By LeAnn R. Ralph
COLFAX — A woman was shot by a policer officer in an apartment above 601-603 Main Street in Colfax during the execution of an arrest warrant for arson.
Colfax Police Chief William Anderson executed a felony warrant for the arrest of Beth Mittelstadt, 44, at around 1:15 p.m. Thursday, December 18, according to a news release from the Dunn County Sheriff’s Department dated December 19.
Police Chief Anderson made contact with Mittelstadt at the apartment where she resides above the Colfax Arts and Antique Mall and Lynn’s Brewed Awakenings.
Mittelstadt was uncooperative and armed herself with a large machete-type knife and threatened the police chief.
Using his duty weapon, Police Chief Anderson fired a single shot at Mittelstadt and struck her in the upper torso, according to the news release.
Officers from the Dunn County Sheriff’s Department arrived a short while later and assisted Police Chief Anderson in taking Mittelstadt into custody.
The Colfax Rescue Squad transported Mittelstadt to Mayo Hospital in Eau Claire where she is receiving treatment for her injuries.
Building manager Mark Johnson, also the owner of Colfax Arts and Antique, said there are three apartments above the building at 601-603 Main Street.
Police Chief Anderson began serving as the Colfax police chief in May of this year, replacing long-time Colfax Police Chief Pete Gehring upon his retirement.
Lights and sirens
Eye witnesses in downtown Colfax said they were wondering what was going on Thursday afternoon when a vehicle that was smoking heavily from under the hood pulled up on the wrong side of the street in Colfax close to Toli’s Arms and was parked at the curb facing south.
The vehicle’s engine might have been on fire or perhaps the vehicle had blown a water pump and the smoke and smell were from burning antifreeze.
Shortly thereafter, law enforcement vehicles with lights and sirens converged on downtown Colfax, and not long after that, the Colfax Rescue Squad ambulance arrived on the scene.
As it turned out, the vehicle that was smoking from under the hood was one of the vehicles driven by a deputy from the Dunn County Sheriff’s Department.
Dunn County Sheriff Dennis Smith talked to members of the news media within an hour of the shooting and said he had heard earlier in the afternoon about what was going on in Colfax.
“When we heard shots were fired, we came racing up here,” he said.
One woman driving toward Colfax on state Highway 40 said she looked in her rearview mirror and saw the lights flashing behind her.
Although she knew she was not breaking the speed limit, the woman thought the officer intended to pull her over and said she was surprised when the police vehicle went by — and then there were several more behind it.
This is the third officer-involved shooting in Dunn County so far this year, although depending on how it is assessed, the shooting in Colfax could actually be the fourth officer-involved shooting in Dunn County.
Officers shot and killed Dennis Grohn in Cedar Falls during a drug raid in February.
In early June, Barron County officers were pursuing Jared Brendal, who was wanted on numerous felony charges and was believed to be armed and dangerous.
Brendal fled into Dunn County, shot at deputies and hit a squad car. The officers returned fire.
In November, a Boyceville police officer shot and killed a woman when the officer was responding to a domestic abuse call and the woman came to the door with a rifle in one hand and pulled a pistol out from behind her back with her other hand. Later on, it was determined that the pistol was what was termed a “replica” gun.
When asked why he thought there were so many recent officer-involved shootings in Dunn County, Sheriff Smith offered several theories.
In an average year, Dunn County might not experience even a single officer-involved shooting.
“I think there’s more going on and people are just doing more dumb things. They are pushing officers into making a decision they don’t really want to have to do. Nobody goes to work wanting to hurt somebody,” Sheriff Smith said.
“People are doing things and challenging the officers. You don’t do exactly the opposite of what the officer tells you to do. If you tell them to drop the weapon, they should follow the instructions,” he said.
Sheriff Smith said he had heard this fall that the number of officer-involved shootings in Wisconsin in September or October were as many as in the entire state last year.
The training for law enforcement officers used to be that shooting a suspect was only justified if the person had a gun, he said.
Then 25 years ago, the conventional wisdom was if someone has a knife and is within 21 feet, the officer had better be shooting, Sheriff Smith said.
“Anybody who is halfway proficient (with a knife) can cover that 21 feet and cut you up before you can react. You can never react as fast as they can act,” he said.
“We’ve noticed it in the jail with more mental health issues. People (using) drugs are more aggressive and that brings up more issues. People in general either have a lot of respect for law enforcement and will do whatever the officer tells them or we have a number of them who won’t do anything the officer tells them,” Sheriff Smith said.
St. Croix County will be conducting the investigation into the officer-involved shooting in Colfax.
According to state law, if it is not a fatal officer-involved shooting, an outside agency is not required to investigate, although if an outside agency does investigate in a non-fatal shooting, the agency involved can assist with the investigation, Sheriff Smith said.
“It is cleaner if you use an outside agency anyway,” he said.
A fire at 511 East Third Avenue in Colfax on the night of May 24 of this year was ruled as an arson.
The structure fire was called in at about 10:04 p.m. that Saturday evening and was contained by around 1:30 a.m.
According to a report provided to the Colfax Village Board by Police Chief Anderson, “due to information received, arson investigators from the Dunn County Sheriff’s Department responded as well as the state fire marshal.”
Police Chief Anderson’s report went on to say, “it was determined that the fire was suspicious in nature and there is currently still an open investigation into this matter. There are suspect(s) that have been questioned and evidence has been sent to the state crime lab.”
The house on Third Avenue was occupied by Katie Bundy and her children, although no one was reported to be at home at the time of the fire.
According to on-line court records, Bundy has been charged with a number of felony and misdemeanor drug-related charges, forgery, and bail jumping in Dunn County, Eau Claire County and Chippewa County.
Reports regarding the Mittelstadt incident will be sent to the Dunn County district attorney for review along with a request for various charges against Mittelstadt.
The district attorney will decide on the appropriate charges to file.
The officer-involved shooting occurred at around 1:15 p.m., and law enforcement officers finally cleared the scene in Colfax at around 7:30 p.m.