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Racine fallen officer leaves mark on community

Posted at 1:24 PM, Jun 18, 2019
and last updated 2019-06-18 14:24:34-04

Racine, WI - The Racine Police Department confirmed Officer John Hetland was killed during an armed robbery at a bar.

On Tuesday morning, an eerily quiet and somber procession at Teezers Tavern, where Officer Hetland was killed, to the Milwaukee County Medical Examiner's Office took place.

“It’d be a lot easier to get out of it and not face danger or death or put their family through a death, but they’re sticking with us and helping our community,” Michelle Hyatt said.

Officer Hetland didn’t take the easy way out. He was off-duty at Teezers Tavern near 20th and Lathrop in Racine Monday night just before 10 p.m. when a man attempted to rob the bar with a gun. Hetland jumped into action trying to stop the robbery and protect the patrons inside. The father of two was killed and the shooter ran from the scene.

Michelle Hyatt didn’t know Officer Hetland, but she’s lived in Racine all her life and is emotional after Monday's tragedy.

“I’m just sad that it’s getting so bad," she said. "I watch the news regularly, and every day there’s something."

Racine police combed through neighborhoods overnight searching for the gunman, even issuing automated calls to neighbors as early as 1:30 a.m., alerting them of the situation and asking them to turn on all exterior lights.

The last statement issued by the department confirmed no arrests had been made.

Mario Passarelli, a local restaurant owner, didn’t witness the shooting, but he was acquainted with Officer Hetland and has a message for his family.

“Be strong. My condolences. I’m still in shock, so I guess I don’t know what to say,” Passarelli said.