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Report clears Fond du Lac officers

Posted in Related Deaths
3-20-2011 Wisconsin:

Fond du Lac - The Fond du Lac County prosecutor says Officers were justified in defending themselves and firing at a gunman who had shot and killed a police officer in March, the Fond du Lac County district attorney's office ruled Monday.

A report issued by the DA's office says the gunman, James Cruckson, 30, sexually assaulted his girlfriend and refused to return her 6-year-old daughter. Several police officers responded. The report says Cruckson shot and wounded one officer who entered the home, and he riddled another officer's squad car with bullets.

As a third officer ran to investigate the sounds of gunfire, Cruckson shot him twice and killed him. One shot hit Officer Craig Birkholz, 28, in the abdomen below his bulletproof vest, and the second hit the top of the vest with fragments entering his torso.

Cruckson later killed himself. ..Source.. by DINESH RAMDE


DOJ releases FdL shooting report

10-5-2011 Wisconsin:

MADISON - The Wisconsin Department of Justice has released more than one thousand pages of documents related to its investigation of the March shooting that killed a Fond du Lac police officer.

The Fond du Lac County district attorney ruled last month police acted appropriately during the shooting.

FOX 11 filed an open records request with the state to obtain the records from that incident. The DOJ handed them over Tuesday.

The department has since posted the report on its website. Click here to read it.

Authorities say James Cruckson shot and killed 28-year-old officer Craig Birkholz as he ran towards the scene. Cruckson also shot Officer Ryan Williams and his K9 officer Grendel, both recovered. Cruckson later took his own life.

As Fond du Lac officers battled his shots March 20, frantic calls poured into to 911.

"I believe I'm hearing gunshots," one caller said. "Yes, stay in your house, stay away from windows," the dispatcher responded.

"I'm on Division and Lincoln," another said.

"You need to stay in your house, we have an incident going on on Lincoln," a dispatcher responded.

The recordings are part of more than 1,000 pages of investigative documents, photos and video, released to FOX 11 by the Department of Justice, Division of Criminal Investigation.

Some information has been removed to protect the victims, Officer Ryan Williams, James Cruckson's former girlfriend and Officer Craig Birkholz.

Dash cam video shows Birkholz racing to the scene. Other officers were already there, including Williams. Bullets were flying.

"Shots fired, shots fired, we got a sniper," officers say over radio.

The video goes black when Birkholz leaves the car. DOJ removed the video, because it captures Birkholz' death.

According to the autopsy report, Birkholz was shot twice.

Newly-released video from the Department is giving us a first look inside the duplex where it all began. Video shows the second floor where police say Cruckson fired nearly 50 rounds through a window.

Hundreds of pages of interviews confirm Cruckson was driven by a crumbling relationship. He spoke with a negotiator ten times during the standoff.

In the report, the negotiator describes Cruckson as having flat emotions. He said Cruckson never yelled during the conversations, but did admit killing an officer and raping his former girlfriend.

However, in audio previously released by Fond du Lac authorities, Cruckson blamed her for everything.

"You lied, that's why those cops got killed, so pretty much you killed those cops," Cruckson said on her voicemail.

Hundreds of photos show the aftermath of Cruckson's attack, Williams' vest pierced in several places, squad cars riddled with bullets and a community and department forever changed.

The report, like the Fond du Lac County district attorney, also concluded that officers acted appropriately to protect the community. ..Source.. by Lindsay Veremis, FOX 11 News


SPECIAL REPORT - In Their Own Words: FdL Officer Shooting One Year Later

3-21-2012 Wisconsin:

Concerns about 6-year-old prompted police to enter Lincoln Avenue duplex

Jon Gutzmann

Capt. Jon Gutzmann has no regrets about his decisions and actions the morning of March 20, 2011.

He was one of three officers to first enter James Cruckson’s home at 24 S. Lincoln Ave. on the city’s west side after Cruckson’s ex-girlfriend, Josephine Warner, reported a sexual assault and that her 6-year-old daughter was still in the house.

That morning, he saw a bloody Officer Ryan Williams tumble into Officer Zach Schultz on the stairwell leading up to where the armed and suicidal Cruckson was situated.

Gutzmann later heard calls about Officer Craig Birkholz being shot by Cruckson and killed.

During the shootout, Gutzmann left the house in an armored vehicle only to return again with the Fond du Lac County Sheriff’s Office SWAT team to find Cruckson dead on the first floor of his residence from a single self-inflicted gunshot wound.

“Obviously, I have thought about this a great deal over the last year,” said Gutzmann, who continues to read reports and listen to dispatch tapes. “… Given the information I had that day, no, I would have not made any other decision. In speaking with other (officers) that were in that house, we all agreed that was the best method, given the information we had.

“I said all along that I don’t know if I could go back and sit in my house and look at my children if, in fact, the little girl would’ve have been in that home and harmed. … I took an oath to not let that happen.” ..This is a multi-page article, more in the original.. by Russell Plummer

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