Elected officials, law enforcement react after 2 police officers killed in traffic stop shooting

Gov. Tony Evers says 'our hearts are heavy' after loss of officers in western Wisconsin

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Elected leaders, law enforcement, and community members are expressing sadness and support after two police officers were killed during an exchange of gunfire at a traffic stop in western Wisconsin on Saturday.

“Our hearts are heavy for the Chetek and Cameron police officers who lost their lives in the line of duty yesterday. Kathy and I are praying for the officers’ families, colleagues, and the Barron County community mourning this tragic loss,” Gov. Tony Evers wrote in a tweet Sunday morning.

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The Wisconsin Department of Justice released a statement Saturday night that it’s investigating the fatal shooting in Cameron.

On Saturday, a Chetek police officer conducting a traffic stop at around 3:38 p.m. exchanged gunfire with a suspect. The officer along with a Cameron police officer died at the scene. The suspect was transported to a local hospital where they died from their injuries, according to the release.

Authorities have said there is no threat to the community.

Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul also shared condolences on Saturday.

“I am deeply saddened by the tragic loss today of two officers. I am thinking of their families and the Chetek and Cameron Police Departments at this incredibly difficult time,” Kaul said.

The DOJ’s Division of Criminal Investigation is heading the investigation with assistance from local and state agencies. Investigators are reviewing evidence and plan to submit a report of their findings to the Barron County district attorney.

Justice officials did not immediately respond to a request for additional information on Sunday.

The village of Cameron is around 50 miles north of Eau Claire and seven miles south of Rice Lake. Chetek is around 9 miles southeast of Cameron.

Law enforcement agencies from around the state shared their condolences with the two police departments, their officers, and the families of those who lost their lives.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with Cameron and Chetek Police Departments,” the Barron County Sheriff’s Department wrote in a Facebook post.

Chippewa County Sheriff Travis Hakes said in a Facebook post that his heart goes out to the two northern Wisconsin communities.

“If you thought you seen me in Chetek on patrol today, you did,” Hakes wrote. “Good neighbors help out in your time of need. Rest easy officers, we have your watch from here.”

On Sunday, Hakes told Wisconsin Public Radio that he worked for the Chetek Police Department for 10 years from 2010 to 2020. Hakes said he called Chetek Police Chief Ron Ambrozaitis and told him he would help with patrol following the fatal shooting so “his people could grieve and focus on the situation at hand.”

Hakes said he knew the Chetek officer who was killed and worked with the individual during Hakes’ last few years with the department. He declined to say anything further about the officer until the Department of Justice releases additional information, calling it a tragedy and a loss for the entire community.

“It really puts in perspective the dangers of the job that we do every day, and how what could be considered a ‘normal day’ could turn into the last day,” Hakes said. “That really has a traumatic impact on recruitment, on retention, on the mental health and well-being of law enforcement and other emergency first responders.”

Hakes urged officers who may be struggling after the fatal shooting to reach out to employee assistance programs or counselors.

“You’re not alone,” Hakes said. “Those feelings impact a lot of people that maybe don’t talk about them.”

As people grieve the loss of the two officers, Hakes said the Chetek community has always come together to take care of each other, including when a tornado devastated the region in 2017.

“That’s always been a unique trait about the city of Chetek,” Hakes said. “And I think that that will help them, you know, come through tragedy again.”

Tyler Blair, a former officer for both the Cameron and Chetek Police Departments, said in a Facebook post on Sunday that losing “not just one, but two of my own, hurts.”

“I’m so sick of the acts of violence and hate towards those that are putting so much on the line to serve and protect our communities. I’m thinking about all of you holding the line up there in Barron County,” Blair wrote.

The incident is the latest fatal shooting since a Milwaukee officer was shot and killed by a robbery suspect about two months ago. Prior to that, Wisconsin hadn’t recorded a line-of-duty police death since 2021.