Local Law Enforcement Shocked Over “Senseless Act of Violence and Stupidity”
By Brandi Makuski
Details on a series of Wednesday shootings near Wausau that claimed the lives of three civilians and Everest Metro Detective Jason Weiland are still emerging, but one thing is certain — it’s proximity to Stevens Point has rattled local law enforcement.
“It shakes you a little bit,” said Plover Police Capt. Gary Widder. “Obviously we know that stuff can happen anytime, anywhere, but when it happens right in your own back yard…it’s sobering; it takes on just a little different meaning.”
Widder said like everyone else, his department is still waiting for additional details on what he called a “senseless act of violence and stupidity”, but said over the next few days he and other officers are making sure they take a little extra care of each other.
“There are certain people within our agency who have training, like officer-wellness training, and the village also has an employee assistance program, which officers can use when things just get to be too much sometimes,” he said. “At the end of the day, we’re still human.”
Plover officers have worked with Wausau-area police on cases in the past, Widder added, and likely worked with Weiland through the Central Wisconsin Drug Task Force, along with detectives in Stevens Point and at the Portage Co. Sheriff’s Office.
“We have an officer who is from Kronenwetter who knew [Weiland],” said Stevens Point Assistant Police Chief Mike Rottier on Thursday morning. “It’s tough to swallow, but we’re making sure we stay vigilant, we’re backing each other up a lot more today.”
Rottier said the city’s police department has assistance programs similar to those in Plover, also citing the department’s Critical Incident Stress Management program, the department’s chaplain program — which was recently expanded to serve all law enforcement in the county — and the existing camaraderie in the department, which he said already helps officers through tough times.
“There’s been a lot of talking about it, a lot of venting…you think about our job; we’re just trying to make things better and safer. This [shooting] is an awful reminder of what this job can be about,” Rottier said. “It’s just a sad day; we lost a brother in blue just to the north. We’re all family, and it hurts even more when it’s that close.”
Rottier said almost as sad as Weiland’s death is the thought of the family he leaves behind.
“You know there’s family there; parents, maybe kids, a wife…and then his work family; they’re like us; they’re a small department, they’re close,” he said. “On top of the logistics of three shooting scenes, they have to deal with this. I can’t imagine that.”
Rottier said as part of a mutual aid agreement with law enforcement in Marathon Co., Stevens Point police are among those who will assist in the coming days with security at the shooting scenes in Rothschild, Schofield and Weston, which are still under investigation.
“We’re reaching out to Marathon County to let them know whatever they need, we’re here,” said Sheriff Mike Lukas. “But we’re rattled. You know, when something happens this close, a lot of people are concerned for safety and well-being.”
Lukas said his department will utilize counseling services via the chaplain program and through the county for deputies and detectives as needed.
“I think a lot of officers have that tough man persona and don’t want to talk to other officers, and it gets bottled up…so they can reach out to the chaplains if they need to talk,” Lukas said. “We’re a big brotherhood, but we’re not only grieving for the officer, we’re also grieving for the three other people who were shot.”
All three departments said they planned to send at least some officers to Weiland’s funeral, which has yet to be scheduled.
“For everybody that’s worked here, they know this world is filled with a bunch of craziness and people who want to do evil everyday,” Widder said. “I don’t know if this heightens our awareness necessarily, but it sure brings it home.”
“We’re gonna help any way we can,” Rottier said. “We’re talking about it, we’re watching out for each other. But we’re going to be there for officers in and around Wausau if they need us.”