Madison police have named the officer who fatally shot a man they say was aggressively advancing with a pitchfork at a Near East Side home last week, but the department is still waiting to release the names of the officers involved in the forceful arrest of a young black woman last month.
The department on Wednesday said Officer Hector Rivera has been placed on paid leave while the state Division of Criminal Investigation investigates the shooting that killed Michael William Schumacher, 41, of Fitchburg.
Rivera joined the department in 2013 and was most recently assigned to the Central District. He worked as an officer for UW-Madison Police from 2008 until he was hired by the city.
It was unclear Wednesday whether Rivera has ever been the subject of disciplinary actions or has been involved in other incidents that involved use of force.
Sgt. Erik Fuhremann of the department’s Professional Standards & Internal Affairs division did not return calls Wednesday. Police Chief Mike Koval said Wednesday evening that he has the power to request employee records, but does not have access to the room where those records are kept.
But even without seeing Rivera’s employee records, Koval was skeptical there was anything of note contained in them.
“In terms of significant events involving force, I can’t recall any in the two years I’ve been chief,” he said.
UW police spokesman Marc Lovicott did not return a call seeking comment on Rivera’s tenure with his department.
The fatal shooting occurred shortly after 9 p.m. June 30, when a neighbor called 911 to report that a man, later identified as Schumacher, was chest-deep in Lake Monona and acting oddly, seemingly talking to himself and slapping the water.
Police said a witness observed Schumacher break a window of a nearby home by throwing a rock. The residents of the home also called 911 and fled the house after they heard Schumacher smashing items inside.
Rivera was first officer to respond to the home at 1303 Morrison St. and waited for backup to arrive. Schumacher approached the doorway from inside the house with a four-pronged pitchfork, Koval said, ignored multiple orders to stop and continued “aggressing” toward Rivera.
Schumacher has struggled with mental illness for much of his adult life.
State law requires that officer-involved shootings be investigated by an outside agency. DCI is conducting the investigation that will be the basis for determining whether Rivera’s use of deadly force was lawful.
Madison police are also conducting an internal review of whether Rivera followed department policies and procedures.
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Two other Madison police officers remain on paid leave as the Dane County Sheriff’s Office continues its investigation into the forceful arrest of 18-year-old Genele Laird on June 21.
Laird, who reportedly threatened an employee with a knife inside the East Towne Mall food court, was arrested by officers who used knee strikes and a punch to the abdomen and eventually a Taser after she resisted being taken into custody.
Video of Laird’s arrest went viral online, prompting accusations that the officers used excessive force.
In the immediate aftermath of the arrest, Koval declined to name the officers, citing death threats against them called in to the 911 center or posted on social media.
On Wednesday, Koval said the officers would not be named until the Sheriff’s Office concludes its review and District Attorney Ismael Ozanne decides whether the force used was excessive.
“They enjoy a different relationship with respect to the law,” Koval said, comparing the case to Rivera’s. “In the Laird incident, the district attorney said at the press conference that the officers should be treated with a higher degree of confidentiality because they are statutorily victims.”
Koval said a decision on whether the force used was excessive could come as early as next week, at which point his department would release the names of the officers.
Greg Jones, president of the Dane County NAACP, said he still wants the names of the officers released “expeditiously” but said he was sensitive to the department’s reasons for withholding their names.
“My position would be to understand that there’s a lot of information that we don’t know,” Jones said. “There had been at least some information that there could have been threats. I’m not aware of any and I don’t know if they’re true, so I want to respect that.
“My position would be that as soon as practicable all information ought to be released, including names.”
Ald. David Ahrens, 15th District, said releasing the names of the officers involved in the Laird arrest now would cause more agitation and division within the community.
“I think the issue of who did it ... becomes something that creates a lot of heat but not a lot of light,” Ahrens said, adding that a rational examination of Laird’s arrest is needed.
“If everybody who we think has done something that’s misconduct is told to be fired, resign or whatever it is, organizations just can’t function like that. We need something that’s just much more basic and systemic.”
State Journal reporter Logan Wroge contributed to this report.