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Authorities identify suspect in fatal shooting at Janesville business

JANESVILLE

The man arrested in the fatal shooting of a co-worker at a metal fabrication shop Tuesday had several guns in his vehicle and was traveling with a few thousand dollars in cash, police said Wednesday.

Janesville Police Chief Dave Moore said during a news conference Wednesday that Kevin L. Todd, 23, of Evansville, was arrested and charged with a count of first-degree homicide and three counts of first-degree endangering safety while armed.

Todd is accused of the fatal shooting of a 30-year-old Janesville man Tuesday at Precision Drawn Metals, a specialty metal fabrication shop at 1345 Plainfield Ave.

Janesville police detective Lt. Mark Ratzlaff said when police arrived at the shop Tuesday afternoon, employees told officers Todd fled, first on foot and then in a vehicle.

Rock County sheriff’s deputies arrested Todd on the outskirts of Orfordville about 45 minutes after the shooting is believed to have occurred.

After fleeing the scene, Todd went to his Evansville residence, stopped for a short time and picked up another gun, Ratzlaff later told The Gazette.

Ratzlaff said a search of Todd’s vehicle Wednesday morning uncovered the gun police think was used in the shooting plus five other firearms and $2,000 in cash.

Police said Todd told them he had worked at the metal shop for about a week and that he had been bullied at work, though Moore said that so far, none of Todd’s co-workers corroborated that Todd had been bullied.

A Gazette reporter attempted to call Precision Drawn Materials for comment, but a representative declined to comment and hung up on the reporter.

Todd is being held at the Rock County Jail, where he is awaiting his initial court appearance. Ratzlaff said he expects him to appear in court Thursday.


Business
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Chemical manufacturer Evonik debuts ‘training tank,’ helps Janesville Fire Department conduct confined-space drills
Allows tech rescue team to preplan for rescue missions, meet training requirements

On Wednesday afternoon, members of the Janesville Fire Department’s tech rescue team had a mission: They were at specialty chemical manufacturer Evonik to rescue Randy.

Randy, a mannequin with purple eyebrows and facial hair crafted from permanent marker, had fictitiously slipped while fixing the heating coil when he slipped and hurt his ankles.

Anthony Wahl 

Joe Sarow, a member of the Janesville Fire Department’s tech rescue team, is lowered into an empty three-story-tall tank during a vertical confined-space rescue training at Evonik on Wednesday.

The rescue team set up an industrial tripod, fed blue and yellow rope lines up the side of the three-story-tall tank Randy was in, and set up staff with air-purifying respirators before sending them through an 18-inch wide hole to rappel down.

Randy never ended up getting rescued from the tank—emergency personnel were called out to a fire in the Milton area and cut their training short. But in the time they spent preparing to perform the rescue mission, it gave firefighters an opportunity to practice a vertical confined space rescue, department driver and tech rescue team member Daniel Benz said.

Conducting confined-space rescues, such as in manholes, silos or storage bins, is a more time- and equipment-intensive process than other emergency rescues, Benz explained.

That’s why Evonik repurposed a chemical tank it previously used for storage of its materials to help save lives.

Its plant on Janesville’s west side along the Rock River debuted the confined-space training tank earlier this month, and it has hosted the Janesville Fire Department and other area agencies for training. It is now one of the only confined-space training facilities in Rock County, Evonik environmental, health and safety manager Dave Welsh told The Gazette.

Anthony Wahl 

Members of the Janesville Fire Department’s tech rescue team set up for a vertical confined-space rescue on a three-story-tall tank Evonik had repurposed.

Confined spaces are defined by the U.S. Department of Labor as areas not designed for people but large enough for a person to enter to perform a task with limited means for entry or exit.

The training tank was created out of a decommissioned tank the company owned that was still in good enough condition to repurpose for safety drills, Welsh said.

“We left the side manway, we left the top manway so that you can practice getting in and out, you can practice pulling people out and doing all the things that are more technical that you can’t do in a classroom,” he said. “These are things that happen to be hands-on. So we tried to make it so that all of those things can take place on the tank but still not be a hazard for the people that are there training.”

In Evonik’s case, there are usually one or two narrow openings in the tanks, which are about three stories tall. At the top of the training tank, there’s an 18-inch-wide hole for entry and a slightly wider entry hatch near the bottom. The training tank doesn’t count as an enclosed space anymore because an access door has been built into it to make training easier and safer.

Within a two-week span, the fire department will have had three training sessions at Evonik, one for each shift, to learn how to set up equipment and rappel into the tank to grab a mannequin lying on the ground as a mock rescue mission.

Being able to use the converted tank as a training exercise for confined-space rescues and recoveries is a huge benefit for the department and the tech rescue team, Benz said, explaining that additional training sessions—and conducting them at area businesses and structures—helps rescuers respond faster.

Anthony Wahl 

Joe Sarow, a member of the Janesville Fire Department’s tech rescue team, watches as another team member is lowered down for a rescue training session at Evonik on Wednesday.

“It helps us prepare for if we do have to come here—we hope we don’t have to—but then it’s pre-planning,” Benz said. “We’ve got an industrial atmosphere that otherwise we would have no idea. We wouldn’t have the opportunity to save time on their end to help them out.”

Welsh said staff “fought long and hard” to get the training tank and are glad to be able to offer it up to the fire department and other emergency personnel as a training device. Should a person get injured in one of the tanks, Evonik staff would act as initial first responders by doing CPR or using tourniquets to stanch bleeding but would then pass formal rescue efforts off to first responders, Welsh said.

“One of the reasons that we wanted to get it was so that we could offer it to our responders because, I mean, we do the first part, but they’re going to do the cleanup,” he said. “We need to help them out as much as we can.”

Anthony Wahl 

A look down into the three-story-tall silo used by the Janesville Fire Department’s tech rescue team to practice vertical confined-space rescues.


Milwaukee Bucks' Giannis Antetokounmpo drives past Chicago Bulls' Nikola Vucevic during the first half of Game 5 of an NBA basketball first-round playoff series Wednesday, April 27, 2022, in Milwaukee.


Local
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Donald Trump ally Kellyanne Conway tells UW-Whitewater students that young voters are tiring of Joe Biden's presidency

WHITEWATER

At a political talk aimed at campus Republicans at UW-Whitewater on Wednesday, former campaign manager and senior consultant to former President Donald Trump stopped short of telling students they should rally around Trump in the 2024 election.

After all, as of April 2022, more than two years ahead of the election, Trump has not officially committed to running again.

But Conway spent equal time Wednesday talking up Trump’s four-year track record during a bifurcated talk on the “peaceful” presidency of Trump compared to what Conway told students and other audience members on Wednesday is a “divisive” and “chaotic” period under President Joe Biden.

Conway, 55, a professional pollster who in 2016 was the first woman in history to lead a presidential campaign to victory, was among the closest personal advisers to Trump’s candidacy and presidency between 2016 and 2020, when Conway opted to leave the White House to spend more time with her family.

Hosted by the UW-Whitewater College Republicans along with the conservative-leaning, Scott Walker-helmed Young America’s Foundation, Conway brought a speech that rolled back the clock to talk of her time on the Trump campaign and in the White House and about her work as an organizer of a campus Republican club during her years as a college student in Washington, D.C.

Anthony Wahl 

A man in a T-shirt bearing President Donald Trump's likeness listens as former Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway gives a speech at UW-Whitewater on Wednesday evening.

The talk came as part of a tour of Midwest college campuses and other stops for Conway ahead of the release of her new book, “Here’s the Deal,” a memoir about her work on the campaign trail and in the Trump-era White House.

In an hourlong talk in Hyland Hall’s auditorium, Conway told about 200 spectators that Wisconsin remains a political battleground state and that conservatives—particularly younger voters—still have a chance to affect political change in Wisconsin and beyond.

It was a major point that got somewhat buried in rhetoric that New Jersey native Conway crafted Wednesday about Biden’s age, the country’s economic state, inflation, the fentanyl crisis, the country’s emergence from the COVID-19 pandemic, immigration, abortion policy and school choice.

Conway said that according to some polls, including a recent CNN poll, Biden’s popularity among younger voters has dipped over the last year from 59% approval in April 2021 to 41% approval last week. Other polls have shown Biden’s appeal among younger voters has never been particularly strong.

That might be one reason why Conway is keying on college campuses to try to galvanize conservative support.

“Apart from the fact that they’re smart, young people call themselves independents more than Republicans or Democrats,” she said. “So what does it mean to be an independent? It means you don’t really trust politicians and government because government is part of the problem ... and that you’re looking, you really are open to hearing about ideas.”

Whether she was talking more about the twists and turns of a global pandemic or an election cycle that didn’t turn out how her former boss and 74 million American voters had hoped, Conway said she believes that the strain and layers of tumult people have lived with over the last few years could be an advantage for Republicans, the political party Conway indicated could be helped simply by virtue that it is not currently in power in the White House.

“Now is really the time when you have people’s attention, when they are suffering,” she said.

One UW-Whitewater student, Trace Morrissey, 19, said the November 2020 presidential election was the first he voted in. Morrissey said he voted for Trump in that election.

Morrissey, a college freshman who is a member of the UW-Whitewater College Republicans, said he has taken in appearances this year from Wisconsin gubernatorial hopeful Rebecca Kleefisch and other state-level political candidates.

He said he is not yet sure whether most young members of the Republican Party like him are interested in seeing another 2024 election run from Trump or a different conservative candidate who embraces Trump’s platforms.

“I don’t know how I’d answer that,” he said. “I definitely have my own viewpoints, but I’m still trying to dig deep enough to see who is most aligned with what I believe. I’m only old enough that I’ve been able to vote in one election.”

Kellyanne Conway gives a speech at UW-Whitewater's Hyland Hall on Wednesday evening.


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