Outagamie County DA reviews details of incident
By Bert Lehman
No criminal actions will be pursued against New London Police Officers Ryan Denu and Brody Erickson in the death of Kole B. Knight.
Outagamie County District Attorney Carrie Schneider made that announcement at a press conference Friday, Sept. 9.
Schneider said she came to that conclusion after reviewing the investigation by and consulting with agents of the Division of Criminal Investigations (DCI).
“That decision comes after review of interviews, video, statements, analysis of the crime scene, the materials and items that were located there and the actions of law enforcement in relationship to their training and the legal standards required,” Schneider said.
Schneider shared the timeline of events for the police involved shooting of Knight that took place Aug. 19.
Denu and Erickson were in the same squad car on routine patrol when they recognized Knight on a bicycle, Schneider said. Denu was the driver.
The officers passed Knight and then circled back to figure out where he had gone.
During that time, Schneider said the two officers discussed whether it was indeed Knight. They also asked dispatch to run Knight’s name to check on warrant status.
About two weeks prior to the shooting, Denu saw video regarding an Aug. 8 car theft in Menasha, Schneider said. Denu recognized the suspect as Knight.
“He and the other officers were aware that law enforcement agencies were looking to speak to Mr. Knight as well as their belief, and they were correct, that they had warrants out for him,” Schneider said.
When the officers circled back to Knight, both the squad car and the bicycle were traveling the same direction.
While the officers waited at a stop sign for another vehicle, Knight crossed the street and looked back at the officers. Without activating lights or sirens, the officers continued to approach Knight, Schneider said.
The officers stopped in the roadway and called out to Knight to get him to stop.
Schneider said both officers thought they heard Knight say something to the effect of, “I’m not going back” or “I’m not going in.”
“Immediately as officer Denu stopped, Mr. Knight turned to the direction where officers were, withdrew his hand from his waistband and pointed an item at them, which to them looked to be a firearm,” Schneider said. “Pointed it at officer Denu as he was still seated in the squad car. Officers with no time to react or respond began firing at Mr. Knight.”
Erickson had exited the vehicle, while Denu remained in the squad car when he was firing rounds at Knight, Schneider said. She added that in-car video shows that Denu did not have time to put the vehicle in park prior to the shooting.
“Fearing that their lives were in danger they took the actions that they were trained to take and that legally they were allowed to do when the circumstances that Mr. Knight had made choices within 15-20 feet of them when he pulled out that firearm and pointed it at officer Denu,” Schneider said.
In approximately six seconds, 17 rounds were fired, Schneider said.
She added that Knight fell to the ground when one of the bullets struck him in the head. The coroner said that was the fatal shot. The autopsy also revealed a gunshot to his left lung that was also determined to be fatal.
In total six rounds struck Knight in his left shoulder, left lower back, left buttocks and left thigh.
Schneider said the officers immediately went to Knight, who had no pulse.
They also located the gun on the ground by Knight, which appeared to be a real handgun, Schneider said.
“The toy tip that oftentimes comes with these toy guns was broken off,” Schneider said.
She said the squad car video shows the gun in Knight’s hand until he falls.
Knight had an active warrant for his arrest at the time of the shooting.
Schneider also talked about Knight’s activities leading up to the day of the shooting. She said Knight was at a close friend’s house that morning and left the house on her son’s bicycle.
“She was unaware he had taken the gun, the toy gun the son had,” Schneider said.
The close friend also told investigators that Knight had talked about wanting to end his life, that he had no intention of going back to prison. A second party also confirmed this with investigators.
Two weeks prior to the shooting, Schneider said Knight stole a vehicle in Menasha and drove it to Ashland and Bayfield counties, as well as Minnesota. Video of that was shared in an alert at the time. That was the video Denu had seen.
Investigators also learned that Knight was involved in a domestic incident on Monday, Aug. 15 in the Menasha area. The next day he spent time at St. Elizabeth Hospital. He went there voluntarily because he was upset and angry, Schneider said. He had superficial marks on his arm.
She said Knight left the hospital on Wednesday, Aug. 17, against medical advice and traveled to New London with a friend.
Toxicology results are still pending.
“This was a significant and tragic event on many levels,” Schneider said.
New London Police Chief Jeff Schueter said Denu and Erickson are still on administrative leave. He said the New London Police Department will also conduct its own internal investigation. It will review the DCI investigation, which he said he had not seen yet.
Schlueter added that he had not discussed the case with any of his officers yet. He said he hopes to conclude the investigation next week.
“We are getting them (Denu and Erickson) some counseling at this time, along with their families,” Schlueter said.
He said counselors are also available to officers in the department.