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Shootings, stabbing, lockdowns: Three days of school threats in Wisconsin

1222_Waukesha-Shooting

OSHKOSH (WKOW) — Four Wisconsin school districts instituted lockdowns over the course of a few days, causing many throughout the state to ask, "what's happening."

Between Sunday and Tuesday schools in Germantown, Sparta, Waukesha and West Bend fell prey to fear and violence.

A Waukesha mother called the aftermath of one shooting “a parent’s worst nightmare.”

West Bend

The spate of scares touched off Sunday in West Bend.

A 19-year-old woman, West Bend police said in a post on the school district’s Facebook page, reached out to the department to report she saw a message on social media. It supposedly said there would be a shooting at a high school Monday.

Because the woman lived in West Bend, officers said, she assumed the message’s author directed the threat at one of the local high schools. However, the message as police said the woman described it, did not name a particular school or community. She also did not save a copy of the message, authorities said.

The spate of scares touched off Sunday in West Bend.

A 19-year-old woman, West Bend police said in a post on the school district’s Facebook page, reached out to the department to report she saw a message on social media. It supposedly said there would be a shooting at a high school Monday.

Because the woman lived in West Bend, officers said, she assumed the message’s author directed the threat at one of the local high schools. However, the message as police said the woman described it, did not name a particular school or community. She also did not save a copy of the message, authorities said.

West Bend officers interviewed students who said they heard about the threat, but none had personally seen it. WBPD also said it reached out to other departments in Washington County and Wisconsin. No other agency had heard of or seen the post.

School district officials and police, the post said, agreed “that there is no evidence that this message existed nor that is was directed at any West Bend school.”

Just after 2 p.m. Monday afternoon, in the midst of the lockdowns in Waukesha, a follow-up post on the West Bend School District Facebook page said police were aware of the shooting in the community 45 minutes to their south.

Before promising to have officers stationed near schools in the coming days officers said, “there is no known correlation between this investigation and the incident at Waukesha South.”

Waukesha

Around 10:15 a.m. a student resource officer (SRO) responded to a classroom where a 17-year-old student reportedly had a gun, according to Waukesha Police Chief Russell Jack.

At a press conference Tuesday, Waukesha police clarified that the weapon was a pellet gun that the teen brought to school because he felt angry toward another student.

Officers allegedly found another pellet gun in the teen's backpack. Authorities said they also served a search warrant on the teen's home and allegedly found more pellet guns and narcotics.

The SRO, Jack said, tried to secure the room and get other students to safety.

More officers and sheriff’s deputies soon arrived, Jack said at a Monday press conference.

The chief said authorities told the teen to take his hand out of his pocket.

“The suspect would not remove his hands from his pocket and continued to ignore officers' commands,” Jack said. “The suspect removed the handgun from his waistband and pointed it at the officers. An officer was forced to discharge his firearm, striking the suspect.” An officer shot the teen once in the leg and twice in the arm, police said.

Police said they administered first aid to the teen and ushered other students out of the room.

No one else was hurt. The teen was taken to a hospital and is in stable condition, authorities said.

The school remained in lockdown for about an hour after the gunfire.

Officers expected the student to face multiple felony charges after being treated for his injuries.

Just hours after the first, another Waukesha high school went into lockdown. Again it was for a report of a student with a gun, police tweeted at 2:20 p.m.

Police searched Waukesha North High School but eventually found the student they were looking for at a residence elsewhere in the city. Officers took the student into custody.

At Tuesday’s press conference, Jack confirmed the two lockdowns were not related.

The district promised in a tweet to make staff available to students to begin the healing process. The district’s campuses would see more police Tuesday.

Sparta

As Waukesha reeled, across the state, Sparta High School went into its own lockdown.

The hold, district officials posted on Facebook, was a precaution. Moments earlier school administration learned that a handgun reported missing may be in the possession of a student. A photo of the student holding a gun had been posted to social media, police later said.

As police searched for the student into Monday evening, the district made the decision to cancel classes Tuesday and informed surrounding districts of the potential threat.

Classes, school leaders said, would resume Wednesday. Albeit with increased police presence around the district.

Then, late Tuesday afternoon, Sparta police announced another agency made contact with the student. While the initial report indicated the gun could have been stolen, officers said the student did not commit any crimes.

Germantown

Just hours after the situation stabilized in Waukesha, authorities were tracking down threats made against two schools in Germantown.

In a joint post on the community’s police department Facebook post Tuesday, Chief Peter Hoell and Superintendent Jeff Holmes laid out what had transpired the evening prior.

Administrators at Germantown High School passed information they received at 6:10 p.m. of gun threats for the next day to police. At 8 p.m. Kennedy Middle School passed a similar threat to authorities.

By 2 a.m. police believed they identified the person responsible for making them. The Facebook post characterized the threats as “not credible” and “hoaxes.”

Hoell and Holmes wrote officers felt classes should not be affected.

Police and district administrators scheduled a meeting with the person and their parents “to begin the process for appropriately addressing these fabricated threats.”

Despite lacking credibility, the post concluded, Germantown police and Washington County sheriff’s deputies would provide additional security to district campuses.

Oshkosh

Police Chief Dean Smith said authorities dispatched officers to Oshkosh West High School at 9:12 a.m. The first responder arrived two minutes later. In total, 75 members of law enforcement from multiple agencies would be on the scene.

The first officer made his way to the school resource officer's room, Smith said. There the officer found the SRO with a student.

The state Department of Justice identified the SRO as Michael Wissink, a 21-year veteran of the Oshkosh Police Department.

The student allegedly stabbed Wissink with an "edged weapon," according to Smith. Wissink responded by shooting the student once.

Both the student and Wissink are being treated at a local hospital and are expected to survive their injuries, Smith said.

In the aftermath of the shooting, some of the school's 1,700 students evacuated while others hunkered in place as classroom doors were barricaded, keeping with the district's safety protocols, said Dr. Vickie Cartwright, superintendent of Oshkosh schools.

Parents and students would eventually reunite at Perry Tipler Middle School.

"Our students' safety is our number one priority," Cartwright said.

The district canceled classes Wednesday and said it would offer counseling to those who want it.

The state Division of Criminal Investigation will lead an inquiry of the shooting.

Police believe only one student was involved in the struggle with Wissink. Cartwright called it a "contained situation."

"This is a tragedy," Smith said.

Two of Gov. Tony Evers' children graduated from Oshkosh west, a fact he referenced in a statement released Tuesday afternoon.

"It’s impossible to ignore the fact that in addition to today’s officer-involved shooting at Oshkosh West, the Sparta School District is closed due to security threats, and that this happened just a day after we had another school shooting at Waukesha South," the governor said. " We can’t just accept that violence in our schools is a foregone conclusion, and we have to get to work to do everything we can to keep our kids and our communities safe."

WQOW Staff

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