Janesville standoff was a hoax, police officials say

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Gazette staff
Sunday, August 24, 2014

JANESVILLE—Police officials say a reported shooting and standoff on East Racine Street in Janesville on Sunday appears to have been a hoax.

After police cordoned off streets for blocks around a duplex rental property at 329 E. Racine St. and sent in a swarm of officers and a SWAT team, police found the residence empty.

Emergency crews responded at 4:20 p.m. Sunday to the residence for a report of a gunshot victim and a hostage situation.

A male voice told dispatchers he shot his mother and was holding his brother hostage at the residence, police said.

Janesville police Sgt. Mark R. Ratzlaff said police are still investigating the call, which came from a “restricted line,” but police didn't know Sunday who made the call. No one was injured or being held hostage in or near the residence, and there were no immediate suspects, Ratzlaff said.

“It appears it was a hoax,” Raztlaff said in a press conference. “We have not been able to substantiate claims in the phone call, but we're checking loosely related addresses to verify nothing occurred and to make sure that there aren't incidents happening anywhere else.”

Ratzlaff said police and SWAT officers checked both sides of the duplex, which are connected, and found no one inside.

Emergency crews were sent back to their quarters, and officers began cleared the scene around 6:30 p.m.

Police with rifles had cordoned off streets for blocks around Main and Racine streets. Officers were positioned behind squad cars and in trees across the street, and they were telling neighbors to stay in their houses, he said.

Others who were coming home during the situation were directed to an air-conditioned Janesville city transit bus parked at the corner of Main and Racine streets.

Police responded with a swarm of officers, including tactical and SWAT officers, and Janesville police and Rock County sheriff's officers were armed at street corners with rifles to keep people from getting too close to the home on Racine Street.

Paramedics and the city and county's shared BearCat armored vehicle were brought to the scene.

Janesville Fire Department Shift Commander Scott Running said two fire engines, two ambulances and 10 department personnel had been staging at Main and Racine streets across the street from Davis Citgo.

“Not knowing how many patients or victims, we thought we'd send some extra apparatus,” he said.

Police said the area was being cleared and residents were being allowed to return to their homes while the department continues to investigate where the call came from. Ratzlaff said it's “not always easy” to trace restricted calls.

Ratzlaff said the heavy police and emergency response was part of protocol under state statute for active shooter and hostage situations.

He said because the caller had claimed he was armed with a rifle, police extended the cordoned area several blocks to keep residents out of a potential line of fire.

A woman who said she owns the duplex said it has residents living in one side, but the other side is vacant and is being renovated.

She said she and her husband were mowing their lawn at home Sunday afternoon when they were contacted by a friend who told them their rental property was being named in police scanner chatter as the scene of a possible armed standoff.


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