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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

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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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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