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Departments : Shots Fired

Shots Fired: Chippewa Falls, Wis. 05/06/2000

Called to a domestic disturbance at a dairy farm, Dep. William Kelly was forced into a gunfight with a rifle-wielding man.

January 23, 2012  |  by Paul Scarlata - Also by this author

Photo: iStockphoto.com
Photo: iStockphoto.com

It hurt like hell for Dep. William Kelly to breathe, and his every inhalation only provoked more incapacitating pain and less optimism as to how he was faring.

The sound of sirens converging nearby-normally a source of comfort, with their promise of oxygen and pain relief-had become an additional torment. For the better part of 20 minutes, he listened to their wails. And still no one showed up.

Only the middle-aged woman who had called him to the farmhouse came to his aid. She stepped out the back door of her house to gently hand him a wrapped towel.

Placing the towel under his left arm, the Chippewa County deputy sheriff rested his weight against it to staunch the blood seeping from his body. He stared at the woman, wondering for a moment just where her sympathies might lie. But her eyes expressed nothing but compassion for Kelly's predicament, and if he had it in him, he would have breathed a sigh of relief.

After all, he'd just shot her son.

Buying the Call

Less than 30 minutes before, a call of a domestic disturbance had gone out to a Chippewa County Sheriff's deputy. But since that deputy was a good 13 miles out and Kelly was only two miles away, he bought the call despite having already finished his shift for the day.

Kelly responded with emergency lights on, no siren. Letting his fellow motorists know he had someplace to get to was a good idea; letting the disturbing party know he was getting there, less so.

And so he slowed as he turned off County Line Road, following a driveway that snaked its way around the back of the informant's house some 200 yards from the highway. Pulling up to the side of the house and out of eye line of the area from which Kelly could hear screams, he asked the dispatcher to keep the radio channel clear for emergency traffic only.

He quietly stepped out of the squad car and approached the corner of the house where the screams were reaching a
crescendo.

"You made the call!" he heard an outraged male yell. "You made the f__king call!"

As Kelly rounded the corner, the man, Tom Kenealy, came into view.

Kenealy stood atop a porch a mere six feet away. The 37-year-old had been brooding ever since his mother had lectured him about frequenting a local tavern while already under the influence of medication. He was hellbent on making his feelings known with a .22 rifle; the only thing keeping him from doing so was the closed door he was screaming at. That and the deputy he saw at the corner of the house.

"Drop it!"

Barn Storm

No sooner had the words come out of Kelly's mouth than a bullet exited the rifle's barrel. It tore into one side of the deputy's forearm and out the other, leaving shattered bones in its wake.

Kelly's first instinct was to grab his left arm and clamp it into his chest with his right. Kelly turned away from the threat to put some distance between himself and Kenealy's rifle. But as he did, his left side became exposed to Kenealy. Two more shots rang out and a bullet tore into Kelly's ribs as another burrowed into his hip.

No pain registered with Kelly, only the sensation of his world suddenly shifting. Lying on his left side, the deputy drew his .40 caliber Beretta from its holster as he rotated his body atop the dirt to get a bearing on the assailant beyond his feet.

Muzzle flashes and the sound of more gunfire told Kelly that the man's murderous rage was unabated. It wasn't until the ensuing exchange of gunfire that an incoming round splintered Kelly's shin bone and made him fully aware that he'd been shot.

Suddenly, the man stepped off the porch and began walking purposefully alongside the house toward a concrete milk house about 75 feet away. Kelly didn't know that a .30-06 and additional ammunition waited inside that barn. All the same, he knew that he couldn't let the shooter reach its door.

Kelly squeezed off more rounds from his Beretta. The sight of his rounds tearing into the side of the house just beside and behind Kenealy made him adjust his sights. With the torso of his assailant "t"-ed in his front sights, he double-tapped.

Two rounds tore into Kenealy's muscled back, causing him to stagger a few more steps until his forward momentum caused him to drop to his knees. Kenealy collapsed backward and the rifle fell from his hands.

May Day

Less than a minute had passed since Kelly had stepped around the side of the house. Shocked at how much his life had changed in so few seconds, Kelly keyed his handheld and with labored breath advised dispatch that there'd been shots fired and that he needed paramedics.

Tags: Shots Fired, Chippewa County (Wis.) Sheriff, Domestic Disputes


Comments (10)

Displaying 1 - 10 of 10

Craig @ 1/24/2012 3:47 AM

Woulda, Coulda, Shoulda.

The site was a dairy farm in the country, 200 yards from the highway. Shots hadn't been fired. The guy was known to the local officers and had mental problems. There was a deputy within 15 minutes of the farm. It's always easy to judge using hindsight, but Officer Kelly should have offered to back up the on-duty officer and let him know what they history was of the person they were going to face in case he didn't know.

If an officer was so close, why did it take so long for support to respond?

Officer Kelly is very lucky the man used a .22 and not a high-powered rifle.

Robby @ 1/24/2012 7:57 AM

You said its always easy to judge in hindsight then you judge him. Wait till you're there and see if you do what you think was was the right thing at the time. Afterwards wait for all the experts to tell you how you should have done it.

dj outhouse @ 1/24/2012 8:27 AM

You never truly know what you will do in such an encounter. Even if you have gone through this same thing before, there is no guarantee that you will act in the same manner from one incident to the next incident. Men in combat have been awarded medals for their courageous acts in the face of the enemy, only to cower in their holes in fear during the next battle, and vice versa. Thinking/planning ahead can help alleviate the unknown and give you an edge but, again there is no true guarantee.

Having said that: When facing a man armed with a rifle and you only have your pistol should you create more distance between you or not? Each incident will be different and I don’t intend to give you a pat answer to cover all such encounters. I just want to give you ideas to consider.

The assailant here was armed with a .22 cal rifle which arguably has a much greater effective range than the officer’s .40 cal pistol; so creating more distance might be playing into the suspect’s strength. Unless you are retreating to a better covered position in which to fight from, or fighting your way back to the car to retrieve your patrol rifle and make the odds more evenly matched creating more distance might not be a good idea. Even then, in this incident the officer would have been facing a suspect armed with a scoped rifle which would have still left him in a bad tactical situation.

Another option is to quickly / dramatically close with the suspect in order to better maximize your weapon’s potential and at the same time diminish the strength of the suspect’s weapon. By charging into the suspect, he may not be able to maneuver his rifle to effectively cover you. By charging into the suspect, you will also bring your pistol into a closer range so that you can more easily hit the threat. Remember that in close combat a shorter weapon has an advantage over a long-gun.

dj outhouse @ 1/24/2012 8:27 AM

To further complicate things; if you decide to charge into the assailant do you run straight at him or angle in. Getting out of the threat arc could keep you from getting hit even more times and save your life. But moving towards the suspect at an angle will increase your closure rate and give him more time to adjust. Just like with the original question of whether to retreat or close with the suspect, how you chose to close with the suspect is open to what situation you are faced with at the time. There is no pat answer.

For most, the natural instinct is to get away from the threat, especially if you have been hurt like this officer was. It is not easy to overcome that natural instinct and instead charge into KING KONG ON STEROIDS. That is simply crazy thinking! But it could very well be the right thing to do, the necessary thing to do. And by thinking the problem through before-hand you are establishing mental pathways that your mind will use to quickly move you through the problem once it is thrust upon you.

The article mentioned that the officer fired his pistol 10 times, hitting the suspect’s rifle twice and the suspect three times. That is only a 50% hit ratio. Further, the three that hit the suspect hit him in a large spread pattern (left arm, chest, and left ankle). I don’t mean to make light of the officer’s shooting ability; that’s not bad considering he was already down and severely wounded at the time. Not to mention his heart rate was extremely elevated, his breathing was up and ragged, he had been shot in his gun hand, and the adrenalin was coursing through his body at the time. NOT BAD SHOOTING, but still at best only a 50% hit ratio. Had he been closer to the target, that hit ratio might have gone up. Might have. There are no guarantees.

I only present this case to you for the purpose of causing you to think… What you do with it is up to you.

Rick @ 1/24/2012 9:53 AM

Concerning the comment about his hit ratio; I've seen stats that say an officer that usually hits a 90% on paper at the range will average a 27% hit ratio when actually engaged in a gun fight. Considering that the Officer was severally wounded, he focused on the fight, engaged and stopped the threat with a 50% hit ratio. Not Bad? That's really good! God Bless this Christian Officer.

Sean @ 1/24/2012 11:13 AM

The officer did everything right and didn't panic. He now serves mankind. Wish there were more like him.

Editorial Note on the article.....Its a magazine,not a clip....

Bill Kelly @ 2/9/2012 7:24 AM

The original call was a 'verbal' dispute between Mother and son. From the actual time of my arrival until I notified dispatch that shots were fired and an officer was down was 53 seconds, some of that time was used by me to gather my breath so dispatch would understand what happened. Where I erred was upon my arrival, I could hear the screaming and should have stopped prior to rounding the building for a sneak and peek. I then would have saw that there was a firearm involved and would have been under cover and still maybe have been able to stop him from entering the house. Instead I responded to the women screaming and ran around the corner of the house. My first thought was oh s@@t.
I console myself with the thought that if I had taken cover the shooter may have gotten inside the house and hurt the family or at best there would have been a hostage situation. Believe me, after an incident like this you second and third guess yourself for years later...what if...what if...what if still goes around my head when my wounds ache or in the quiet moments as you try to sleep. Thank the Lord that I wore my vest every single day and that nobody was killed. Stay safe out there guys.

Michael Fallon @ 2/10/2012 11:48 AM

I am proud of the way William Kelly performed that day, I went to school with him in scotland in the 1960,s and we hung around as a threesome with another schoolpal who sadly died during the school years, I myself am a retired police officer with the West Yorkshire Police in England, ( totally diferrent style of unarmed policing ) but now living in Scotland and would like to meet up with him again to talk about old times,as we lost track of each other many years ago He would remember me as Michael Fallon.

Ken Briggs @ 2/18/2012 10:05 AM

I would like to just make a short comment about the support. I was the Senior Telecommunication Officer on duty that day along with a Rookie Telecommunications Officer. Help was on the way along with Mayo One Medical Helicopter. I went against policy (wait until a medical person arrives to assess the scene to call for a chopper) I told Mayo to put the chopper in the air as we had an officer down. I just wanted to clarify that help was coming and being with a skeleton crew on duty, it takes time to get help to anyone. We did the best we could with what we had.

Longarm9 @ 6/8/2014 8:46 AM

Firstly, I want to commend the courage and actions of Officer Kelly. Bloody good police work on your part, sir! And I thank you for your service.

Secondly, what really strikes me about this article is the absolute devastation wrought by the .22 rifle. I assume we are speaking of a .22 Long Rifle rimfire? Although I am well aware of how lethal a .22 can be, I would never have expected such a round to be shattering bones! It's a sobering reminder not to take the little caliber lightly.

Lots of tactical lessons to be learned from this event. I just thank God that Officer Kelly didn't have to pay for those lessons with his life.

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