Kewaunee County Sheriff explains 'deadly force protocol' after shooting

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KEWAUNEE COUNTY, Wis. (WBAY) -- One day after a Kewaunee County Deputy is cleared to head back to work after a deadly officer-involved shooting, the sheriff talks about protocol.

Wisconsin’s Division of Criminal Investigation took on the investigation from the beginning, meaning Sheriff Matt Joski was not involved in the investigation. Kewaunee’s District Attorney said Sheriff Joski learned of the justified shooting Tuesday afternoon along with the general public and media.

For that reason, Action 2 News decided to follow up with Sheriff Joski after he read the report Wednesday to talk about his deputies actions August 21.

“I saw officers put in a difficult situation, in a very dynamic situation who had seconds to make some serious decisions,” said Sheriff Joski.

When reviewing the dash cam video that the state used to rule the deadly officer-involved shooting was justified, Sheriff Joski said his deputies followed protocol.

“I saw people did exactly what we trained them to do,” said Sheriff Joski.

Sheriff Joski said every officer is trained on a force continuum, meaning there are certain steps they try to follow when faced with a situation.

It usually starts with police presence and then dialogue with the suspect, but given the circumstances of the August 21 incident, where the DCI’s report said 22-year-old Tyler Whitmire had already hit a woman with a hammer and was now holding a knife, the deputies had to quickly up their response.

“You can't be down here at dialogue when that individual is already up here at weapon, so people have to realize we have to meet that force with either similar or a threat above,” said Sheriff Joski.

Joski said that is why using a taser or pepper spray just wasn’t a valid option.

“You can't use step 4 when you are faced with step 5. You can't come at it from a lower level, it is not reality,” said Sheriff Joski.

When a suspect breaks what law enforcement officials call the 21 foot rule, meaning anyone within that distance is considered a direct and imminent threat, law enforcement officials are justified in using deadly force.

In the August incident, Whitmire was well within 21 feet of the deputy he was running towards with a knife when he was shot and killed.
Sheriff Joski said they have to respond appropriately, “especially in this situation where it is a full-on threat. We can no longer back it down and say let's try some other alternatives. That is all off the table and for the safety of officers and citizens; we have to meet that threat.”

Sheriff Joski said unfortunately August’s incident ended with the death of a young man

“We cannot forget about the families that have been impacted by this,” said Sheriff Joski. “Our heart goes out to them.”

However, Sheriff Joski said this isn’t the first time his deputies have responded to dangerous situations.

“This is the first time Kewaunee County has had an officer involved shooting, but that doesn't mean this is the first time that these men and women have been put in delicate situations and that is the important for the public to know,” said Sheriff Joski.

Sheriff Joski said he hopes to go through the entire report with the department, looking for ways to learn from the incident.