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Law enforcement officials discuss Friday morning capture of Joseph Jakubowski.

Jakubowski captured in western Wisconsin

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Frank Schultz and Jim Dayton
Friday, April 14, 2017

JANESVILLE—A Janesville man suspected of planning mass murder was captured Friday morning, ending a search that has kept Rock County on edge for nine days.

Officials touted the best of all possible outcomes: Joseph A. Jakubowski, 32, was apprehended without injury to anyone.

The worst of all outcomes would have been a mass shooting—the possibility that more than 200 law officers worked to prevent, Janesville Police Chief Dave Moore said at a press conference Friday afternoon at the Southern Wisconsin Regional Airport.

Troubling questions remain to be answered about what Jakubowski did, how he did it, and if he truly intended to commit some heinous act.

But Friday afternoon, law enforcement officials faced news reporters and declared a major accomplishment: Suspect captured, no one injured.

They attributed it to a massive investigation, which Moore called “a law enforcement footprint this county has not seen before, and I would suggest to you, it is of epic proportions.”

People can relax after a week of warnings about being cautious and on the lookout for Jakubowski, they said.

“I think at this point, we've moved into the stage where people can breathe that sigh of relief,” Cmdr. Troy Knudson of the Rock County Sheriff's Office said after the press conference.

Local law enforcement had planned to put as many officers on the street as possible this weekend to provide security for all the county's churches.

Jakubowski's lengthy manifesto, which he mailed to President Donald Trump, called for spilling of blood of the rulers of the country, and he included religion among those oppressors, according to a partial copy viewed by The Gazette.

Law enforcement will keep an eye on churches this weekend with increased patrols, but not of the magnitude previously planned, Knudson said.

And the investigation will continue, as the case moves from the field to federal and county courtrooms, officials indicated.

High among investigators' priorities must be finding some of the 18 firearms that Jakubowski is accused of taking in a burglary of Armageddon Supplies, in rural Janesville, the night of April 4.

Investigators reported finding only one long gun, four handguns and a “Samurai-type sword” when they took Jakubowski into custody Friday at a campsite in a densely wooded area of Vernon County.

One of the stolen weapons was an automatic M16. Justin Tolomeo of the FBI's Milwaukee division declined to say whether the machine gun was among the weapons found.

The M16 is an assault rifle, made to stop and kill people in war. A federal complaint filed Friday identified the weapon as a Nodak Spud, a maker of replica firearms.

Tolomeo, however, said there remains “no other credible threat” related to Jakubowski.

Authorities still need to do a full search of the Vernon County property, Moore said.

Officials also declined to comment or had little to say about these questions:

-- They don't know what Jakubowski's next steps were going to be after he apparently carefully planned the mailing of his manifesto, the burglary and escape.

-- They had no word on any possible accomplices.

-- They don't know how Jakubowski arrived in Vernon County, after he burned his car the night of the burglary, as investigators allege.

-- They don't know if Jakubowski spent any time anywhere else before arriving in Vernon County.

-- Officials have not found another vehicle that Jakubowski might have used, Sheriff Robert Spoden said.

-- They did not explain what Jakubowski intended to do with “containers of flammable liquids” that were found at his “primitive campsite” in the hills of western Wisconsin.

Some questions could not be answered immediately because officials had just started to interrogate Jakubowski on Friday, officials said.

Joel Lee, assistant special agent in charge of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms in Wisconsin, asked for the public's patience, saying the investigation is continuing.

“This is just halftime,” he said. “We still have a case to pursue and to prosecute.”

No one explained how Jakubowski's case might be affected by acknowledging that the M16 remains missing or that it was recovered.

Spoden said investigators had no indications that Jakubowski suffered from mental illness.

Among the happy outcomes, Spoden said, is that Jakubowski's manifesto failed in its call for a popular uprising against the established order.

This episode did the opposite, bringing the community together and improving the trust and attitude people have for law enforcement, both across the country and locally, Spoden said.

People knew that what Jakubowski was doing was dangerous and not in the best interests of democracy, the sheriff added.

SUSPECT IN COURT

At the same time that the press conference began in Janesville, federal prosecutors in Madison announced they had unsealed a complaint charging Jakubowski with stealing firearms from a federally licensed firearms dealer.

The complaint charges Jakubowski with stealing firearms and silencers from Armageddon Supplies in Janesville on April 4.

If convicted, Jakubowski faces a maximum penalty of 10 years in federal prison.

The Rock County district attorney previously issued charges of burglary, theft and possession of burglary tools, which combined for maximum prison sentence of 24 years and six months.

Jakubowski appeared in federal court in Madison at 3 p.m. Friday, wearing jeans and a tan-colored T-shirt over a same-colored long-sleeved shirt. His feet were shackled, but his hands were not cuffed.

Bond was not set at this court appearance.

If a grand jury decides to indict Wednesday, April 19, Jakubowski will appear in federal court in Madison at 9 a.m. Tuesday, April 25, for an arraignment.

Jakubowski will be detained in the Rock County Jail, Spoden said.

The federal criminal complaint added one new bit of information to what is publicly known: That on April 6, a friend of Jakubowski told officers that Jakubowski had announced he was going to steal guns from Armageddon Supplies.

CRUCIAL TIP

The Vernon County Sheriff's Office received a report at about 9:30 p.m. Thursday of a suspicious person on a farmer's property on Estes Road near Readstown, about 40 miles southeast of La Crosse.

The FBI's Tolomeo grinned broadly when asked about the tip, but he declined to say whether any other tips had pointed authorities in the same direction.

Tactical teams and investigators assigned to the Jakubowski case were sent to that location to help local authorities determine whether the person was related to the manhunt, according to a news release.

The landowner was inspecting his property and encountered Jakubowski just after 7 p.m. Thursday. The landowner was suspicious and checked online for the wanted photo of Jakubowski, which matched the appearance of the man on the property, Moore said.

The property owner was Jeffrey Gorn, a retired school counselor, who said Jakubowski was cordial. The two men spoke for about an hour, and Gorn never felt threatened, The Associated Press reported.

About 60 to 70 officers from numerous jurisdictions were involved in the capture, Spoden said.

THE CAPTURE

Shortly before 6 a.m. Friday, tactical officers who moved into position made contact with the suspicious person at the campsite. He was taken into custody without incident and positively identified as Jakubowski.

Officials, not wanting to reveal their techniques, would not discuss details of the capture. It went smoothly, they said.

Authorities performed a “tactical approach” to the campsite, contacted Jakubowski by voice command, and he surrendered, Moore said.

“It ended just like we thought it could,” Moore said. “So often in this nation these cases are solved because a citizen observed somebody or an investigative clue and called the authorities.”

Also among Jakubowski's belongings at the campsite were the helmet and ballistic vest he had bought on the internet, multiple boxes of ammunition and a copy of his manifesto, Tolomeo said.

No communications devices were found at the campsite.

“In essence, he was off the grid,” Spoden said.

Authorities were not sure how long Jakubowski had been camping out, but he was “dirty and disheveled,” leading Moore to believe he had been there for some time. There was no word on whether Jakubowski had deliberately changed his appearance, Moore said.

It is unknown if Jakubowski had any connections to the Vernon County area. No other people have been arrested in connection with the case, Moore said.

June Baker, who lived in Janesville for 42 years, now lives down the road from Gorn. Police contacted her and her husband Thursday night and warned them there would be a lot of activity in the area, she said.

She was awake most of the night but did not hear any commotion except for passing cars. The Baker home is at the base of a steep hill, and Gorn's property is on the other side of the ridge, she said.

Authorities received a tip early April 6 that Jakubowski was agitated about political issues and might use the stolen weapons against unspecified “public officials” or a school. The Janesville School District and some surrounding districts went into soft lockdown April 6 and canceled school April 7 as the search for Jakubowski continued.

The Janesville School District issued a news release Friday saying it would resume school as scheduled on Tuesday after spring break ends.

A video surfaced April 7 of Jakubowski mailing a 161-page manifesto to President Donald Trump, expressing his displeasure with government. He did not make specific threats, and police said he was agitated with all forms of government and authority.

The video apparently was made April 3, just hours before the burglary.

Spoden said Jakubowski sent out about 25 copies of his manifesto.

THE INVESTIGATION

Investigators followed up on 700 tips and other clues over the past 10 days, officials said. Investigators backed by SWAT teams searched numerous locations around the county, including the area around Jakubowski's last known residence in the 800 block of Glen Street on Janesville's near east side.

The FBI offered a $10,000 reward for his capture and later doubled that to $20,000.

Tolomeo would not say if the Vernon County landowner would receive the reward, saying that matter is under review.

Besides anti-government views, Jakubowski's manifesto also criticized religion. Police ramped up their presence at local churches over the weekend.

The Waukesha County Sheriff's Office received a letter written by someone purporting to be Jakubowski that threatened violence against Sussex-area churches on Easter Sunday.

Tolomeo said the letter was likely not sent by Jakubowski.

GIVING THANKS

Jakubowski's stepfather, Donald McLean, said he was glad the manhunt came to a peaceful end. He said the last week has been “hell” and “stressful.”

“All I can say is we're happy nobody got hurt,” McLean said. “We're happy that it's over.”

Local law enforcement officers have been working long hours with the threat of a heavily armed man on the loose on their minds.

“This is truly a good Friday,” Moore said, referencing the Christian holy day. “Our Rock County deputies and Janesville police officers are very happy. This is as good of an end result as we could've hoped for. No officers injured, no community members harmed and Jakubowski was not harmed when taken into custody.

“It is a day of relief for our community.”

Lee of the ATF said he had not spent much time in Janesville until recent days, and he was impressed.

“The hospitality we received has been awesome. This is just a wonderful community,” Lee said, adding that the support “almost upped the ante” as to how important it was to solve the case.

Residents sent numerous items of food and cards and emails of support during the investigation, Spoden said.

Friday evening, Moore sent out a message of thanks to the community, which included this:

“The threat has passed, and we can all return to the feeling of being safe in our homes, streets, parks, churches, schools and businesses—a feeling that all of us have come to expect.

“Tonight, I appreciate that feeling just a little more.”

Gazette reporter Jonah Beleckis contributed to this story.



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