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La Crosse’s police chief argues a La Crosse County judge jeopardized courtroom safety when she disarmed officers called to testify in a police battery case.

La Crosse County Circuit Judge Ramona Gonzalez at the start on Mark Topness’ trial on Tuesday for 10 crimes told three uniformed La Crosse police officers that they could not wear their firearms or duty belts in the courtroom.

“It was the first time I’ve ever been asked to disarm,” officer Ethan Purkapile said. “I was definitely concerned because it compromised my ability to protect the DA’s office staff, the jurors, the circuit court staff, Judge Gonzalez and myself.”

The judge argues that her policy, enforced only during jury trials, allows jurors to view police as “witnesses without distraction.”

“And sometimes guns can be a distraction,” she said.

Gonzalez also contends the policy protects jurors who suffered a traumatic experience with a firearm. A gun visible to jurors, she said, could be grounds for an appeal.

“How many court cases have been appealed due to an officer wearing a duty belt with a weapon exposed?” Police Chief Ron Tischer said. “I’ve never heard of one.”

At least one juror agreed with her policy, which does allow police to wear a firearm during trials if it’s concealed by clothing, Gonzalez said.

State Supreme Court rules allow each circuit judge or court commissioner to decide whether officers can carry weapons inside a courtroom on a case-by-case basis.

“This happens every time I have a jury,” said Gonzalez, who pointed out officers cannot carry firearms in federal courtrooms.

“We’re not in federal court,” Tischer said.

Circuit Judge Gloria Doyle did not disarm three uniformed officers who testified during a misdemeanor jury trial in her courtroom on Wednesday.

“I will evaluate on a case-by-case basis,” Doyle said.

The local bench in 2012 adopted a policy addressing officer firearms in courtrooms, although police would not discuss terms of the confidential agreement that requires judicial order to release. The police department maintains its followed policy and that a judge never before has disarmed a uniformed officer called to testify since the agreement.

“I believe there is general agreement that officers are permitted to carry firearms, the exception being in front of a jury,” Circuit Judge Scott Horne said. “The concern has been expressed regarding an intimidating atmosphere and that may be the most common circumstance in which weapons may not be permitted. For many years, they had been denied entirely.”

But emotionally charged courtrooms can be prone to violence and stripping an officer of a firearm presents serious safety issues, Tischer said. In 2015, La Crosse County Courthouse security confiscated more than 1,400 knives and more than 300 box cutters or razor blades.

“Purkapile had nothing to protect himself from a man who threatened to kill him,” Tischer said. “To take away their ability to protect themselves and others is a frightening thought.”

Topness, who has a criminal history, punched his roommate in the head before he fled from Purkapile on foot on Nov. 4, according to the complaint. He resisted arrest, spit on Purkapile before threatening the officer’s life and trying to kick him. The jury on Tuesday convicted him of nine charges, including attempted battery of a police officer.

Gonzalez ordered extra courtroom security for the trial, Tischer said. The sheriff’s department does not discuss security procedures but deputies regularly carry firearms during court hearings.

“You can never have just one person armed,” Tischer said. “When you take away all an officer’s tools, it puts everyone at a significant risk and you’re forcing them to potentially use a higher level of force than they would otherwise be able to use had they had all their equipment available to them.”

After Gonzalez’s order before the start of the trial, Purkapile said he left the courtroom to relay the information to the two officers waiting outside and notified his supervisor because removing his firearm while on duty is against department policy. Topness told the officer during a break in the trial that he would “burn in hell as a result of the testimony,” Purkapile said.

Police maintain they’re not looking for a fight with Gonzalez, but that they hope to work with her to develop a courtroom firearm policy that protects everyone’s safety and interests.

“The public is accustomed to seeing officers with duty belts and weapons,” police Capt. Troy Nedegaard said. “It’s abnormal to see us missing equipment.”

Arden Ross served on the jury for Tuesday and Wednesday’s trials in front of Gonzalez and Doyle. He said Gonzalez addressed potential jurors in Doyle’s trial, some of whom served during the Topness trial, to ask how they felt about unarmed officers testifying.

“I was much more comfortable during the (Topness) trial,” he said. “I thought they were more imposing (Wednesday). They had a gun.”

Topness faces a host of new charges after police arrested him about five hours after his trial for trying to break into an RV and car parked on South Fifth Avenue. He fled from officers into the basement of a house on South Sixth Street before threatening to kill police, according to reports.

Topness, 30, is jailed on a $2,500 cash bond, which he repeatedly called “excessive” during his court appearance Wednesday.

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(106) comments

Alan Muller

Good for Judge Gonzalez. Hopefully she will "stick to her guns."

Tim Russell

A cop that is so paranoid that he feels so unsafe unarmed is somebody that needs to be watched.


Every police officer who reads your ridiculous claim will most probably laugh at you.

Tim Russell

I know cops & I doubt they would. I'm guessing they know the guy is probably more of a liability than asset.


she is highly responsible for much of the crime in lacrosse...there...that ought to get the boards going again. have to see that her weak stance on crime puts the public at risk...she just can't punish those that need punishing.


Nobody is commenting on the fact that this guy was convicted of nine crimes and was out of jail and arrested five hours later?!?!?!

David Jarzemski

Disarming police when they are on duty is criminal...

Case closed...

Snow Cougar Mary Burke

Someone might be working on making her famous on a national scale [wink]


Ramona Gonzales has consistently showed zero respect for our police officers. Every time she puts a violent criminal out on the street (because she abhors the thought of sending anyone to prison), she tells our police that they don't matter. She tells our police that she doesn't care about the risks they take in arresting violent criminals. She tells ALL OF US that she cares more about catering to violent criminals than protecting us.

Making police officers give up their firearms in her courtroom is just another way of saying that she doesn't respect them at all.


You make it sound as if the police are the deciding factor in guilt or innocence.

The court is above the level of law enforcement.


Juries decide the guilt or innocence of the accused. Judges decide the sentence for those who are convicted. In the case of Ramona Gonzales, she goes out of her way to give probation to anyone possible. Her own words and actions, which are on the public record, have proven that she doesn't want to send anyone to prison - even violent criminals.


[angry][angry][angry]Ramona's Rules means the cop is going to have to unholster his gun and store it somewhere. There are practical problems with having to holster and unholster your gun all the time as every CCW permit holder knows: you could get an accidental discharge, the gun has to be left somewhere, say, in the police cruiser, where someone could steal it. If the gun is left in the courthouse, well, someone has to keep those weapons secure too.

When I go to a "no guns allowed" venue, I have to awkwardly remove my gun in my car—the danger always exists of a round going off. I have to stash the weapon in the vehicle where it could be stolen and used in a crime. Those who made rules requiring me to holster and unholster my weapon constantly haven't thought this thing through: The Law of Unintended Consequences intrudes!

Original Upload, I Just Shot Myself!


Or you know, use the secure storage lockers at the court house entrance that are under the supervision of the security staff that are made exactly for this purpose?


[ohmy][ohmy][ohmy]That's still needless gun handling.. and the cops carry Glocks with a round in the chamber, which means you have to pull the mag and rack the slide to clear the weapon. (Glocks are just point and press the trigger, then BANG!) The potential always exists for an accidental discharge.

Maryland Man Discovers “Glock Leg,” Public Shame


So does this mean they aren't REALLY police unless they have a gun?


Apparently the judge has the legal discretion, but lacks the judgement to responsibly exercise it.

I have the highest regard for law enforcement and can only imagine how frustrating these times must be for them. The PC dolts are in control and it will only get worse if Clinton is elected.


If it's left to the judge's discretion, as ruled by our State Supreme Court, that' the way it is. I have the utmost respect for law enforcement, overall. There could be many underlying reasons for a judge to order this. Respect it and move on. My goodness, some of these responses make it sound like she has asked them to remove their pen!s before appearing to testify as a witness in her courtroom. Some would equate that as an equivalent, unfortunately.


First things first whether it's right or wrong the Judges call the shots in their court rooms end of discussion. If you push too hard they could make things worse. Secondly this shouldn't even be an issue cops wear guns and a lot of other things on their belts I agrees with the poster who said "normal people"expect them to. If I were on a jury and a officer was there and did not have his gun and belt on I would be wondering why. As far as jurors being intimidated by the sight of armed officer i would question their fitness for jury duty. Would they also be intimidated by the "bad guy"staring at them during the trial or his supporters in the audience. Would they vote not guilty out of fear of reprisal. Also the Judges attire should be looked at black robes are intimidating.


The best (and most reasonable) explanation comes from an old Andy Griffith show. When asked why he didn't carry a gun, he replied: "when you carry a gun with you, the respect you think you're getting could be only fear. I woulkd much rather have people respect the law, not fear it.


Sheriff Taylor and Deputy Fife wouldn't last very long in many of today's neighborhoods.


Since at least 1969, various judges have prohibited guns in their courtroom, it is at the judges discretion . No big deal ,if as an officer you are afraid to go into a courtroom to testify without a gun , you are in the wrong occupation

random annoying bozo

if a judge can disarm police officers, even just in a courtroom, what do you think these 'legislative judges' will do when they know there is a sympathetic appellate court system, and supreme court in place with a progressive administration in the white house appointing appellate court and supreme court judges?


Your logic isn't logical.


Sounds like a scene from Walker, Texas Ranger.


Question: does the courtroom know long beforehand that any testifying officer will be disarmed, or is that decided near the day he/she testifies?


She appears to be a very nice women, but at times she seems to not be in touch with the realities and emotions associated with the criminal's almost like she needs THIER approval rather than the criminal being held accountable and disciplined in her sentencing. This one is quite disturbing on so many levels....I'm hoping we don't have a liberal egotist in our courts who wants to work outside the box in getting the "acceptance" from the criminal element.


Every time Chip opens his mouth he throws more votes to Jen. Please keep it up!


Hey, Police Officers don't even want "Protect and Serve" on their cars. Stop whining and get back to leading by example. Their training these guys to be a bunch of spoiled little boys and girls. It's the Judges courtroom. At least respect that or you may end up getting your wages cut.


"because removing his firearm while on duty is against department policy."

Oh no! What's the priority here of the department and officers??? Putting away bad guys or getting paid overtime?...


If anybody should comply with court orders, it is the police. Quit whining.


So, I can only assume that every citizen in the viewing area with a concealed carry permit is allowed to carry a firearm.... because what is that Republican argument again... more guns makes us all safer!

I love the point made earlier........So our police do not feel safe being protected by other police.

The argument by police to carry sounds like a child with their favorite blanket.


Nothing wrong with evaluating disarming a testifying officer on a case by case basis inside a courtroom of armed/trained security. Their guns aren't needed to testify; they only need be 'present'.


Well she's an puff ball so....She is going to let him go anyway...and probably didn't want to get anyone in harm's way when she slaps his hand and let's him go


She's as worthless as they come.

Condor Kid

Yes, they are armed, including Judge G.


Very interesting having met her I can't see her her profession I would certainly have a cc permit and carry outside of court dealing with some of who and what she does or any judge for that matter.


Sounds like KentuckyWoman has spent plenty of time in the courtroom. Maybe take some of your blogging time here and instill some common sense into those you go to court for.......

Condor Kid

They are there to testify, not to protect. Most judges are armed anyway. Having openly armed witnesses could certainly be intimidating to jurors and cause undue influence. Judge Gonzalez is right.


Most judges are armed??? Really........


Just so we understand…our law enforcement are not confident when being protected by other law enforcement?

As stated earlier, this obscene propaganda by the police will never end. Danger to the left of me! Danger to the right! Danger all around!

Funny how the police claim they are one of us. A good exercise to hasten resocialization is to go for a walk without your weapon. How freeing it is!

You might also take off your sunglasses so people don't recognize you.


So if someone breaks into your home down the road please resist your impulse to call 911. The police, like any profession or culture, have far more good people than bad.......


"Gonzalez also contends the policy protects jurors who suffered a traumatic experience with a firearm. A gun visible to jurors, she said, could be grounds for an appeal." A new wrinkle worth considering. Jailbirds will claim anything to appeal.

Support The 2nd

I agree with Tischer, being forced to disarm is frightening. The problem here is that when it's you or I, Tischer DEMANDS we be disarmed, but when it one of his people then it's unacceptable. When our local law enforcement are willing to stand with the ordinary citizens and DEMAND an end to gun free zones, then I will stand with them. Until then, it sounds like a bunch of people who see themselves as having "more privilege" than the rest of us.


Four legs good, two legs better! Never forget we have two classes today... regular folks and police officers. Police officers are to be placed on pedestals and worshiped. They can do no wrong, just like socialist leaders...


Rubber Stamp Ramona


Please don't call the police next time you need help.


Wait, wait, wait...if he was convicted of nine crimes, how was he out of jail able to commit more crimes 5 hours later?!?!?


Rubber Stamp Ramona


Tischer needs to hit the highway.


[thumbdown][thumbdown][thumbdown]Tischer is the only official around here who gets it: our county judges are off their nut.


[pirate][pirate][pirate]Police with guns are supposed to be intimidating.. which prevents crime. People in courtrooms are used to seeing cops with their guns on: no one makes a big deal out of it, except this oddball judge.

What should be of great concern to local citizens is the pro-crime attitude of county judges around here. This is very odd in that it is so extreme in La Crosse County. That's why violent crime in this area is worse than I've ever seen it—it's worse than several larger cities I've lived in.

What can you do about it today? Arm yourself.

Active Shooter - Part 12 - The More You Use Your Sights...

Buggs Raplin

Mac, with your views on guns, which are good, how can you support Hillary?

Dave from Wisc

I was think who kidnapped Mac and replaced him with someone with common sense.


[scared][scared][scared]Donald Trump is an evil bigot. I'm don't usually vote single-issue, but Trump's racism and misogyny are not acceptable. Trump is correct on guns, on the decay of the nation's nuclear arsenal (and vulnerability to a first strike).. Trump is correct about the inner-city gang violence problem and unfair trade deals.

But Trump's hatred for people who aren't like him or who disagree with him is unacceptable. Trump's dirty-minded remarks toward women disqualify him for any job.. I wouldn't hire him as my janitor.

Donald Trump on Megyn Kelly: "There Was Blood Coming Out of Her Wherever"


Do yourself a favor and look in to Johnson/Weld. They're in favor of smaller government, they won't even think about taking your guns, and they're not racist bigots. I plan on voting for them, a vote is only wasted if it's spent on somebody you don't believe in


It's really not as crazy as it sounds folks. The people in charge of keeping the courtroom safe were still in possession of firearms.

real life Justice

Gonzales loves to make some type of controversy, First it was MS. BOOK the BABY killers she gives her probation, Then the stupid Westbrook from West Salem Probation for Drugs and other violations. Now you disarm a police officer because it does not look good in court. You need to retire and get a real job and stop wasting tax payers money on your ignorance. Officer only can protect if they have there tools to work with. Like having a BRAIN use it wisely.


I'm guessing the woman has a brain - and she's obviously used it. She didn't get to be a judge by being low intelligence. What do you do for a living? Are you an atty? A judge? Have a job that requires a brain?

I'm with the Judge on this one. There was plenty of security in the courtroom. It was the Judge's call. And she's right. Guns intimidate. Punky-puss Purkapile wasn't there to protect the Judge or the jurors or anyone else in the courtroom. He was there solely as a witness - and he didn't need a gun to testify. If he was that afraid of a guy who spit on him and kicked him, and thinks the only way to defend himself from that is to shoot someone, perhaps he's the one who needs to get a different job. And perhaps it is you, rather than the Judge, who needs to use your brain more wisely.


kentuckywoman is obviously related to this seems very personal...please, if you want to stick up for a guy who spits on and threatens to kill an officer, don't call the police next time you need help.


I am with the judge on this one. I don't feel they need to be armed. As you read many of stories that state "the officers gun was used." I feel she did what needed to be done to protect everyone in the court room. We all would be saying "how awful" the judge was if they were armed and someone crazy would grab the gun and shot up our loved one on the jury.

living the dream

get use to it... liberal judges are going to run the country...starting soon...


Thank the Lord. Perhaps cooler heads will start to prevail.


I didn't realize so many uninformed liberals live in La Crosse. Welcome to the real world where police officers have been testifying for a century wearing both their uniforms and armed. Not only is it expected in most of the United States, it is appreciated. I think too many of you believe too much of the blogs and lack the clarity of real life.


I didn't realize there were so many uninformed conservatives living in La Crosse. Sad to know it's deteriorated so much. Officers wearing guns when testifying in court in front of a jury was never common back in the day. Years ago, no one but the security guards could wear a gun. Maybe you should bone up on your local history. And no, contrary to the na-na world you apparently live in, it is neither expected nor appreciated. Perhaps it is you who have been reading too many blogs and lack the clarity of real life?


These people are entrusted to keep all people safe, where ever they are. If Clinton wins the presidency this is the type of judge that will be on the Supreme Court. Outlaws will run the country AND the courts.


Better than living in a fascist dictatorship which is what we'd be if Trump hacks the election (the only way he could win) with help from his Russian buddies. Trump is the outlaw and outlaws already run the country - many are on the police forces. We need some sanity in this country and a return to human decency. Hopefully Clinton can bring that to the country, as well as the Supreme Court.

Buggs Raplin

Hillary is a criminal. Lock her up.


people are saying bugs was locked up. people are saying.

Buggs Raplin

She's a criminal; lock her up


Actually they're not...

The police have NO duty to protect you or anyone from crime. The duty of police is to "clean up" after a crime has been committed and to determine if a crime may have been committed and if so bring the suspect before a court for trial.

In cases such as DeShaney v. Winnebago County (1989) and Castle Rock v. Gonzales (2005), the Supreme Court has declined to put police and other public authorities under any general duty to protect individuals from crime.


Witnesses don't need guns. Less lethal choices exist - pepper spray, tazer, Billy club, .... plus the bailiff and deputy sheriffs are there to gaurd the courtroom. cops witnessing shouldn't even be able to wear uniforms. It gives them an imprimatur of authority and credibility that should return solely on the veracity, credibility, consistency and cohesiveness of their testimony. Judge Gonzalez acted exactly correctly.


you are an idiot....what world do you live in?


There you go, calling people names again. The only people who do that seem to be unable to come up with any evidence based argument so they resort to calling names. Very mature.


I agree.


As a prospective juror I do not view armed, uniformed officers in the courtroom - whether witnesses or bailiffs - as a "distraction". I view that as normal, as most normal people do. Gonzalez's contention that her "policy protects jurors who suffered a traumatic experience with a firearm" is equally ludicrous. Reality check: what's really disturbing and traumatic is when a defendant such as Topness - a repeat offender with a violent criminal history who has both attacked and threatened to kill police - goes on a courtroom rampage and injures or kills innocent bystanders who the police are sworn to protect. How "comfortable" would Arden Ross or Ramona Gonzalez be with that? Who would they think was "imposing" or "intimidating" them then?


I've sat on juries and I agree with the judge. The police officer was there as a witness, not in his capacity as a police officer. The courtroom had other armed security to do that job on that day. From what I've read, this defendant spit on and kicked said police officer. Does he really think he needs a gun to protect himself from that? If Officer Purkapile's answer to being spit on and kicked is to shoot the person, then he doesn't belong on the police force in the first place. As said, there was extra security there for the trial. Witnesses did not need to be armed. As a juror, I would prefer witnesses not be armed, especially the police, who at the very least, seem to have some kind of contagious disease in this country, where they seem to be far too trigger happy just because they carry a gun. I'd be more afraid of a killer cop than this defendant.

Condor Kid

Judge G. represents fairness and total equality for all. There's not many like her among us! She will be celebrated.


I agree completely. We need thousands more just like her!

Condor Kid

Thank you Judge Gonzalez, for your great unbiased representation of all of the people! We need more public servants like you! Keep up the good work!


Time to stick to weddings and maybe take a gig as a municipal judge Ramona.......


Every conflict does not require a gun. No one should have a gun in a courtroom. Thank you Judge Gonzalez. Let sanity prevail - one step at a time. It is disturbing how many people are shot by trigger happy cops -


you live in a very sheltered obviously have no concept of the real world


Police officers are the good guys. Any cops reading this: Most local citizens respect you and want you armed--always. Our area is a better and safer place with you here and armed.


Oh hellno! Far too many cops in this country are corrupt, trigger happy, and then there's that Blue Glue Syndrome, where they stick up for each other, even if one is in the wrong. Murder by cop is becoming far too prevalent in this country. When I was young, my mother always warned me never to get in the car with La Crosse cops, because back then, too many young girls were getting raped by cops who were 'nice" enough to give them a ride. yeah, they gave them a ride all right...just not the kind they expected. And if a cop has wronged you, raped you, shot you, whatever, good luck with getting a fair shake, because that will never happen. I was hit by a cop car once, although not in La X, and someday I'll tell you all about that. Cops are not your friend. Not unless you're White, male and wealthy. Then it's a different story. THAT's the real world.


Another poster off her meds...

David Jarzemski

kentuckywoman2, why do you post such slander against our best protectors...the police????


When will someone in this county run against this incompetent nincompoop? She runs for office UNOPPOSED every single election.

She has no respect for the good citizens of this county. She caters to the violent criminals who come into her courtroom again and again, only to receive probation......again and again. She is nothing but a cancer to our county.


She's a fair and thoughtful human being, completely competent. You apparently don't like her because she's not prejudiced and punitive enough for you? Good to know.


I agree Great job Judge Gonzales!! The only people carrying a gun into a court room should be the officers in charge of protecting it.... Not someone testifying or observing etc. Welcome to the rest of the world officers!!! This is the same way ((most)) everyone else lives and we go about our lives. I agree an officer with a gun is intimidating or maybe that's what they are trying to do. Federal court has it right. The statement saying there might be more violence without a gun... are you kidding me?? Ask the hundred + people shot dead by cops this year alone.


"The only people carrying a gun into a court room should be the officers in charge of protecting it"

And that's the truth. Why can't I carry a weapon in the court room? What if I'm the victim of a similar situation where the defendant injured me and swore to kill me and I am testifying against them why can't I protect myself?... I forgot, there are two classes in our society. Common folk and police officers.


As someone who has had a family member injured and knocked out cold in a court room, this policy is very concerning. This family member is a district attorney who was knocked unconscious when the criminal managed to escape deputies when being escorted out of the court room. The only reason the criminal was stopped was by a deputy discharging their firearm and subduing the would be escapee (No this was not in the old west, this was in 2012 in the mid-west).

Glad to have never voted for Ramona and won't ever vote for her.

She better have the attorneys ready, because if something happens you can guarantee she and the County are in for some major lawsuits.

Condor Kid

Great job by Judge Gonzalez! Firearms in the courtroom are repressive. Just ask Mike "that Mexican thing" Pence. Judge G. would be such a great federal appointee!


And the gun nuts wonder how some guy grabs an officer's gun and blows half the courtroom away.


Do list the hundreds of occurrences in which that has happened........


It must be terrible to live with so much fear and hate inside you. My condolences.


That made zero fear here I have a great life no complaints


The police will Never, ever, ever stop their propaganda about how dangerous life is. It is money in the bank.


Yep. And they make darn sure the streets are dangerous by shooting citizens and using excessive force. I've known many a person who has been taken on an "elevator ride" by La Crosse police. Far too many.


I haven't heard of a single case of any of your allegations...please, next time you need help do not call the police.


Do us a favor and don't call the police the next time you need help.


This feeds about to go into overdrive. Aaaaaand go!


she needs to go


[rolleyes]Are the courtroom baliffs armed with firearms? If not it would be wise to let sworn police officers who are testifying to carry. If the bailiffs are armed it is not necessary or needed. Is it my imagination or does Ramona seem to line up on the side of the criminals?


The bailiffs are not armed and neither are the front security people (metal detector area). So if somebody walks in off the street with a weapon, who will stop them? Unfortunately the officer in uniform, without a weapon, will probably be the first target.


yes, there are armed security guards. She ordered extra security that day, as well. She was prepared. And yes, baliffs usually are armed, as well as the guards outside the courtroom.


Not to mention the fact that the prisoner would not be armed, so unless he/she was in close enough proximity to a police officer,etc. who was armed, how would he/she get a gun? And I'm guessing that people must go through security scans before entering the courtroom...stop being so afraid! Those kinds of scenes usually just happen on TV. Were you expecting a scene from The Good Wife or something? lol

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