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Officers Were Trapped In Cop-Killer's Basement During Shooting

Officers Were Trapped In Cop-Killer's Basement During Shooting

FDL Reporter via YellowBrix

March 23, 2011

FOND DU LAC, WI – In the face of tragic circumstances, law enforcement heroes made their mark Sunday morning on Fond du Lac’s west side.

“Uniforms had no color Sunday,” said Fond du Lac County Sheriff Mick Fink, referring to the teamwork that took place during a six-hour standoff with James. M. Cruckson, 30, at 24 S. Lincoln Ave.

Cruckson fired on officers at 6:30 a.m. from a room inside his home. He was found dead in the home shortly before noon.

Capt. Jon Gutzmann, Officer Ryan Williams and Officer Becky Kollmann arrived at the scene to investigate an alleged sexual assault involving Cruckson and his girlfriend. Fond du Lac Police Capt. Steve Klein said there were concerns about a 6-year-old girl reported to be in the home. The girl was later located at a nearby residence.

Williams was shot while he was inside Cruckson’s home with a high-powered rifle, said Klein.

Fond du Lac Police Department Officer Zach Schultz, who was injured from a fall inside the home, was able to pull Williams outside where Fond du Lac Police Lt. Jason Laridaen was able to pull him away from the house.

Kollmann, Gutzmann and Schultz were pinned down inside the home with Cruckson’s sister as bullets began to fly, said Klein.

Williams was shot once in the left shoulder and once in the right chest, just below the collarbone, according to Dr. Raymond Georgen, medical director of trauma at Theda Clark Medical Center in Neenah.

Officer Craig Birkholz responded to the scene after he heard the report of shots fired.

Birkholz was struck in his upper chest in an area not covered by a bulletproof vest and died at the scene.

Klein and David Spakowicz of the Department of Criminal Investigation declined to go into detail about the shootings or preliminary findings.

“Unfortunately, while he (Birkholz) was responding to assist his fellow officers he was struck with a fatal round,” Klein said. “I can’t tell you how difficult that is for fellow officers on the scene.”

At 6:40 a.m., Capt. Dean Will of the Sheriff’s Department contacted Sheriff Fink about the shooting and the request for the SWAT team’s armored vehicle.

Fink arrived at Lincoln Avenue as gunfire erupted again. He met with Fond du Lac Police Chief Tony Barthuly and Deputy Chief Kevin Lemke. Fink then took over as tactical leader of SWAT team members at the scene as Barthuly dealt with families of the wounded officers.

Laridaen told Fink that Williams was removed from the scene.

“Our first priority was getting Birkholz to the ambulance,” Fink said. “… We had eyes on Birkholz from the time I was there.”

Four deputies retrieved Birkholz.

“I watched Birkholz very closely for any movement from the time I got there to the time we could get close enough to get him,” Fink said.

Lt. Aaron Goldstein was with Birkholz in the ambulance.

Officers’ attention then turned to getting Cruckson’s sister and the police officers out of the home.

“Gutzmann and Kollmann were able to take up tactical positions within the residence,” said Klein, who added the two had handguns and at least one long gun. “At that point, with the amount of gunfire, they weren’t able to safely exit the residence.”

He said police believe Cruckson knew the officers were in the residence.

“Gutzmann did a good job keeping themselves in a safe tactical position and keeping him (Cruckson) away from them,” Klein added.

Sheriff’s SWAT team members drove an armored vehicle close to the home for the dramatic rescue. As they drove away, Gutzmann fire toward the house.

Fink asked Gutzmann to stay at the scene since he was familiar with the layout of the inside of the house.

“He wanted to stay,” Fink recalled. “I would stand and fight with Jon Gutzmann any day.”

Klein added, “Being a former SWAT commander himself, Gutzmann’s tactics are very sound. He was a good resource for the Sheriff’s Department.”

After launching tear gas into the home, Gutzmann accompanied Sheriff’s Department SWAT team members into the home where they found Cruckson dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound, said Fink.


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  • Pug_max600_max50

    DALLASCRANE

    over 3 years ago

    19382 Comments

    RIP Prayers to the family and friends. May God grant your Peace in this difficult time.

  • Andrea_and_i_max50

    corylovesandrea

    over 3 years ago

    6222 Comments

    Agreed. Well put DetBruin. Prayers contine to go out to family, friends and colleagues during this time.

  • Dscf2012_max50

    rod3245

    over 3 years ago

    714 Comments

    Very well put DetBruin.

  • Impd_max50

    Nick_Durr

    over 3 years ago

    278 Comments

    RIP

  • Lapd_detective_badge_max50

    DetBruin

    over 3 years ago

    868 Comments

    Unless you have been in a shooting you don't know how things can go bad, and go bad VERY fast. Generally press releases after a shooting are very general and do not give all the details, for many reasons. Lets not get into the Monday morning QB stuff. I am sure that there are training issues to be learned, but for now All my preyers go out ot Officer Birkholz and his family.

  • Dolphins_fantasy_max50

    dolphinblue

    over 3 years ago

    42984 Comments

    R.I.P.

  • Photo_user_blank_big

    npd783

    over 3 years ago

    1156 Comments

    Rest In Peace Brother

  • Dusty_vp_max50

    JTaylor76

    over 3 years ago

    110 Comments

    Rest in Piece Officer Birkholz. Thankyou for your service.

  • Andrea_and_i_max50

    corylovesandrea

    over 3 years ago

    6222 Comments

    Agree with you rod3245. Many of the homes that you find can be almost maze-like at times, and close-quarters for sure. Mainly small due to attempting to heat in the winter time in the past. It is always a danger. Plus it should just be a poignant reminder that there is never a "routine call."

  • Dscf2012_max50

    rod3245

    over 3 years ago

    714 Comments

    Since I was not there, I will not second guess the officers actions. I know those homes in that area and like many they are old, very close quarters and dark with limited movement ability. I can easilly see how shit can hit the fan with no notice.

  • 1979_max50

    Robocop33

    over 3 years ago

    14642 Comments

    Amy, it happens sometimes when it suddenly hits the fan. The Lt was able to find a tactical position to fall back to that was safe even though it was not completely away from the danger zone. I am sure that they will go over everything that occurred and see what they did right, what they did wrong, and what could have and could not have been expected. Until then we cannot Monday Morning QB what happened there, nor should we. We never look to criticize or condemn Officers, especially when an Officer has been killed or even wounded. We try to recreate everything and examine every move to see what could have been done better and try and learn from it.

  • 041105-o-9999g-012_max50

    Rscheiterle

    over 3 years ago

    1822 Comments

    Good team work by all involved. RIP Officer Birkholz and prayer that all others make a speedy and full recovery.

  • Photo_user_blank_big

    Anonymous

    over 3 years ago

    This is very sad news, however this could have all been prevented if the officers had given themselves a way out. I would be curious to know how they got into the position when they were shot at and how the suspect was able to get a gun and start firing.

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