Eau Claire (Press Release) - District Attorney Brian H. Wright has completed his review of the investigative file of the police involved shooting and subsequent death of Christian A.N. Peterson on October 5, 2012, in the City of Eau Claire.
Below is a copy of a letter to Chief Jerry Matysik regarding District Attorney Wright's opinion that the use of deadly force was fully justified and entirely in accordance with the Eau Claire Police Department's use of Deadly Force Police, the exercise of self-defense of others.
Copy of letter to Chief Matysik
RE: Investigation of police involved shooting incident and subsequent death of Christian A.N. Peterson which occurred on October 5, 2012, in the City of Eau Claire, Eau Claire County, Wisconsin
Dear Chief Matysik:
I have had the opportunity to thoroughly review the completed investigation of the above-referenced matter, to include:
1. The medical opinion of Dr. Bradley Grewe, Medical Doctor and Trauma Surgeon for Mayo Clinic Health System, that Christian A.N. Peterson was deceased on arrival to Mayo Hospital;
2. The report of Dr. Michael A. Stier on the autopsy performed on Christian A.N. Peterson;
3. The police reports, summaries of reports, and all collateral information provided to me by DCI Special Agent Joseph W. Welsch of the State of Wisconsin Department of Justice;
4. The Eau Claire Police Department Use of Deadly Force Policy; and
5. Video and audio recordings of the events leading up to the police involved shooting, the use of deadly force and the measures taken by police officers and paramedics following the shooting.
I am of the opinion, based upon my review of all of these materials, that the police officers of the Eau Claire Police Department, and all other law enforcement agencies who were involved, including the Department of Justice-Division of Criminal Investigation, the Wisconsin State Patrol, the Eau Claire County Sheriff's Department, Altoona Police Department and University of Wisconsin – Eau Claire, along with all of the support personnel who assisted during the incident on the evening of October 5, 2012, all acted within the scope of their authority and consistent with their sworn duty as law enforcement officers. It is my further opinion that the use of deadly force employed by Officer Jason A. Ruppert was consistent with the Use of Deadly Force Policy of your department at the time deadly force was employed.
Officer Ruppert and other officers who responded to the Culver's parking lot acted with extreme courage and bravery in the face of an imminent threat of death or great bodily harm to themselves, to the innocent first-time father whose wife gave birth earlier that day who was seated in his truck in the drive-thru at Culver's, and to the innocent men, women and children who were inside the Culver's restaurant when the shooting occurred. The extent to which police officers put their lives at risk to protect the community is demonstrated by the events that occurred that evening.
On October 5, 2012 at approximately 5:21 p.m., officers with the Altoona Police Department, working in conjunction with DCI agents, became aware that Peterson was in the area of CTH QQ and Hotchkiss Avenue, in the City of Altoona. Peterson was a suspect in the burglary of a home in Altoona that occurred on September 3, 2012 in which a car and other items, including a firearm, were stolen. Peterson was also wanted on a felony escape warrant out of Marathon County.
Police officers made visual contact with a white Dodge Ram truck that was parked in the area of the Altoona Dam. Peterson, who was driving, and a passenger got into the truck and left the location where the truck was parked at approximately 6:31 p.m. Law enforcement officers followed the truck to the parking lot of Perkins Restaurant in the City of Eau Claire.
At approximately 6:38 p.m., law enforcement officers attempted to stop Peterson in the Perkins parking lot by having one squad car pull toward Peterson as other squad cars pulled behind him. Peterson drove the truck into the squad car in front of him and then cut between other parked cars in the parking lot, striking multiple cars as he drove out of the parking lot.
Law enforcement officers pursued Peterson in the first of two high-speed chases. In the first chase which ended at Coolidge Courts, Peterson drove from the Regis Court area, onto Keith Street, then onto Brackett Avenue, then down the Harding Avenue Hill and into downtown Eau Claire. Peterson hit an SUV at the intersection of Jefferson Street and South Farwell Street, continuing on until he abandoned the truck after getting it stuck in the backyard of a residence on Coolidge Courts. Peterson then fled on foot.
The driver of the SUV Peterson struck was a woman who was eight months pregnant and was transported by ambulance to Sacred Heart Hospital. As law enforcement officers were in the process of establishing a perimeter in the area where Peterson fled on foot, the Communications Center received a call from an elderly homeowner on Roosevelt Avenue that a male with a gun who he described as a "pretty scary guy" had taken his black Trailblazer at gunpoint.
Officer Ruppert arrived for work on October 5, 2012 at approximately 6:40 p.m. and was assigned as the K-9 Officer. Officer Ruppert was in full uniform and assigned the K-9 unit, a Chevrolet Tahoe that is fully marked with a light bar and red and blue lights surrounding the exterior of the vehicle. Officer Ruppert was immediately told there was a vehicle pursuit taking place that was coming toward the City of Eau Claire and directed to go on patrol in case the K-9 was needed to assist with the pursuit.
A short time later, Officer Ruppert heard on the radio the Communications Center call out a 10-50 on Farwell Street. A 10-50 is the police 10-code for a vehicle crash. This was the crash in which the pregnant woman was transported to Sacred Heart. The Communications Center said a male subject had fled on foot. Officer Ruppert drove to the location of the accident scene. Minutes after the traffic accident on Farwell Street was reported, Officer Ruppert heard on the radio the Communications Center dispatched officers to a home on Roosevelt Avenue in response to a 10-32, which is the police 10-code for a person with a gun, and a Chevrolet Trailblazer was taken from this residence.
The second high-speed chase began when law enforcement officers observed a black Chevrolet Trailblazer matching the description of the vehicle taken from the home on Roosevelt Avenue as it was traveling westbound on Summit Street and then onto Water Street. Law enforcement officers positioned themselves to deploy stop sticks as the Trailblazer, which was being driven by Peterson, continued westbound on Water Street. The Trailblazer continued traveling westbound at a high rate of speed after striking the stop sticks.
At the intersection of Menomonie Street and Clairemont Avenue, Peterson turned eastbound onto Clairemont Avenue. The front passenger tire, which had deflated after striking the stop sticks, began to disintegrate and fly off the rim as the Trailblazer continued to travel at speeds in excess of 60 m.p.h. on Clairemont Avenue. Officer Ruppert was trailing the chase in case the K-9 was needed or officers needed assistance, and was well behind the lead squad cars that were in pursuit.
Officer Ruppert heard officers who were in closer pursuit of the Trailblazer state on the radio that the suspect was traveling into oncoming traffic on Clairemont Avenue. Officer Ruppert listened as another officer stated on the radio that the subject was traveling northbound in the southbound lane of the South Hastings Way off-ramp to Clairemont Avenue.
Officer Ruppert was able to catch up to the area of the pursuit just before turning onto the northbound on-ramp from East Clairemont Avenue to South Hastings Way. Officer Ruppert was positioned directly behind the Eau Claire County Armored Bearcat as both vehicles turned off of South Hastings Way onto Kirk Street and then pulled into the Wagner's parking lot where the volleyball courts are located. Officer Ruppert heard on the radio that the Trailblazer had come to a stop in the Wagner's parking lot, that officers should not approach the vehicle when it was stopped, and that the subject had again fled on foot and was seen going northwest from the Wagner's parking lot toward Brackett Avenue.
The Bearcat turned in front of the volleyball courts and continued toward the location in the Wagner's parking lot where Peterson abandoned the Trailblazer and fled on foot. Officers observed Peterson holding a gun in his right hand and continued the chase on foot. Peterson went through a small opening in a chain link fence that separates Wagner's property from the rear of Clearwater Car Wash. The Bearcat breached the chain link fence allowing officers who had been pursuing Peterson from the Wagner's parking lot to continue their pursuit.
In the meantime, Officer Ruppert peeled off from his position of following the Bearcat and drove north past Wagner's Lanes between Kwik Trip and Papa Murphy's until he reached Brackett Avenue. Officer Ruppert then drove westbound on Brackett Avenue, drove over the curb off Brackett Avenue into the parking lot of Clearwater Car Wash and then ahead to the parking lot of Culver's Restaurant facing the drive-thru. As Officer Ruppert pulled into the Culver's parking lot, he could see there were people eating inside of Culver's and observed a pickup truck parked at the drive-thru window.
Officer Ruppert immediately observed a male subject, who was later identified as Peterson, walking from the area behind the Clearwater Car Wash in a northwest direction into the Culver's parking lot. Peterson walked on the north side of the cement barrier that encloses a dumpster in the Culver's parking lot. Peterson continued to walk towards the pickup truck that was parked at the drive-thru window. As Peterson did so, he raised the gun he was holding in his right hand toward the passenger side of the pickup truck. Officers watched as Peterson attempted to open the passenger side door with his left hand. Peterson was unable to gain entry into the pickup truck only because the passenger side door was locked. Peterson was holding the gun in his right hand with his right index finger over the trigger and inside the firearm trigger guard.
Officer Ruppert immediately exited his squad. He drew his duty firearm and started walking in a westerly direction directly in front of the pickup truck that was parked at the drive-thru with no cover between himself and Peterson. Officer Ruppert continued to angle himself from his squad toward the door of Culver's to stop Peterson from entering the Culver's Restaurant. Officer Ruppert, along with officers who were closing in on Peterson from the area around the dumpster in the Culver's parking lot, officers approaching the Culver's parking lot from the front of Clearwater Car Wash and officers approaching the Culver's parking lot from Brackett Avenue, all gave multiple and repeated commands, as many as 15-20 times, for Peterson to stop and drop the gun. Peterson did not. Instead, he continued to walk toward the front of the pickup truck and toward Officer Ruppert, the entry door of Culver's and the driver's side of the occupied pickup truck with gun in hand.
In the span of seconds, Officer Ruppert fired multiple rounds from his duty firearm at Peterson who continued to hold the gun in his right hand until Peterson fell to the ground in front of the pickup truck. Peterson died shortly thereafter from multiple gunshot wounds despite the efforts of law enforcement officers and paramedics to resuscitate him. Law enforcement officers recovered the gun Peterson was holding in his right hand at the scene. The gun was identified as a Smith & Wesson model SW1911AT .45 caliber automatic handgun. The gun was fully loaded with .45 caliber ammunition.
Law enforcement officers recovered a Springfield Armory .45 caliber semi-automatic handgun with a Protec Elite HP light attached to the gun and 14 rounds of .45 caliber ammunition when they searched the Trailblazer that Peterson abandoned in the Culver's parking lot. Law enforcement officers recovered two Taurus handguns, a Smith & Wesson handgun, ten rounds of ammunition, and KDH body armor among the items that were found in the white Dodge Ram pickup truck that Peterson abandoned on Coolidge Courts.
While Officer Ruppert was required to employ deadly force, all of the available evidence shows that this action was necessary to prevent death or great bodily harm to himself, other law enforcement officers, and further necessary to prevent potential death or great bodily harm to innocent citizens. Officer Ruppert was confronted with a clear, present and immediate danger. His use of deadly force under the circumstances that he confronted in the parking lot at Culver's on the evening of October 5, 2012 was fully justified and entirely in accordance with the Eau Claire Police Department's Use of Deadly Force Policy, the exercise of self-defense and defense of others. All of the law enforcement officers who were involved in this incident acted with tremendous courage to terminate the threat against themselves and others.
Although the events of October 5, 2012, unfortunately resulted in the death of Christian A.N. Peterson, it is my opinion that all of the officers and support personnel involved in this incident admirably performed their sworn duty. It is apparent to me that the swift and decisive action by your department and the other law enforcement agencies who assisted and were part of bringing this incident to an end did by their selfless actions prevent the loss of even more lives. Our community is indeed fortunate to be served by such a courageous group of professional law enforcement officers.
Accordingly, based on my review of the entire investigation of this matter, I intend to close my file without further action. Please feel free to contact me with any questions or additional concerns you have regarding this matter. Thank you for your patience and cooperation in this process.
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