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Standoffs stretch Walworth County Sheriff's Office's resources

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Gazette staff
January 22, 2010
— Two standoffs in four weeks have stretched the resources of the Walworth County Sheriff's Office.

Sheriff David Graves said he called in six other agencies to help Sunday, when a Sharon man held police at bay for 13 hours and fired shots at them following a domestic disturbance.


The Sharon incident came 19 days after a Dec. 29 standoff, in which shots also were fired at sheriff's deputies during the all-day incident.


Graves said his department accumulated plenty of overtime hours in the two incidents, putting a strain on his budget.


But the expense is worth it, he said, because no lives were lost.


"I like to have my cops go home at night to their wives and families," Graves said. "I don't want to take any unnecessary chances."


On Sunday, Eugene J. Lehman, 45, of W7802 Highway 67, Sharon, became violent and hauled his wife’s clothes outside and burned them, according to police.


Deputies shot tear gas into the home, and Lehman fired several shots at police throughout the day, the sheriff said.


Armored vehicles and dozens of law enforcement officers from at least three counties and multiple police agencies helped secure the area.


Lehman shot himself in the abdomen early Monday morning near the end of the standoff. He was taken to Mercy Hospital in Janesville, where he was listed in fair condition Thursday.


The Sunday incident came 19 days after a Dec. 29 standoff with a Richmond Township man.


Richard L. Sallmann, 49, of W8486 Turtle Lake Road, Delavan, is accused of firing several shots at police. The incident began when Sallmann pointed a gun at one of his two daughters, ages 10 and 13, who were with him at the house, according to police.


When Sallmann's son arrived, Sallmann pointed the gun at him, too, and threatened to shoot all three, according to police.


Deputies rescued the daughters from the property around noon.


Before his surrender around 7 p.m., Sallmann fired several shots at law enforcement throughout the day. One shot came close to hitting a Walworth County deputy, Graves said. No one was injured.


Sallmann is being evaluated at a mental health facility.


Graves said help from other departments for both incidents came through a mutual aid agreement among area law enforcement agencies. Those departments will have to absorb the overtime for sending officers to Walworth County.


Graves said he’s hoping to repay the favor when other counties call for help.


"We're fortunate to have really good neighbors that realized the intensity and the extent of these ongoing and treacherous incidents that they help us out with," Graves said.


The incidents also took a toll on sheriff’s office equipment.


One of Walworth County’s armored vehicles was damaged Dec. 29 when a rifle bullet struck one of the vehicle’s windows. It still is being fixed, Grave said.


The vehicle was at the scene of the Sunday standoff, but Graves said he didn't feel comfortable sending it too close to the house.


The broken window is more fragile than it should be, and provides a liability when dealing with a suspect armed with heavy weapons, Graves said.


Neighboring counties sent their armored vehicles and personnel.



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