Janesville54.1°

Pell Lake standoff starts as domestic dispute

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Mike Heine
February 5, 2008
— Michael J. Panici had never acted like this before, his girlfriend said.

“I don’t know what was going through his mind. He grabbed a gun,” Dawn Ornberg said of what started a four-hour standoff Panici had with police Sunday night and into Monday morning.


The two had enjoyed watching the Super Bowl at separate taverns that night. Ornberg had a few drinks and went to pick him up shortly before 10 p.m. Panici, 33, apparently had quite a few more, she said.


“I picked him up from a bar. It just escalated from there,” she said.


Panici was beyond having a rational conversation when he went and got his rifle, Ornberg said.


She left the house with her two youngest children, ages 10 and 4. They ran for help to the house next door, the home of Bloomfield Police Chief Lloyd Cole.


Ornberg’s son Joey, who turned 14 on Monday, ran into the basement and called 911.


She doesn’t think Panici knew Joey was still in the house at N1537 Overlook Circle.


“He was in the basement for probably an hour,” she said of her son. “He was telling (police) where (Panici) was walking in the house.”


Joey also explained where he was and mapped out an escape plan with the dispatcher, who relayed the information to officers on the scene. Police were able to pull Joey out of a basement window without incident.


“They were complimenting (Joey) on how calm and cool he was,” Ornberg said. “He totally handled it perfectly. They said he handled it better than some adults would.”


The standoff ended about 2 a.m. when the Walworth County SWAT Team stormed the home, Undersheriff Kurt Picknell said.


Panici fired two shots in the home shortly after police arrived but nobody was, according to a news release from the Bloomfield Police Department.


Ornberg said Panici, at one point during the standoff, called his uncle and said he wasn’t going to come out alive.


Panici was arrested on seven pending charges, including taking a hostage, failing to comply with officers, discharging a firearm into a building, disorderly conduct, carrying a weapon while intoxicated, criminal damage to property and bail jumping, according to Walworth County Jail records.


“If it were up to me, if I was the judge, I’d say he needs to be locked up in some kind of mental placement,” Ornberg said. “I don’t know. He needs some kind of strict counseling. I’d hate to see him lose his job. He has a kid.”


She said her relationship with him, however, is over.



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