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

Dep. William Kelly encountered a 37-year-old on a domestic disturbance call who was hellbent on making his feelings known with a .22 rifle. Dep. Kelly yelled, "Drop it." No sooner had the words come out of Kelly's mouth than a bullet exited the rifle's barrel.

Author Dean Scoville Headshot

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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

"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.[PAGEBREAK]

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?
About the Author
Author Dean Scoville Headshot
Associate Editor
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