The officers who fatally shot Michael L. Nguyen after he fired a gun and smashed a window last month at the Cotter Pin in the town of Leon will not be charged after a review by the Wisconsin Division of Criminal Investigation and Monroe County District Attorney released Tuesday.
Monroe County District Attorney Kevin Croninger determined the actions of Monroe County Sheriff’s Sgt. Ryan Oswald, Deputy Jason Rice and Sparta Police Officer Kyle Guralski were lawful, saying that Wisconsin laws allow all people, including police officers, to use deadly force in an act of self-defense or defense of others.
“This is an extremely unfortunate situation,” Croninger said in a statement. “While Mr. Nguyen was a veteran of the United States Marine Corps and served our country with distinction, his actions on the night of Nov. 5, 2019, left law enforcement officers with no other choice than to use deadly force against him.”
Police were called to the Cotter Pin at about 8:25 p.m. Nov. 5 after a woman reported that Nguyen had pinned her head to the ground while her child was there, saying “This is where all three of us die,” then choked her at their nearby residence, according to the DCI report.
The woman told 911 dispatchers that Nguyen threatened to kill himself after attacking her and she fled to the bar.
According to authorities, law enforcement arrived to find Nguyen outside the bar with a gun. Despite law enforcement from the Wisconsin State Patrol, Monroe County Sheriff’s Office and Sparta Police Department ordering him to drop the weapon for nearly 10 minutes, he held on to it, walking toward the front entrance and trying to get it open.
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Surveillance video shows Nguyen taking cover on a bench behind two police vehicles, between officers and the patrons of the bar, according to authorities. While law enforcement attempted to negotiate and arrange for the evacuation of the people inside the bar, the standoff lasted 20 minutes.
Oswald can be heard on video calling for Nguyen to put the gun down. “Mike, I need you to put the gun down so we can talk face to face. Can you do that for me, Mike?” Oswald asked.
Moments later gunshots are heard on the video.
Police say Nguyen stood up at 9:07 p.m. and smashed the front window of the Cotter Pin and fired his gun. They responded by returning fire. Fifteen seconds later, Nguyen peered out behind a police vehicle with his gun and was shot.
According to the authorities, officers attempted to render aid and Nguyen was taken to a Sparta hospital, where he died of his injuries.
“If not for the actions of patrons at the Cotter Pin and the actions of law enforcement on scene, many others may have been injured or lost their lives. The law enforcement officers on scene, and the citizens who helped to ensure the safety of the patrons inside the Cotter Pin should be commended for their actions,” Croninger said.
The DCI released redacted reports and video from its investigation Tuesday.
Jourdan Vian can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter at @Jourdan_LCT.