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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 - Also by this author

Throughout he kept an eye on the man who'd shot him. Watching the man's chest rise and fall with his own labored breath, Kelly felt an undesired empathy for the man's predicament, but any sympathy would be a long time coming.

He liked to think the man was down and out of the fight, but he wasn't going to take anything for granted. Deciding to reload his Beretta, Kelly attempted to dump his first clip. He found the firearm uncooperative and slippery in the bloodied fingers of his right hand, a reality he attributed to having grabbed his injured left arm. With the adrenaline flowing, he hadn't realized that he'd also been shot in the hand.

A round had entered at the base of his thumb and splintered the plastic on the grip of his gun. Thinking the gun had simply jammed, he worked around the problem. Once the Beretta's slide locked forward, Kelly continued his gunpoint vigil on the shooter.

After Kenealy's mother had offered Kelly the towel, she handed him a telephone. Dispatch was on the other end asking Kelly if the scene was safe. He repeatedly advised that the shooter was down and the scene was secure. He pressed his wound hard against the towel and tried to keep his leg still to ease the pain.

Some 20 minutes after the first round had been fired, a phalanx of EMS, local officers, state patrol troopers, and Kelly's fellow deputies ascended the driveway. Kelly was airlifted to the hospital.

Kelly and Kenealy

The shooting wasn't the first time that the two men's lives had crossed. Several years before while assisting another deputy, Kelly had responded to another domestic at the same location. Angry at his sister's loud music, Kenealy had holed himself up with a rifle in an upstairs bedroom. Kelly managed to talk him down and he and other deputies recovered the rifle without incident.

"It's a small town, so I'd seen him at the gas station several times. We were polite to each other," Kelly says.

But Kelly hadn't been able to strike up a conversation with Kenealy on the day of the shooting. The only thing he'd had an opportunity to do was return fire.

Kelly woke up in the hospital to a battery of feeding tubes and IV lines. The sight of his stapled abdomen confounded him; his last conscious thought was that he'd been shot in his left arm and right leg-both survivable injuries. He attributes his confusion to the relative absence of pain he'd experienced throughout the shooting.

"The only two rounds I remember were the two that broke bones," Kelly recalls. "As I healed, I was told that I'd been hit six times. But when we went to trial and they brought out my bulletproof vest, there was another round flattened on the chest plate of my Second Chance vest. So he hit me seven times."

Kelly's own labored breathing at the scene was due to a collapsed lung from the round that hit his ribs. But considering that Kenealy drew first blood, Kelly performed in an exemplary manner, getting off 10 rounds of his own. Two bullets hit the scope and stock of the suspect's rifle, while three other rounds struck Kenealy in the left arm, chest, and left ankle.

Upon his return from the hospital, Kelly was given an escort the entire way home by police and fire personnel. For more than 20 miles, fire and police personnel blocked intersections along the route to his home. Kelly, an immigrant from Scotland, was deeply touched.

"It was a regular tear jerker and totally unexpected...they even had a bagpipe player to greet me at my home."

Kenealy also survived the shooting. He never said anything during the incident and to this day has never expressed any remorse.

Despite his grievous injuries, Kelly is not uncompassionate when it comes to his shooter.

"He had an unfortunate past," Kelly notes. "When he was 12, he shot and killed his younger brother with a .22 rifle. It was an accident. They were kids playing around with guns. Then he was involved in a drunk driving accident where he got thrown out of the truck. His friend who was driving was killed and he sustained a head injury, for which he was taking medication."

Kenealy was convicted of the attempted murder of Dep. Kelly and sentenced to 40 years. For Kelly, the long-term implications of that day's shooting were no less significant. His law enforcement career was over.

"They gave me a medical disability. My left forearm still has a pin in it," Kelly explains. "The weather really affects my leg and my arm. When the weather changes, it starts to ache. Sometimes I want to saw my arm off at the elbow. I couldn't open my fingers, so they did a tendon transfer. I can't lift a lot of weight with it."

Kelly has no regrets. How many lives he saved that day-there were three people inside the farm house alone-he will never know. He does know this much: He did the job he was paid to do.

For one who has been through so much, there is a consistent theme of appreciation that one encounters with Kelly. It extends to the training and mental conditioning that he'd acquired throughout his law enforcement career and the roles they played in his prevailing during the shootout. And he is profoundly thankful for his wife, Laurie, and his faith in Christ for helping him get through the aftermath.

After the shooting, Kelly completed two years as a police officer with the United Nations in Kosovo training the border police at Globocica on the Macedonian border. This was followed by a three-year stint as a police mentor and trainer in Kabul, Afghanistan, working the Central Region Command.

Upon his return home, Kelly was a caregiver for his father-in-law until he passed away in 2010. Today, he does home improvement projects, rings bells for the Salvation Army for Christmas, and will probably volunteer at one of the local hospitals come spring.

In other words, the Professional Police Association Award of Valor recipient continues to serve his fellow man.

What Would You Do?

Put yourself in the shoes of Dep. William Kelly of the Chippewa County (Wis.) Sheriff's Office. You've arrived first to a domestic violence call and encounter an angry man holding a .22 rifle. Now ask yourself the following questions:

  • Does your agency routinely deploy single units to domestic calls? Do you sometimes take the initiative in requesting a second unit? When a second unit is assigned, do you wait for it before initiating contact?
  • Are there people within your jurisdiction you suspect might one day go off the deep end? Is there a system for you and fellow officers to keep track of such individuals? What else can you do to prepare yourself for a dangerous encounter with a dangerous person?
  • Dep. Kelly's reaction was one of fight and flight, as he first attempted to put some distance between himself and the shooter before engaging the suspect with his sidearm. Have you considered what your tactical response would be to sustaining a close-quarters gunshot injury?
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