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Crime
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Chief: Four of five Janesville officers didn’t have body cameras record shooting

JANESVILLE

Four of the five Janesville police officers who were at the scene of a March police shooting did not have their body cameras on and/or recording, Police Chief Dave Moore said.

The only officer body camera footage of the scene leading up to and during the shooting itself is partially or at times almost entirely obscured by part of the officer’s uniform, something Moore said he had not seen happen before.

Moore said in an interview with The Gazette that the March 26 shooting happened during shift change, which largely accounted for other officers not having their cameras ready and recording.

The police chief Monday released his findings from the department’s internal investigation that found officer Lyle Hollingshead was justified in using deadly force when he shot Christian A. Cargill of Owasso, Oklahoma, after a crash off Interstate 90/39 near Highway 14.

Hollingshead shot Cargill twice—once in his left thigh and once in his right shoulder—after he and other officers said Cargill, who survived the shooting, turned back toward police and came at them with a knife.

In the video footage released Monday, nothing but Hollingshead’s uniform is visible when the officer fired his shots.

Moore pointed to other unsuccessful efforts by Hollingshead and officers from other departments to defuse the situation before Hollingshead used deadly force. They included seven failed attempts to use a Taser, a 40 mm rubber-tipped round, pepper spray and repeated commands and pleas from officers.

“So my conclusion in the findings of the internal investigation concludes that officer Hollingshead followed department policy, training and used deadly force in a proper, ethical and constitutionally appropriate manner,” Moore said in the video statement. “Other officers at the scene responded properly, following department policy and department training.”

At the same time, the department’s investigation found areas to improve or change policies, procedures or training—such as on-body camera activation.

Rock County District Attorney David O’Leary also said the shooting was justified and complied with the law guiding use of deadly force.

The county’s top prosecutor and Janesville police also chose not to criminally charge Cargill, who is in Oklahoma working on mental health problems.

Video shows Cargill’s Dodge Ram pickup truck and the travel trailer he had been living in careening off the Interstate at about 2:45 p.m. March 26 and down a hill by Highway 14.

Moore emphasized that the area was wet and muddy because it had rained earlier.

Those details matter, the chief said, because officers had to navigate challenging terrain as they followed Cargill up the hill to keep him from reaching the Interstate, where he might be a greater danger to himself and passersby. When Cargill turned around with his knife, Moore said it was hard for officers to retreat down the hill.

The entire incident until Hollingshead fired his gun took about six minutes.

Although the only police video of events leading up to the shooting is partially obstructed, the audio is available.

Hollingshead and other officers can be heard telling Cargill to drop the knife several times as they worry about Cargill moving to a more dangerous area—the Interstate—where other people could be struck if an officer fired his gun and missed.

“Drop the knife or you will be shot. Sir, drop the knife,” Hollingshead said. “Sir, sir, drop the knife, please. I want to help you, please. Please. I want to help you. My name is Lyle. What’s your name?”

“Please let me help you out,” he later said. “I’m begging you.”

Moore was not certain why all seven of the attempts to use a Taser failed. He said it could have been the distance, or perhaps the Taser didn’t connect well enough to bring Cargill down.

“This was a fluid/moving circumstance with a suspect brandishing a deadly weapon,” Moore said in a follow-up email. “Officers needed to keep their distance yet tried to deploy the Taser.”

He said police can always learn from situations such as the shooting.

“I’m not surprised that we identified some areas that we need to work on,” he said. “In fact, I would suggest that if you get something this involved and this complex and you don’t find something you can improve upon, you may not have taken a real critical look at the matter.”

In his video statement, Moore shared five training, policy or procedure changes he wants to see from his department:

  • Further training on body camera activation.
  • Further training on Taser use.
  • More 40 mm rubber-tipped round launching systems that can help knock people down. Moore said the department had one but has added eight more to increase their availability.
  • Having one officer be the point of contact at a scene to avoid having many officers giving instructions at once, which can be confusing.
  • Keeping more thorough, detailed records on when officers complete their trainings.

In breaking down why various officers didn’t have their body cameras on and recording before the shooting, Moore made these points:

  • A sergeant was finished with his shift and had taken off his gear, but he rushed out to bring the 40 mm launcher when it was requested, without wearing his camera.
  • One officer had his camera, but it was not hooked up to the battery pack.
  • Another officer did not push the record button.
  • Another officer wore his camera but did not turn on the battery pack, meaning he hit the record button, but the video did not record.

Moore attributes that to the timing of the call, which came in around shift change before full checks could be completed.

He said the department is not at the point where it is going to discipline the officers. He said department leaders will reinforce the training, and if they keep seeing errors, perhaps discipline could come later.

Moore added that supervisors are checking that incidents are being recorded.

“Most of the times, these guys have them on,” he said.

Regarding Hollingshead’s camera being obstructed by his uniform, Moore said they need to look at where cameras are placed on officers. Still, he said, he had not seen something like that happen before.

“It wasn’t ideal,” he said.

Correction: This story was updated later Monday afternoon when Chief Dave Moore gave new information on where Cargill was shot on his body.


Local
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‘Every teardrop is a prayer’ at vigil for girl lost to the Rock River

JANESVILLE

Michelle Horton didn’t bother to wipe away her tears as she watched family members light dozens of candles at a Monday night memorial for Madison Billups, the 9-year-old Janesville girl whose body searchers found Monday morning, days after she was swept away in the Rock River.

Horton stood in a crowd of about 150 people that had gathered for a prayer vigil for Billups at Anglers Park west of the Monterey Bridge. The crowd faced a display of balloons and hearts on a knoll in the park that overlooks the turbid stretch of the river where Billups was carried away Thursday in a strong undertow.

As Madison’s family and dozens of residents readied for a candlelight prayer service for the girl, tears continued to roll down Horton’s cheeks.

“Every teardrop is a prayer to God,” Horton said.

Organizers had raced to set up a prayer service for Madison on Monday afternoon, plans taking root in the early moments after police had told family a volunteer kayak searcher had discovered Madison’s body south of the Bellrichard Bridge in Janesville.

By Monday night, family of the Janesville girl had decorated part of Anglers Park and the riverfront with helium balloons and photos of the young girl.

Residents and family stood at the rain-sodden, muddy riverfront at Anglers Park. They sang “Amazing Grace” together and then let dozens of balloons into the air at 7:16 p.m.—right around the same time Billups was reported to have slipped away in the river Thursday night.

The balloons raced west above the river, downstream and beyond as the family gave thanks to searchers and volunteers who’ve helped pull dozens of Madison’s family members through a harrowing, dayslong vigil at the park where the girl went missing.

Family still in shock and with raw emotions talked about the girl they’re missing now, even though her body finally has been found.

Horton said she knows what Madison Billups, the girl whom she considers her niece, would have told the crowd.

“She always told people, ‘Why get mad? There’s nothing you can do about it. Mad doesn’t help,’” Horton said. “That’s the way she was. Very smart for her age, very wise for her age, curious. She asked a lot of questions that were sometimes too hard for you to answer. She was a good girl.”

Ashley Ranum, a local teacher and one resident who helped the family organize Monday’s vigil, said she and dozens of others in a local Facebook mom’s group had rallied around the family and searchers over the weekend.

She said moms from all over the area pitched in to donate food, water and even hotel rooms to help the family during the four day search.

“These local moms, it was like, ‘Whatever you need right now, here it is. Boom.’ We all have children of our own,” Ranum said.

Among the dozens at the vigil was the man family said discovered Madison’s body Monday morning. The volunteer kayaker, who some in the crowd identified as “Jeremy,” stood with his head bowed while family thanked him.

The kayaker declined an interview Monday night, and declined to give his full name.

Frank Billups, a relative of Madison Billups, lauded the kayaker.

“He made it happen. To me, this guy is my hero,” Billups said.

Then he looked around.

“But there’s no one hero,” he said. “Everybody who’s been out here all this time is a hero.”


Government
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Elkhorn City Council reverses itself, backs proposed domestic violence shelter

ELKHORN

The Elkhorn City Council reversed itself Monday and allowed what is planned to be Walworth County’s first and only shelter for victims of domestic violence.

The council voted 4-2 to reverse its decision of last August, when it denied the request for a conditional-use permit to allow the shelter at 20 N. Church St.

Opposing the permit were Karel Young and Tom Myrin.

Suzi Schoenhoft, executive director of New Beginnings APFV, said she could not speculate on when the shelter would be up and running.

“Nothing will happen overnight, that’s for sure,” Schoenhoft said. “It’s going to take a lot of planning and fundraising.”

“We’re just thrilled they did the right thing, not just for New Beginnings but for the community,” Schoenhoft said, adding that her group’s clients currently must travel 30 to 50 miles to find a shelter, and often those shelters are full.

The shelter likely will occupy the former Aurora medical building, which Aurora donated to the group, Schoenhoft said.

The motion included two conditions: that the parking lot be limited to the 27 spaces that were part of the group’s original proposal and that New Beginnings strike a deal with a neighbor to the south for use of a shared driveway.

Schoenhoft said the conditions sound reasonable and she didn’t think there would be problems complying with them.

New Beginnings had appealed the council’s earlier decision to the county court, and Judge Daniel Johnson in April ordered the council to reconsider.

The public was allowed to hear the meeting from Matheson Memorial Library, where the sound and visual quality was low and only three council members could be seen on the screen.

An attorney who advises the council on this case said the judge’s ruling requires council members to make a decision based on the lengthy record of documents and testimony to the council leading up to its first decision, and members must demonstrate that they were making the decision based on reasoning and not arbitrarily.

Young said she is not opposed to a women’s shelter, but she opposes one at the proposed location.

She said she had received many calls and emails from people supporting the shelter, most of them from outside Elkhorn and many outside the county.

“It is my district, and I understand their (residents’) concerns, and they are all my neighbors and friends, and no way would I want to put any of them in harm’s way,” Young said.

Several council members who could not be identified spoke in favor of the shelter.

Alderman Scott McClory noted that both the police chief and county sheriff had written in support of the shelter, and a Department of Corrections spokeswoman had spoken in favor.

Schoenhoft said New Beginnings has already canceled two annual fundraisers this summer and plans a virtual fundraiser to pick up the slack. She said a fundraiser is scheduled for October, but it’s impossible to tell whether the COVID-19 situation might require another cancellation.


A child runs down the steps of the Supreme Court on Capitol Hill in Washington, Monday, June 29, 2020, as an anti-abortion protester holds a sign after the court struck down a Louisiana law regulating abortion clinics. The Supreme Court has struck down a Louisiana law regulating abortion clinics, reasserting a commitment to abortion rights over fierce opposition from dissenting conservative justices in the first big abortion case of the Trump era. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)


Local
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UPDATE: Body of missing Janesville girl, 9, is found, authorities say

JANESVILLE

Minutes after being told the body of 9-year-old Madison Billups had been found in the Rock River, her family huddled in a park shelter and prayed.

Then, in unison, they chanted a mantra the family had clung to through days of searching:

“She’s gonna be OK. She’s gonna be OK. She’s gonna be OK.”

Authorities Monday reported finding Madison’s body. She had been last seen Thursday as she slipped beneath the water downstream from the Monterey Bridge.

Capt. Mark Thompson of the Rock County Sheriff’s Office confirmed to The Gazette at about noon Monday the body was found in the Rock River between the Bellrichard Bridge and South River Road.

A sheriff’s office news release Monday said someone in the area of the Bellrichard Bridge reported finding a body in the water at about 11 a.m. approximately 5,000 feet downstream from where the girl went into the water.

Police held a press conference at 1:30 p.m. Monday at Anglers Park in the 800 block of Washington Street. Video from The Gazette’s livestream is available on its Facebook page.

Late Monday morning, police strung yellow tape along the east shore of the river in the area of River Road and State Street. That area is about 1.3 miles downstream from where the girl was last seen Thursday.

Sheriff Troy Knudson said a volunteer searcher in a kayak found the girl’s body near the river’s edge.

The kayak made it easier for the volunteer to search difficult-to-reach areas, Knudson said.

On Friday, the sheriff’s office ordered the dam at Indianford closed in an attempt to draw the river down about 18 inches, allowing divers and swift-water searchers to safely search the heavy current near the Monterey Bridge.

Searches over the weekend at the Monterey Bridge area and downstream were unsuccessful.

After Sunday, the sheriff’s office ordered the Indianford Dam reopened. Knudson said it’s possible that as the river downstream of the Indianford Dam rose to regular levels, Billups’ body might have moved to an area where it was easier to spot.

The Rock County Medical Examiner’s Department will conduct an autopsy and issue a news release, likely in the next day or so, Knudson said.

Janesville police Deputy Chief Terry Sheridan said police have no reason to suspect foul play.

Knudson called the death a “tragic accident.”

Earlier Monday, three boats from the Rock County Sheriff’s Office searched downstream from where the girl was last spotted.

The operation had transitioned Friday afternoon from a search and rescue to a recovery operation, authorities said.

Area police, sheriff’s offices and fire departments had as many as 10 boats on the water Saturday, several carrying cadaver-sniffing dogs, Thompson said.

Family and police said Madison was thought to be holding on to her 13-year-old brother Thursday as the two waded into the river and onto a sandbar near one of the train trestle bridges west of the Monterey Bridge.

The boy was rescued immediately, Knudson said.

Janesville police initially responded to reports that two bystanders fishing nearby saw Madison and her brother slip off the sandbar and onto large rocks in a drop-off where a strong current and undertow sweep out of the river’s main channel.

One of the bystanders, an unidentified woman, apparently tried to pull both children from the current, but Madison slipped loose and went under in the current, police indicated.

At Anglers Park, dozens of Madison’s family members kept vigil after Thursday night.

Thompson said he talked to the Billups family early Monday morning.

Although the recovery of Madison is what dozens of searchers and the family had been working toward for days, Thompson called the work of delivering the news Billups had been found “the toughest part, really the hardest part of all of this.”

“They’re doing OK,” Thompson said. “Obviously devastated. I told them that everybody out here searching are parents, too, and we want to be able to give them that closure.”


Obituaries and death notices for June 30, 2020

Charles B. “Chuck” Allen

Raymond R. Crary

Nancy DeRosia

Lucille Johanna (Link) Hell

John E. Kath

Janice “Jan” Schefelker

Jack Phillip Stewart