Bartenders sue Sheboygan police over summer bar shooting

Posted at 6:03 PM, Jan 16, 2017
and last updated 2017-01-16 22:10:06-05

There is new legal trouble for the City of Sheboygan and its police department.

Over the summer, officers were trying to shoot an armed robber at the Union Avenue Tap bar. Instead, one of the officers ended up shooting a bartender.

Now, that bartender and his co-worker want the city to pay for medical expenses and damages.

On July 17, Sheboygan police received a 911 call about an armed robber inside the bar.

Officers Brandon Kehoe and Anthony Hamilton arrived on scene to investigate. As they approached the side door, the gunman, later identified as Kevin Higgins, was leaving.

As Higgins opened the side door, he raised his rifle and Officers Kehoe and Hamilton fired multiple shots.

One of those rounds accidentally struck bartender Kurt Klessig in the arm.

Klessig and Mary Heitzmann, the other bartender on duty that night, are suing the City, the Sheboygan Police Department, and the two officers for compensation.

According to the civil lawsuit filed this month, Klessig suffered permanent physical and mental injuries. The lawsuit also says Klessig now has to deal with a permanent disability.

Meanwhile, Heitzmann allegedly suffered from severe permanent mental injuries.

While former District Attorney Joe DeCecco found no wrongdoing on behalf of the two officers, the lawsuit alleges otherwise.

Court documents claim Officers Hamilton and Kehoe knew or should have known that firing their guns at the armed robber would have put Heitzmann's and Klessig's lives on the line.

"Upon information and belief, Officers Hamilton and Kehoe knew that they could have called for backup and waited, or taken cover and waited until the armed masked robber exited the Union Avenue Tap," court documents say.

Klessig and Heitzmann did not respond to our request for comment related to the lawsuit.

Both are seeking unspecified damages related to negligence, medical costs, and pain and suffering. Both also seek reimbursement for attorney's fees.

A voicemail left for Klessig and Heitzmann's attorney was not returned Monday.

"I believe what happened to Kurt Klessig and Mary Heitzmann is tragic," Sheboygan Police Chief Christopher Domagalski said in a statement to TODAY'S TMJ4. "I recognize and respect their right to litigate the matter, but I believe the allegations in the complaint are baseless and not supported by the facts."

City Attorney Chuck Adams had "no comment" on the lawsuit itself, but did say via email that the city is planning to hire an outside legal firm to assist with this matter. 

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