Skip to main content
A1 A1
Crime-and-courts
breaking alert top story
La Crosse County man charged in Capitol riot

A La Crosse County man has been added to the list of people accused of illegally entering the U.S. Capitol building during a Jan. 6 riot that challenged the certification of Electoral College votes.

Abram Markofski of La Crosse County and Brandon Nelson of Dane County made initial federal court appearances Monday afternoon. A criminal complaint charges both with entering/ remaining in a restricted area, disorderly and disruptive conduct in a restricted area, violent entry/disorderly conduct and demonstrating inside a capitol building.

The complaint says an anonymous tipster alerted investigators to the presence of Nelson, who was interviewed by FBI agents Jan. 18. He admitted to being inside the Capitol with Markofski. Investigators verified Markofski’s presence with an email address tied to a phone number he uses. The mobile device connected to the email was present in an area within the Capitol between 2:15-3:41 p.m.

Markofski and Nelson traveled together to Washington, D.C., Jan. 5 to hear then-President Donald Trump speak the following morning. After listening to the speech, Markofski and Nelson were part of a crowd that marched to the Capitol building.

The complaint says Nelson told investigators that he and Markofski walked up the stairs of the Capitol and were guided in by police. Nelson said they were inside the Capitol for about 40 minutes.

Markofski reportedly gave investigators a different version of what Capitol police told them. He said an officer inside said, “I can’t make you guys leave. However, for your safety, you should leave.”

More than 400 people have been charged with federal crimes during the riot, which sought to overturn the count of electoral votes that confirmed Joe Biden’s victory over Trump in the 2020 presidential election.

IN PHOTOS: Trump rallies in West Salem

AP
Sheriff: Wisconsin casino shooter was fired employee

MADISON — A man who shot and killed two people and wounded a third at a northeastern Wisconsin tribal casino restaurant had been fired from the eatery and ordered by a court to leave his former supervisor alone, according to court records.

Bruce Pofahl, 62, walked into the Duck Creek Kitchen and Bar in Green Bay on Saturday and shot Ian Simpson, 32, and Jacob Bartel, 35, at a wait station at close range with a 9 mm handgun as dozens of patrons looked on, Brown County Sheriff Todd Delain said Monday during a news conference in Green Bay.

Pandemonium erupted inside the complex, the sheriff said. As people were yelling and screaming, Pofahl went outside and shot another restaurant employee, 28-year-old Daniel Mulligan, the sheriff said. A team of Green Bay police officers opened fire on Pofahl moments later, killing him.

Mulligan was in serious but stable condition at a Milwaukee hospital on Monday, Delain said. The sheriff defended the officers’ decision to fire on Pofahl, saying “certainly this individual was a threat.”

The restaurant is part of an Oneida Nation hotel, casino and conference center complex on the tribe’s reservation just west of the city of Green Bay. The complex employs 150 to 200 people.

Pofahl’s supervisor at the restaurant, Elizabeth Walker, took out a restraining order against him in March, online court records show.

She wrote in her petition that Pofhal had recently been fired for “a few things, including harassment,” and had been sending her texts and emails threatening her and her family for several weeks. One message read “times (sic) up” and another warned he would ruin her sister’s wedding, Walker wrote. He also sent her photos of her home, she wrote.

Pofahl declined to attend a hearing on the order, saying in a note to the court that he suffered from high blood pressure and diabetes and was afraid he’d catch COVID-19 in the courtroom. A court commissioner granted the restraining order but did not prohibit Pofahl from possessing a firearm.

It’s unclear if Walker was Pofahl’s target on Saturday night. Authorities said Pofahl was looking for a specific person when he arrived at the restaurant but that the person wasn’t there. They didn’t name that person.

Delain said again Monday that the attack was “targeted,” but he declined to elaborate beyond saying that investigators were looking into Pofahl’s relationships with former co-workers.

Walker wrote in her restraining order petition that the Oneida were aware of Pofahl’s threats. The tribe’s vice chairman, Brandon Stevens, declined to discuss what he called “personnel matters” during the news conference, saying investigators were still gathering information.

Online court records didn’t list any other civil or criminal cases against Pofahl.

Oneida Chairman Tehassi Hill told WLUK-TV on Sunday that he was in “disbelief” and called the shooting “scary.” He said the tribe prohibits firearms on its properties but that “(mass shootings are) kind of a regular thing in this country.”

Hill said he feels security is tight at the casino, but that the tribe may have to consider tougher protocols for the complex depending on investigators’ findings. Stevens noted Monday that the complex has multiple entrances and exits.

The Oneida are one of 11 tribes that operate casinos in Wisconsin under agreements with the state called compacts. Essentially, the tribes pledge a percentage of their gaming revenue to the state in exchange for the exclusive right to offer casino gambling.

Tribal gaming in Wisconsin generated nearly $1.3 billion in gross revenue in the 2018-2019 fiscal year but suffered deep losses in 2020 due to COVID-19 pandemic lockdowns.


Local
featured
WATCH NOW: Teacher, cook, teaching assistant win 'Shining Star' awards in La Crosse schools
  • Updated

A teacher who shows how much “she adores her kids,” a cook who “keeps not only bellies full but hearts full, too,” and a teacher assistant who works with “a special kind of grace” have been honored with special grants from the La Crosse Public Education Foundation (LPEF).

Honored in surprise visits on Monday were:

  • Anna Jordan, a teacher at SOTA I (School of Technology & Arts I), a public charter elementary school serving kindergarten through Grade 5 and based at Hamilton School.
  • Roxanne Hicke, a school nutrition employee at Lincoln Middle/SOTA II/Coulee Montessori.
  • Heath Bornheimer, a teacher assistant at Northside Elementary/Coulee Montessori.

These employees were chosen from among more than 130 staff members who were nominated by colleagues, parents, students and community members for recognition as a “Shining Star” among the staff of the School District of La Crosse.

Funding for the grants – ranging from $150 to $250 each – comes through the generosity of Drs. Tom and Jean Heyt Thompson, who created an LPEF endowment fund to provide permanent support for recognition programs for teachers and staff in La Crosse public schools.

Tom is vice president of the LPEF Board and is a former member of the Board of Education, having been deeply involved in schools for more than 30 years. He and Jean were partners in the Thompson Animal Medical Center.

The Shining Star recognition is part of a larger celebration this week, funded primarily through grant support from the La Crosse Community Foundation’s Carol Taebel “Thank a Teacher” Fund.

The Taebel Fund grant will support delivery of fresh fruit, donuts and muffins to more than 1,000 employees throughout the District on Tuesday morning as part of the LPEF Thank a Teacher Day, which has been held annually since 2015.

In addition, the Taebel Fund grant is providing recognition for 10 other “Shining Star” employees who were selected at random from among 130-plus nominees. Each receives $50 in gift certificates to downtown La Crosse businesses.

Read all of the “Shining Star” nominations online at – bit.ly/SDLstars2021

LPEF’s mission is to enhance learning opportunities for students and to promote community support for public education. For more information, email Executive Director David Stoeffler at david@lacrosseeducationfoundation.org.

IN PHOTOS: Local community members wear face masks

Local
featured
Endangered buildings
Endangered buildings: An iconic row of American Foursquares

The city’s Heritage Preservation Commission (HPC) recently released a list of buildings identified as La Crosse’s Most Endangered Historic Places in 2021.

This new annual initiative intends to raise awareness and encourage the preservation of structures potentially at risk of irreparable damage or demolition due to neglect, natural disaster or redevelopment.

The seventh, eighth and ninth properties on this year’s list of 10 are a row of three American Foursquares with Prairie-style detailing on the 1200 block of Vine Street.

These structures, built between 1917 and 1919, are some of the last remaining original residences in a neighborhood now dominated by large apartment complexes.

In the early 20th century, Foursquares were appealing because of how well they maximized the space of small city lots. They were also some of the first affordable, middle-class homes to include modern amenities once limited to elites. Evidence of their popularity is seen through the numerous kit models offered by suppliers such as Sears, Montgomery Ward, Aladdin, and the like.

These three homes, however, appear to be custom-built, as no matching plans could be found in the prevailing mail-order catalogs of the time. La Crosse has a finite number of Foursquares, so preserving this cluster of fine examples would benefit the community.

The property in the middle of the grouping – 1222 Vine St. – first belonged to Edward and Edna Weimar. They took up residence here a little over three years after their wedding. They were both children of long-time La Crosse residents descended from German immigrants. Edward was particularly well-known for being active in local music ensembles. Before living in this home, the couple had resided with their parents.

Though it isn’t readily apparent who built these three Foursquares, Edna’s father may have played a role given his city directory listing: “Rochelt, Frank J., carpenter, contractor and builder. Contracts taken for all kinds of buildings and executed under his personal supervision by the best of skilled labor.”

Edward had just started a job at the National Bank of La Crosse shortly before moving into this house around March 1918. Prior to that, he was employed as a stenographer, bookkeeper and clerk for the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad. Previous to marriage, Edna had been a domestic servant for lumber-baron Frank Hixon and lived in his 1431 King St. mansion for several years.

After nine short months in the home, Edward became tragically ill and died on Christmas Day at only age 28. He passed during the height of the 1918 pandemic, when many younger individuals were sadly stricken with Spanish-Flu-induced pneumonia. Edna, herself, was so sick that she wasn’t even told of her husband’s death right away.

Edna and their 3-year-old son, Raymond, continued to reside in the home, taking on borders to make ends meet. These included her sister Hattie Rochelt, a Standard Oil Co. clerk, Hattie Rasmussen, a Batavian National Bank bookkeeper, and Nina Hendrickson, an Inter-State Oil Co. stenographer.

In May 1919, Edna’s parents, Frank and Ida Rochelt, bought the house next door, presumably to help support their recently widowed daughter. At the time, they would have been in their late-50s.

The following year, Edna got remarried to Edward’s younger brother, Arthur Weimar. Arthur had been working for Edna’s father as a carpenter since her 1914 marriage to Edward. After the sudden death of his father-in-law in 1928, Arthur gained employment with the U.S. Postal Service and worked as a mail carrier for over 24 years before retiring around 1961.

The 1922 and 1924 city directories both list two sets of students staying with Edna and Arthur, whose home was only four blocks from La Crosse State Normal School — known today as UW-La Crosse. At that time, the campus consisted of merely two buildings. Prior to construction of the first official dormitory in 1951, students were generally required to either live with family or have the school administration place them in pre-approved host residences. In addition to paying rent, homeowners also sometimes expected students to help with cleaning, cooking, child care, and other chores.

The 1922 university catalog boasts: “arrangements are made for the accommodation of students in some of the best homes in the vicinity of the Normal School. This is a great advantage to the students, and is a source of satisfaction to their parents as well.”

The Weimars still resided in the house when Edna passed away in 1969. Arthur moved to a smaller home on Coulee Drive the year after she died. He passed in 1975 at the age of 81.

The two other homes in this row of American-Foursquares only had short-term residents early on. The westernmost house in the group – 1218 Vine – was most likely the first of the three built. During its initial years, it was occupied by Emma and Arthur Maltman. They were in their late-20s, had recently moved from Illinois and then left La Crosse shortly thereafter. While living here, Arthur Maltman worked as a stock clerk at the La Crosse Tractor Co.

The home on the eastern side of the grouping – 231 13th N. (previously, 1226 Vine) – was most likely the last of the three built. Henry Putman, his wife Annette and 84-year-old mother-in-law Georgia Stiles moved into this house around 1919. The 53-year-old had just relocated from Minneapolis to be the general sales manager for the La Crosse Rubber Mills. Putman’s job must have paid well because he bought an even more impressive home, worth triple the value, just three blocks to the south of this one a few years later.

Fortunately, the Weimar and Maltman houses retain several of their essential architectural elements, such as original wooden siding, siding shingles, front doors, soffits and leaded-glass windows. The Maltman house especially stands out because it features a distinctive bracketed gable over its front entrance, and the Weimar house has a noteworthy two-story stairwell bay that gracefully terminates just before its roofline.

Hallmarks of the Putman house include a less common layout and bracketed entrance hood. Regrettably, it has experienced more unfortunate renovation compared to the other two, and many of its architectural features have been lost, altered or covered up, such as its wood siding, front ribbon windows and side porch. It would greatly benefit from more historically appropriate siding that restores the horizontal color and texture variant on the top third of the home.

Wisconsin Historical Society photos from the 1980s show the three houses in good condition. Sometime around the early 2000s is when they were all converted to college rentals, and they have deteriorated significantly since then. Over time, the other historic homes surrounding them have been torn down to build thriftily-constructed, large-scale student housing, putting them at even greater risk of being demolished for the same purpose.

Restoring these homes would reinstate some of the neighborhood’s original character, as well as highlight and preserve an important piece of social history. Just because they are currently relegated to college housing doesn’t mean they can’t be preserved. Even though rental upkeep might be more challenging due to tenant issues, some of their worst deterioration, like exterior rot, are in no way the fault of student occupants.

The Tribune has been publishing articles on Tuesdays about the buildings on HPC’s list of La Crosse’s 10 Most Endangered Historic Places of 2021. The series concludes next week. Basic information about each property can also be found on the city’s heritage preservation website. Anyone seeking more information regarding this project or wanting to nominate endangered historic properties for future lists can contact Tim Acklin in the City Planning Department.

From Tribune files: Life in the La Crosse area in the 1960s

Back