FRANKSVILLE, Wis. — A Racine County Sheriff's Office undercover investigator shot and killed a suspect accused of gunning down a 22-year-old victim at gas station Tuesday morning.
The Racine County Sheriff's Office said the victim was putting gas into his vehicle just after 7:30 a.m. Tuesday when another man approached and "brutally executed" the victim.
A truck driver said she was about to pull into the Pilot Travel Center gas station just off I-94 at Highway K in Caledonia, when she saw some customers running and others speeding away in their cars. She heard a man yell “he has a gun.”
The 911 calls started coming in around 7:30 a.m.
“A 32-year-old white male from Hartland approached a 22-year-old white male from Elkhorn, who was simply putting gas in his car, and viciously executed him,” said Racine County Sheriff Christopher Schmaling at a press briefing Tuesday afternoon. “I saw the video, and it is horrific.”
After the suspect killed the 22 year old, investigators say he shot at another person driving in the parking lot of the Pilot Travel Center. Luckily, that person was not hit. The suspect then took off, heading eastbound on Highway K. Sheriff Schmaling says the suspect made it about three miles, before going on another shooting spree at the Mobil gas station located at the corner of Highways H and K.
“The suspect had no idea, but there was an undercover investigator with 21 years of experience in the Racine Sheriff’s Office who was there, just beginning his shift and putting gas into his unmarked squad car,” Sheriff Schmaling said. “The suspect approached that investigator and began to shoot at him at a close distance. The investigator and suspect both exchanged gunfire. “
Both were hit by bullets. The suspect died from his injuries. The undercover officer was rushed to Ascension Racine, and will survive. Sheriff Schmaling says he spoke to that officer hours after the shooting, and he was alert and conscious.
That officer is credited with saving lives.
The investigator is now in the hospital recovering from multiple gunshot wounds, which fractured several bones in the area of his pelvis, the sheriff's office said Wednesday. The investigator’s injuries are non-life threatening.
Authorities also identified the suspect as John R. McCarthy, 32.
“This incident was kept from being even more tragic by the heroic actions of the officer,” said Village of Caledonia Police Chief Chris Botsch. “What happened here today in Caledonia was horrific.”
A big question that remains, is why? Police have not yet revealed the motive behind the shooting. They also haven’t identified the 32-year-old suspect from Hartland who died, or the 22-year-old man from Elkhorn who was shot and killed at the Pilot Travel Center. A local state senator called it a carjacking in a news release.
People who live and work in this area are still in disbelief. A man told TMJ4 News that his family has lived in Caledonia for six generations and this community has never seen or experienced anything like this.
Because this incident involved an officer-involved shooting, an outside agency must be brought into do the investigation. In this case, it’s the Department of Criminal Investigation leading the review.
Jeremy Werner was having breakfast at a restaurant across the street from the second scene when he saw the chaos unfold.
“We saw one officer show up and thought it was a little weird. Saw another officer show up and both of them jumped out of the car with weapons drawn,” said Werner. That’s when he took out his cell phone and started recording the scene and posting it to his Facebook page.
Werner, who grew up in the area, said it was frightening to see. “I’ve lived in Franksville my whole life, you never want to see someone laying on the ground or somebody being loaded into an ambulance that you think has been shot or stabbed, where it’s a place that you know somebody," Werner said.
So far in 2021, this is the tenth officer-involved shooting in Wisconsin. Five of them resulted in fatalities. This time in 2020, there were 11 officer-involved shootings in Wisconsin. All 11 of them were fatal. In 2019, there were 15 total officer-involved shootings in Wisconsin, eight of which were fatal.
Racine County Executive, Jonathan Delagrave, issued a statement Tuesday afternoon:
"We are reminded that the men and women of the Racine County Sheriff’s Office risk their lives each time they put that uniform on. Our Racine County employees are like a family and when one hurts, we all hurt. Our thoughts are with the Investigator as he recovers.
Sadly, there was a loss of life during today’s incident and my deepest condolences go out to the family, friends and loved ones of the victim. This was a senseless act of violence that tragically took the life of an innocent person. I cannot imagine what his family is going through but we stand with them through this difficult time."