The Monroe County District Attorney has determined four Tomah police officers acted appropriately last month when they killed a man who shot at them during a traffic stop. District Attorney Dan Cary said Tuesday the officers acted with “tremendous courage in the face of life-threatening gunfire” April 22 when they fatally shot 28-year-old Seth M. McCloskey of Ohio.
On administrative leave since the shooting, the officers have been cleared to return to work as early as Thursday.
McCloskey was a suspect in an earlier drive-by shooting in Tomah in which no one was hurt. Police have said he may be linked to as many as 10 other seemingly random drive-by shootings across Wisconsin and Illinois.
Authorities held a press conference Tuesday where they released squad car video footage of the Tomah shooting that shows McCloskey calmly exit his truck, point a handgun directly at police and open fire moments after being pulled over on Saratoga Street.
The video then shows McCloskey trying to climb back into his truck, which was rolling because he had not put it in park, as police shoot back. The slow-moving pickup strikes a nearby utility pole, and McCloskey’s hat flies into the air in a hail of gunfire. His head falls limp, and the truck’s accelerator echoes through the neighborhood.
Tomah Police Chief Wes Revels said McCloskey’s autopsy shows he died from police gunfire.
“Seth McCloskey intended to take the lives of police officers,” Revels said. “I believe that because of the officers’ actions at the location of the traffic stop, they saved the life of a police officer somewhere at sometime.”
Officials found extra ammunition in McCloskey’s truck. The pickup had been stolen in Wyoming, and police do not know why he was in Tomah or how long he was there.
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“He had been traveling through multiple states,” said Jed Sperry, a Wisconsin Department of Justice special agent in charge of the Division of Criminal Investigation. “From what we’ve been able to find, there is no local ties.”
Officers tracked down McCloskey after an investigation into the drive-by shooting led them to two local auto repair shops and a bar. Police said a patron there warned McCloskey that officers were looking for him.
The Justice Department is still analyzing autopsy results and investigating whether McCloskey had been drinking before the shooting.
Investigators determined McCloskey fired two shots at Officer Josh Kenworthy, two shots at Sgt. Scott Holum and one more at Kenworthy, who was wounded in the foot.
Kenworthy said Tuesday he didn’t realize his left foot was shot until after the firing stopped. When he looked down, he could see the exit hole in his boot. The bullet went through the big toe, and he lost the tip of his third toe.
His doctors predict he could return to work in 12 weeks.
“I’m getting kind of stir crazy,” he said. “I’m not used to hanging around my house that long. I can’t wait to come back to work and go back to moving around without crutches.”
Meanwhile, police will continue to investigate whether McCloskey was involved in a series of recent similar shootings reported in Tomah, Janesville, Albion Township in Dane County and in communities near Rockford, Ill.
But Tuesday in Tomah one thing was clear, Sperry said. “This person was set on doing this. He was an evil person. ... The officers were heroes here.”