(APPLETON, Wis.) — Two officers involved in a shooting that left the suspect and a firefighter dead have been cleared of any wrongdoing in Wisconsin.
Outagamie County District Attorney Melinda Tempelis said Appleton Police Sergeant Christopher Biese and Officer Paul Christensen were justified in shooting a suspect to death nearly a month to the day after the incident.
Body camera footage released Thursday shows the chaotic scene that unfolded on the evening of May 15 when police, firefighters and paramedics responded to a man who they believed had a seizure on a bus arriving in the town.
Ruben Houston, 47, was traveling back to his home in Wausau, Wisconsin, when he was found unresponsive on the bus.
First responders discovered that he had overdosed on opioids and administered two shots of Narcan.
In body camera video captured by Biese, Houston can be seen getting up before he begins to walk away, which is when officers noticed “a bulge” on his right side.
Houston claimed it was his phone, but then he reached for his .380 semiautomatic weapon and shot at the officers.
“I heard like a pow, and I thought it was a lawnmower backfiring,” witness Tori Mourning told ABC News affiliate WBAY-TV. “I heard it again, I looked up because we can see the bus stop from my bedroom window. I looked at the tree, I saw the guy shoot a female, and she went down, and another shot was fired, and there was another male and he went down, and then I saw the shooter flee.”
Mitch Lundgaard, a 14-year veteran of the Appleton Fire Department, was shot in the back after offering Houston a cot to lay down on outside of the bus. He later died at the hospital.
Christiansen was also shot in the lower body, but immediately returned fire. He was released from the hospital the next day.
Authorities believe bystander Brittany L. Schowalter, 30, was used by Houston as a human shield. She was struck by the officer’s gunfire but is now in stable condition.
Houston was transported to a local hospital where he died from his injuries.
The investigation found that both officers involved had fired at least once.
Lungaard was a father of three kids, held the rank of firefighter inspector and was also a relief driver engineer. He drove the firetruck to the scene that night.
Biese has been at the police department since 2004. Christiansen had been there for just under 15 months.
“It shows the public just how a seemingly insignificant, non-emergency call for a police officer, can quickly turn deadly,” Appleton Police Chief Todd L. Thomas said. “This is why our officers have to always remain vigilant, and why there is no such thing as a routine call.
“Sgt. Biese and Officer Christensen acted heroically, moving and repeatedly engaging the suspect as he fired. Even after Officer Christensen was hit, and clearly in extreme pain, he battled on because people’s lives were still in danger,” he added. “They were both guardians and caregivers — and, when needed, they were true warriors — vividly demonstrating the strength of the thin blue line.”
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