Wis. police defend gunfire in hospital arrest
WAUWATOSA, Wis. (AP) – Milwaukee’s police chief defended the actions of two officers who took a felon into custody Thursday in the neonatal wing of Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin, an arrest that resulted in the man being shot after he allegedly fled down a hallway brandishing a semi-automatic pistol.
Police shot the 22-year-old man twice in the arm, causing him to drop his weapon. No one else was in the hallway at the time, and no officers, hospital employees or patients were hurt.
Police Chief Edward Flynn said officers received a tip about 11 a.m. from a woman reporting that a man who had an arrest warrant out for being a felon in possession of a weapon was at the hospital in the Milwaukee suburb of Wauwatosa. The caller said the man was probably armed.
Police researched the man’s background and discovered he had a “lengthy criminal record” including firearm-related offenses, Flynn said. He didn’t have details on who placed the initial call or what the tipster’s motivation was.
Officers went to the hospital and found the man on the 7th floor, holding a baby.
Police advised him of his warrant status and the man initially complied, putting the baby down and leaving with them.
“It was at that point that he started to struggle with police and fled,” Flynn said. “During the initial struggle outside the unit, officers saw that he had a semi-automatic pistol.”
The man sprinted fled down an unoccupied hallway and brandished his gun. A 27-year-old police officer opened fire, Flynn said, and the man dropped his gun _ a loaded .40-caliber Glock pistol _ without firing.
Officers wrestled with the man for several moments before handcuffing him.
Irma Blazek, an interpreter who works at the hospital, was in a cafe on the first floor when she heard a code for an active shooter over the loudspeaker. Blazek said she and 10 to 15 other people crammed in a stairwell for over an hour until they heard an all-clear message.
“It was just bizarre,” Blazek said. “This is the last place you would think something like this would happen.”
Flynn didn’t have details on the suspect’s relation to the baby he’d been holding. The man was being treated for injuries that weren’t life-threatening at another hospital in the complex.
When asked whether officers might have considered waiting until the man left the hospital before confronting him in order not to put children at risk, Flynn said they didn’t have the luxury of knowing whether the man had violent intentions that required immediate intervention.
“The challenge is, what if he decides not to come out? What if it turns out there’s a domestic violence circumstance going on? What if it turns out he doesn’t want to let go of the baby?” Flynn said. “It’s our moral obligation to investigate these reports and put ourselves at physical risk to do it.”
Mike Sanfelippo, 39, of Random Lake, was in the hospital with his 11-year-old son who was being treated for a knee injury and on crutches. Sanfelippo said they were just getting ready to leave when they were told of the lockdown and sent to an administrative building across the street.
Sanfelippo said his first instinct was to “get the hell out of here and protect the kid.”
Associated Press writer Gretchen Ehlke in Milwaukee contributed to this report.
Dinesh Ramde can be reached at dramde(at)ap.org.
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