban West and entered. Prior to their arrival, Bolinger shot at the occupied vehicles of two residents. One resident, who Wetzsteon says feared for her life, pulled into the protected parking area and heard 10 to 15 loud gunshots, looked out her passenger window and saw a police officer walking backward into the garage who appeared to be shooting outward.
“If a good guy is shooting out, then a bad guy is shooting in,” the witness, who ran from the vehicle and into the building, later told investigators.
A second driver said she saw an officer pointing his firearm, then realized the suspect was pointing a weapon at her, got in and backed out of the garage and drove away, fearing for her life. Police say her vehicle was also struck by gunfire.
Bolinger died at the scene.
Wetzsteon commended the officers involved in the shooting and said their actions not only were appropriate, but saved lives.
She also had strong words for a widely shared social media post that showed the final few seconds of the shooting and criticized officers for their actions.
“The Facebook posting caused the pubic to form an opinion of the agencies involved,” Wetzsteon said. “Conclusions in a critical incident…require a consideration of all surrounding facts.”
Making a premature decision can result in “unwarranted damage in the critical relationship between officers and the public,” she said, adding that Bolinger’s family was further traumatized by the publication of the death of their loved one.
“Neither is acceptable,” Wetzsteon said.
See the full press release, below.Press Release- Officer Involved Shooting