Plover Shooting Just Latest in Metro Area Violence
Sheriff’s Deputies block off the scene of an officer-involved shooting on Aug. 8. (photo Bradley Makuski)
By Patrick Lynn
A man accused of threatening a Plover police officer last week with a knife is now facing attempted homicide charges.
Brett Lieberman, 33 of Manawa, was pulled over for erratic driving on Highway 54 in south Plover shortly before 7 PM on Aug. 8. Police say Lieberman then exited his vehicle and “quickly approached” Plover police officer Andrew Hopfensperger’s squad vehicle with a knife.
Plover Police Chief Dwayne Wierzba said in a statement that Hopfensperger used his department- issued weapon to prevent the attack, adding Hopfensperger was likely justified in the use of his weapon but the investigation is pending.
Hopfensperger fired his weapon an undisclosed number of times at Lieberman, sending him to the hospital. No court date has been set and Lieberman’s condition has not been disclosed.
Wierzba said Lieberman was alone in his vehicle.
The Department of Justice- Division of Criminal Investigation was requested to lead the investigation. The Portage County Sheriff’s Department, the Wisconsin State Patrol and the Wisconsin Crime Laboratory are assisting the Department of Criminal Investigation.
Hopfensperger was not injured but has been placed on administrative leave, which Wierzba said is standard practice.
This is the latest in a series of unrelated acts of violence in the area over the past year.
Last August, Plover resident Jamie Koch, 36, was murdered by her neighbor, 32 year-old Jose Aca, who later took his own life inside his cell at the Portage Co. Jail. Aca had pled guilty to the crime just days before his trail was set to begin, but did not disclose his motive.
On May 17th of this year, Plover police were called to the home of an off-duty sheriff’s deputy in response to an officer-involved shooting. In that case, police sources say a suspect known to the Deputy Tony Gischia broke into the home and poured a flammable substance around the residence. The intruder was killed. Deputy Chief Dan Kontos said the DOJ investigation into that shooting has been completed but did not immediately know the outcome.
On May 30th of this year police responded to a call of assault at Iverson Park, where witnesses say a man was beaten by a group of other men. Four of those men, 24-year-old Frank Martinez, 26-year-old Jesus Rangel, 18-year-old Austin Ortiz, and 23-year-old Angelo Garcia were formally charged with assault and are being held on $15,000 bond. Police say the motive behind the attack is not known but the victim was expected to recover.
In a separate Memorial Day Weekend attack, 32 year-old Andrew Pray of Plover was arrested shortly after beating his stepfather, 77 year-old Christopher Bonnstetter, in their Cedar Drive home. Bonnstetter later succumbed to his injuries and died in a Marshfield hospital.
While violence is always present to varying degrees, Stevens Point Police Chief Kevin said he’s got no answers for the recent uptick in violence.
“I have no idea where this is coming from,” Ruder said. “It’s really times like these where you kind of have to watch out for each other and take care of your neighbors.”
Ruder also pointed to recession woes and drugs as possible catalysts for any kind of violence, but did not speak to any specific incident.
Ruder did say residents should contact police if they witness something suspicious, or if they suspect narcotics activity in their neighborhood.