Joseph Slater, 42, of Wausau. Oct. 12, 2023: First-degree recklessly endangering safety, possession of a firearm after a felony conviction, receiving stolen property between $5,000-10,000 or a firearm, carrying a handgun while alcohol is sold or consumed

By Shereen Siewert | Wausau Pilot & Review

A man who turned himself in after a Wausau shooting in September was recently released from prison, where he spent 20 years for robbing a west-side tavern at gunpoint.

Joseph Slater, 42, allegedly fled Sept. 20 from officers arriving at the parking lot of M&R Station, 818 S. Third Ave., who responded to a report of a fight. An officer spotted the gun and ordered him to drop the weapon, but Slater ran as a shot rang out. Two handguns were eventually found, one of which was reported stolen out of Green Bay, officials said.

Slater, who was identified through video surveillance footage, turned himself in weeks later.

Prison inmate records show Slater was released from prison in February and was on supervision at the time of the shooting. He is legally prohibited from having a firearm.

According to media and police reports, Slater robbed three people on Feb. 17, 2002 at Chatterbox, 102 S. Second Ave. in what then-District Attorney Jill Falstad called a “carefully planned and executed” crime. Witnesses told police two masked men burst into the bar at about 1 a.m., pointed guns at a bartender and two patrons and ordered everyone to the ground. As one held a shotgun to the bartender’s head and cleaned out the cash register, the other took belongings from two patrons. Slater was the only suspect charged in the crime, according to news reports from 2002-2005 published in the Wausau Daily Herald.

Slater’s DNA was discovered on a ski mask used in the robbery, and a bartender, who said one of the robber’s voices sounded like a patron, picked Slater out of a photo lineup. In addition, a woman went to police after hearing of the robbery and told investigators Slater knocked on the door of her North First Avenue home minutes after the crime and asked to store his “sister’s car” in her garage.

But the woman was suspicious and called police after checking the garage, where she saw and smelled smoke. Police then searched the garage and found the remains of recently burned items that included ski masks and a savings card that belonged to one of the robbery victims, according to court records.

“It’s clear that all of the victims could have been killed,” then-Judge Patrick Brady said, at Slater’s sentencing. Slater was convicted by a jury of the robbery and apologized to the victims – yet denied he was involved. At trial, his attorney blamed Slater’s brother, who was convicted of robbing a town of Easton couple at gunpoint in 2003, for the crime.

Now, he could serve another 10 years for the Chatterbox armed robbery if he is convicted of the latest charge against him, first-degree recklessly endangering safety. Slater is also facing charges of illogically possessing a firearm and receiving stolen property. Defendants on extended supervision can be returned to prison for the full amount of their supervised time if they commit another crime and their status is revoked.

During an Oct. 23 preliminary hearing, Slater pleaded not guilty to the most recent charges. He is being held on a $50,000 cash bond, with a hearing set for Nov. 16.