APPLETON, Wis. (WBAY) - Appleton Police have released more information about Wednesday's shooting that claimed the life of Appleton Firefighter Mitchell Lundgaard.
Ruben Houston. Photo: Fond du Lac County Jail
Lundgaard, a 14-year veteran of the department, was shot and killed Wednesday while responding to a call about a medical emergency on a bus at Valley Transit Center.
Appleton Police Officer Paul Christensen was hit by gunfire and treated at a local hospital. He was released from the hospital on Thursday.
Brittany L. Schowalter, a 30-year-old bystander, was also struck by gunfire. She remains hospitalized, but is recovering. Police said she was in stable condition.
Police identified the suspect as 47-year-old Ruben Houston of Wausau. He died at the scene. Houston had recently been released from Fond du Lac County Jail after posting bail for a Felony drug charge. (Scroll down for more information.)
It was about 5:30 p.m. Wednesday when police, fire and ambulance crews responded to the 100 block of E. Washington St to assist a 47-year-old man who was arriving on a bus from out of the area. A report stated the man, now identified as Houston, was having a seizure.
First responders provided the initial medical help to Houston. He left the bus and started walking toward the Appleton Public Library. Police say Houston was encouraged to seek additional medical help.
Police say at some point, Houston pulled a gun and shots were exchanged between the man and Appleton Police.
Two Appleton Police Officers--Paul Christensen and Sgt. Christopher Biese-- fired at least one round each, police say. They've been placed on administrative assignment pending the outcome of the investigation.
It's unclear how many total rounds were fired during the shootout. That remains under investigation.
Firefighter Lundgaard was transported to ThedaCare Regional Medical Center - Appleton. "The efforts by the ThedaCare Emergency Room staff were nothing less than extraordinary. Tragically, he died from his injuries Wednesday evening," Chief Jeremy Hansen said.
Sgt. Biese has been with the Appleton Police Department since Dec. 13, 2004.
Officer Christensen has been with the department since March 26, 2018.
Flags are flying at half-staff in Wisconsin in honor of Lundgaard.
“Kathy and I are saddened by this loss and our hearts are with Mitchell's wife, his three sons, the entire Appleton Fire Department, and the Fox River Valley community," said Gov. Tony Evers. "Mitchell dedicated his life and career to protecting the members of his community and leaves behind an honorable legacy of service to his department and his state and he will be missed."
CLICK HERE to view Gov. Evers' proclamation.
The order is effective immediately. American flags and Wisconsin flags will be lowered until Lundgaard is laid to rest.
Lundgaard was a 14-year veteran of the fire department. He started his career in March of 2005. He held the rank of firefighter inspector.
"Mitch was married and a father of three young kids. Please keep him in your thoughts and prayers at this difficult time," said Appleton Fire Chief Jeremy Hansen. Hansen choked up as he remembered Lundgaard during a news conference Thursday.
CLICK HERE to watch the news conference on the shooting.
A visitation for Lundgaard will be held Monday, May 20 at Appleton Alliance Church, 2693 Grand Chute Blvd. Hours are 3 p.m. - 6 p.m. A private, family-only funeral will be held May 21.
A memorial for Firefighter Lundgaard is located outside Fire Station No. 1, 700 N. Drew St. A sign outside the station reads "In loving memory of FF Mitch Lundgaard."
Donations can be made in Mitchell Lundgaard's honor at the official GoFundMe website or mailed to:
Friends of the Appleton Fire Department
700 N. Drew St.
Appleton, WI 54911
RUBEN HOUSTON OUT ON BAIL
Action 2 News learned that suspect Ruben Houston was released from Fond du Lac County Jail on May 4 after posting $500.
A criminal complaint filed April 23 shows Houston was charged with Possession with Intent to Deliver a Counterfeit Narcotic in Fond du Lac County.
Houston was initially held on a $5,000 cash bond for the Felony drug charge. The court agreed to lower his bond to $500. That was a sum Houston was able to pay.
As condition of bond, Houston was to have no controlled substances without a prescription or drugs.
Houston was pulled over April 21 in the Township of Fond du Lac. He had a warrant out for Disorderly Conduct in Marathon County. A deputy who stopped Houston said he found on Houston a plastic baggie "containing pieces of a brown rock like substance." Houston told the deputy he was running it to someone in Wausau.
Houston said it was heroin, but a test came back inconclusive for the drug.
LOSS OF A BROTHER
On Thursday, police and fire vehicles escorted Mitchell Lundgaard's body down College Ave and to Brettschneider-Trettin-Nickel Funeral Chapel. Citizens lined the street to pay their respects.
Lights flashed but no sirens rang out. All was silent. All was solemn.
CLICK HERE to watch the procession.
"I'd like to thank the community for your support. It has been amazing. Your thoughts and prayers will help us as we honor Mitch the best way we know how: by continuing to serve our community each and every day," Chief Jeremy Hansen says.
A separate procession was held the night before in Milwaukee as Lundgaard's body was brought to the Milwaukee County Medical Examiner's Office. First responders lined the street as emergency vehicles escorted the firefighter to the medical examiner. The fallen firefighter was draped in an American flag.
"My condolences to the family and friends of the brave firefighter who lost his life in Appleton yesterday. May everyone affected by this tragedy find peace," says Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul.
A QUICK SCENE
Viewer Tamara Owens sent us video of a man being handcuffed while on his stomach on a sidewalk. Police could not confirm anyone was in custody but the said there is "no ongoing threat to the community."
"It was a very quick scene. It was things... we had to get people to the hospital quickly. So we're just happy we could get them there and get them the medical attention they needed," said Appleton Police Public Information Officer Meghan Cash.
Multiple witnesses reported hearing gunshots and said they saw police running towards the scene (see related story).
Because the shooting involved Appleton first responders, the Green Bay Police Department was called in to investigate the incident with the help of other agencies.
Appleton, Kaukauna and Fox Valley Metro police departments, Outagamie County Sheriff's Office and the Wisconsin State Patrol responded to the scene.
Franklin, Washington and Oneida streets were blocked off in that area with a heavy police presence. Three hours after the shooting they were still blocked to people passing by, as this was very much an active crime scene.
Cash said it was disheartening that this happened during National Police Week, when the nation recognizes the sacrifices of officers. Just hours earlier, police were downtown for a brat fry and to show squad cars to children at Houdini Plaza.
"It's going to be a hard day for us, especially during Police Week, to have something like this happen," she said.
Valley Transit is temporarily transferring passengers at Franklin and Superior.
"We know that many of you have questions and concerns about an incident that took place this evening at the Transit Center," reads a tweet from @ValleyTransit. "Due to the ongoing investigation, we ask our followers to look to the Appleton Police Department for all updates."
The Appleton Public Library is closed until further notice. "Our hearts go out to all involved in this tragedy," library staff says.
Departments across the country have reached out to the Appleton Fire Department to express their condolences.
"I would like to express my sincere appreciation to the fire departments and law enforcement agencies across the state of Wisconsin and across the country. The outpouring of support in this difficult time has been tremendous," Chief Hansen said.
Appleton Mayor Tim Hanna urged the public to refrain from spreading misinformation and speculation on social media.
"Social media, it's a wonderful tool. But it can also be an awful place. There will be a time when we talk in greater detail about what happened. About our response. About how we go forward, how we learn from this tragic incident. But that will come when everybody has the full detail of what happened," Hanna said.