Officer Involved Shooting Decision
Posted on 03/18/2021
Date: March 17, 2021
Subject: District Attorney’s Decision on Officer Involved Shooting
Authority: Statement by Washington County Sheriff Martin R. Schulteis

WEST BEND, Wis. - The Washington County District Attorney’s Office reviewed the independent police investigation relating to the fatal police shooting of Nicholas S. Pingel, age 30, of West Bend by an on-duty Washington County sheriff’s deputy. That independent investigation was conducted by the Wisconsin Department of Justice - Division of Criminal Investigations as a result of an incident on February 3, 2021 in the Town of Kewaskum. On that date, deputies responded to the 8100 block of Forest View Rd for a violent crime spree committed by the suspect that left two innocent Washington County men dead.

This week, Washington County District Attorney Mark Bensen officially cleared the deputy’s actions as a justifiable homicide. Under Wisconsin State Statue 939.48, a person is, “privileged to intentionally use force against another for the purpose of preventing or terminating what the person reasonably believes to be an unlawful interference with his or her person by such other person.” This applies to self-defense and the defense of others, including law enforcement. The district attorney determined the deputy was acting within the scope of the law by protecting himself and others when he used deadly force.

The involved deputy had been on administrative leave since the incident occurred and now has returned to serve the citizens of Washington County this week.

The tragic sequence of events that afternoon has left a lasting impression on both our community and agency; I keep the families affected in my thoughts and prayers.

Our deputy was placed in a situation that necessitated the use of deadly force in the course of his work to safeguard the community he took an oath to protect. This entire incident is a tragedy on many different levels. The fact that the district attorney determined the deputy’s actions were clearly necessary, justified and authorized under law, reaffirms the deputy stopped further victimization of innocent citizens that afternoon.

My commitment to the citizens of Washington County has always been to be as transparent as possible without compromising the integrity of any investigation. We are now able to release some of the specific details of the officer-involved shooting that we previously were unable to publicly address during the independent investigation.

The involved deputy was responding southbound on Forest View Road from Cty Hwy H to the initial scene that afternoon at approximately 3:05 p.m. At that point, the deputy knew he was responding to a “shots fired” altercation. Before he arrived at that scene, he observed an armed subject standing along the east side of Forest View Road about 6/10 of a mile north of the first crime scene. The subject was armed with a shotgun.

This location was later determined to be the scene of the second homicide victim where the 77-year-old man’s shotgun was stolen, and he was subsequently murdered by the suspect.

As the uniformed deputy approached the suspect in his fully marked squad car, the suspect leveled the stolen shotgun at the deputy and fired one round. The round did not hit the deputy or the squad car. The deputy quickly backed his squad car in a northern direction around a curve in the roadway to establish a north perimeter, out of view of the suspect, in an attempt to deescalate the incident. The deputy then exited his squad car and positioned himself behind the engine block of his squad with his rifle as he began to coordinate a response. As additional units arrived, the suspect rounded the corner in the road still in possession of the shotgun. Commands were given to the suspect to drop the gun, and he once again decided to escalate the situation by shouldering the weapon and pointing it at the deputies. There was an exchange of gunfire from about 120 yards and the suspect was hit with one fatal round in the chest. The deputy shot first during this second altercation. Life-saving measures on Mr. Pingel were not immediately started since the deputies lost visual contact with him after the second exchange of gunfire, and were unsure if the suspect was hit, or still posed a danger. The deputies maintained their perimeter position to contain the scene until the suspect was located, deceased, with a drone.

Our office will conduct our own independent internal investigation and tactical debrief to determine what we could have improved on; we owe that to the community we serve. Having said that, all facts point to the unfortunate reality that the tragic outcome was dictated by the suspect rather than the law enforcement response. The deputy acted with courage and bravery. The actions he took were consistent with his training, and in accordance with the law, while facing extreme stress and danger. I welcome the deputy back to serve the citizens of Washington County.