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Spoden: Children were in 'great peril'

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ANN MARIE AMES
December 20, 2007
— Timothy Harrington’s children were in “great peril” when officers fatally shot him, Rock County Sheriff Bob Spoden said Wednesday.

A Clinton police officer and a sheriff’s deputy were responding to a threats complaint at 207 Mill St., Clinton at 6:50 p.m. Tuesday.


Harrington entered the home through the back door and fired a round from a shotgun. The shot struck Harrington’s mother-in-law, Marilyn Smith, 58.


While trying to get the children out of the home, both officers shot and fatally wounded Harrington, 36. He died toward the front of the home, Spoden said.


Smith was flown by helicopter to St. Anthony’s Hospital in Rockford, Ill. She was in serious condition this morning.


Because the Wisconsin Division of Criminal Investigations is handling the case, Spoden and other top officers at the sheriff’s department said they know little about the case.


Sheriff’s detectives did not interview anyone—officers or family members—involved in the case because, Spoden said, he did not want his department to possibly be seen as trying to influence the investigation.


For that reason, he was unsure how many children were in the home at the time of the shooting.


Harrington’s estranged wife, Michelle; her mother, Smith, and perhaps all four of the Harrington children were in house, Spoden said this morning.


He was fairly certain that at least three children were at home.


But because the investigation is in DCI hands, the sheriff did not know how many shots the officers fired, how many bullets hit Harrington and whether Smith was struck by a shotgun pellet or slug.


An autopsy was performed Wednesday, but results will go to DCI, Spoden said.


A sheriff’s department news release lists Smith as an occupant of the home on Mill Street, but Spoden said Wednesday he was not sure who lives at the home. A neighbor, Steve Espinoza, told The Janesville Gazette that a family had moved in two or three weeks earlier.


The house is across the street from the Clinton Village Hall, where the village board was meeting Tuesday night as officers escorted the Harrington children to safety and emergency responders hustled Smith to the helicopter behind Clinton Elementary School, 301 East St.


“We didn’t go outside to gawk,” said board President Mary Jensen. “We thought we’d let police do their jobs.”


Spoden did not know if Smith was the children’s caregiver, was babysitting for the evening or if the children lived in the home.


Because the state is investigating, Spoden would not release the names of the officers involved in the shooting. A source Tuesday told the Gazette they are Clinton officer Kim Rau and Rock County deputy Curt Streuly.


Spoden would not say who made the initial 911 call. The Gazette filed a request under the Wisconsin open records law Wednesday for a tape of the call and communication between officers during the incident.


Clinton Police Chief James Korth said this was the first time in his 27 years with the department that an officer had shot a suspect. It was the third time Spoden could remember a deputy shooting a suspect and the first time in five years, he said.


The Clinton Police Department has five full-time and five part-time officers, Korth said.


—Reporter Mike DuPre’ contributed to this story.

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