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Updated: Stray rock, not protesters, damaged Kapanke's windshield; with police report

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State Sen. Dan Kapanke, R-La Crosse, speaks March 26 at the newly opened La Crosse County Republican Party Building. (Rory O'Driscoll/La Crosse Tribune)

A police report has determined the damage to Sen. Dan Kapanke's windshield the day he voted in favor of the controversial collective bargaining bill was caused by a stray rock, not vandalism.

Kapanke, R-La Crosse, informed Capitol Police his windshield was smashed March 9, the same day top Republican lawmakers surprised Democrats and the public by hastily calling a joint conference committee meeting to vote on a stripped down version of Gov. Scott Walker's budget repair bill.

Later that night, all the Republican senators, except Sen. Dale Schultz, R-Richland Center, approved the bill.

Kapanke later told a La Crosse television station that he couldn't get to his car that night "because it was surrounded by protesters."

According to a March 22 report filed by an officer with the Capitol Police, however, Kapanke first noticed the crack in his windshield after an officer drove his car from a parking garage to the Capitol after the vote on the bill.

Fearing for their safety, the Republican senators were escorted by police through crowds of protesters inside and outside the Capitol that night.

After inspecting the vehicle March 16, the officer told Kapanke the "chip and the crack" looked like a stone chip and "not someone hitting the windshield," according to the police report.

The report indicates two officers with the State Highway Patrol, including an accident reconstruction specialist, also examined Kapanke's windshield.

They determined "the angle of the impact of the object hitting the windshield is consistent with a stone being picked up from another vehicle tire and launched into the air," causing the crack.

On March 16, another officer with the Capitol Police reviewed video from a parking garage camera located near Kapanke's car. The officer reported no one was seen near Kapanke's car or damaging the windshield March 9.

According to a statement from a staffer in Kapanke's office, lawmakers were asked to report anything out of the ordinary to the Senate Chief Clerk or the Capitol Police, which is what he did. The staffer stressed the climate at the Capitol was tense at that time.

Based on the alleged damage to his vehicle, nails found in the driveway of his home and death threats received via email, Kapanke canceled public appearances in his district in mid-March.

Katherine R. Windels, 26, of Cross Plains now faces two felony bomb scare counts along with two misdemeanor counts of sending a computer message threatening injury or harm for sending 15 Republican senators, including Kapanke, threatening emails.

Kapanke is one of 16 lawmakers - eight Republicans and eight Democrats - facing recall efforts from voters in their districts.

Kapanke defended his March 9 vote in favor of restricting collective bargaining in an interview with the La Crosse Tribune Friday, saying he would vote the same way again because of the $3.6 billion deficit facing the state.

"This certainly trumps any one person's ambitions or political career," Kapanke told the newspaper. "We are elected to put our fiscal house in order... You've got to do what's best in your heart - what you feel is best for the future of the state."



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