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No Charges Against Officers in Superior Shooting

Updated: December 04, 2018 10:42 PM

A prosecutor has found that three Superior police officers' use of force in an Oct. 5 shooting was legally justified and concluded that there is no basis for charges against the officers. The man who was shot now faces several charges.

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Officers George Gothner, Michael Kendall, and Christopher Woolery were involved in the incident in which 19-year-old Joshua Farmer was shot by officers.  Farmer had been suspected in an earlier shoplifting at a store on Belknap Street.

Douglas County District Attorney Mark Fruehauf asked his Barron County counterpart, Brian Wright, to review the case.  Wright read reports prepared by the Wisconsin Division of Criminal Investigation, watched body camera and dash camera footage, and visited the scene of the shooting in Superior's Central Park neighborhood.

Read the Final Report 

According to Wright's report, Woolery was first on the scene and was concerned about the way Farmer had his hand in his left pocket and "the way in which Mr. Farmer stared at him."  After other officers arrived and Farmer declined multiple requests to take his hand out of his pocket, Woolery asked Farmer if he had a gun, and Farmer allegedly said, "yes."

The report says Farmer told the officers he was going to shoot them or they were going to shoot him, and that Farmer said he was not going back to jail.  Farmer then allegedly said "sorry to ruin your day guys," turned toward Woolery, and pulled a metal object out of his pocket.

All three officers believed it was a gun and fired their duty weapons.  According to the report, Farmer remained on his feet and moved toward the officers, at which point Kendall fired his duty weapon a second time, and Farmer fell to the ground.  Then, Farmer allegedly rose to a sitting position and "appeared to the officers like he was going to shoot."  The officers then fired their duty weapons again, and Farmer fell flat to the ground.

Officers then determined that Farmer did not have a gun and began lifesaving measures.  The object that Farmer pulled out of his pocket turned out to be an eight-inch wrench.

The report says Woolery fired three rounds, Kendall fired 13 rounds, and Gothner fired 15 rounds.  Farmer had gunshot wounds to his face, left chest, right elbow, right thigh, left calf, and both feet.

DCI investigators later obtained data from Farmer's cell phone showing that he had made numerous searches on how to commit suicide, including several searches on the day of the shooting.  According to court documents, Farmer told hospital staff that the incident was a planned suicide.

Wright says the officers had no reasonable opportunity to use other alternatives.  He said there was no way to know that Farmer did not actually have a gun.

The officers had been placed on leave, which is standard procedure, following the shooting but were returned to duty in mid-November after Police Chief Nicholas Alexander reviewed the DCI report.

Farmer is now being charged with three counts of threats to law enforcement officers, one count of obstructing an officer, and one count of retail theft.

Copyright 2018 WDIO-TV LLC, a Hubbard Broadcasting Company. All rights reserved

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