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No criminal charges for State Patrol troopers after officer-involved death in Fort Atkinson

No criminal charges for State Patrol troopers after officer-involved death in Fort Atkinson

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State Patrol squad car, generic file photo (copy)

The State Patrol troopers who were placed on leave after an officer-involved death in Fort Atkinson in December will not face any criminal charges, the Jefferson County District Attorney's Office said Tuesday. 

"I believe that progressive, 21st century police departments should have body-worn cameras," Chief Shon Barnes tells our podcasters just a few weeks into his new job as Madison's top cop. Madison is one of the few cities of its size without cameras on patrol officers and one of only a third of police agencies in Wisconsin that haven't embraced the technology. Uniform cameras provide transparency and accountability following controversial police encounters, which helps builds public trust. Yet Barnes stresses that whether to equip his officers with the devices is the community's decision, not his. "It's important to note that body-worn cameras have evolved tremendously from cameras that automatically turn on when your blue lights turn on, automatically turn on when your gun is unholstered, and there are cameras now that are attached to a fit bit," he says. "So you wear the fit bit so that the program knows what your resting and normal heart rate is, and if your heart rate is elevated, it turns your body-worn camera on." Milfred and Hands praise Barnes for his emphasis on technology, including better use of data. Barnes also talks about waiters and waitresses making good police recruits, and his desire to expand recruitment efforts into churches and other places to help diversify the force.

Jefferson County District Attorney Monica J. Hall said the troopers' actions after an attempted traffic stop and chase on Dec. 9 were "lawful and reasonable acts of defense of self and others." 

The officer-involved death of Joseph R. Crawford-Lamal was investigated by the state Department of Justice's Division of Criminal Investigation. State troopers attempted to stop Lamal, the driver of a car with one passenger, on Highway 26 between Watertown and Johnson Creek at around 12:30 p.m. on Dec. 9. Lamal stopped the car for a short time while the passenger got out and fled, and then he fled in the car. 

Troopers pursued Lamal on Highway 26 southbound, and road spikes were eventually deployed. Lamal then exited Highway 26 at Highway 12 and stopped at the median. Lamal tried to carjack a civilian while in possession of a handgun, but three state troopers ultimately shot at and hit Lamal. 

Life-saving measures were performed but were unsuccessful as Lamal died at the scene. 

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