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Protesters In Madison Demand Justice For Teen Shot By Deputy On Bad River Reservation

Family Members, Tribal Officials Calling For Federal Investigation Into Jason Pero's Death

Protesters at rally for Jason Pero
Marylee Williams/WPR

Around 50 protesters marched through the streets Thursday night in Madison demanding justice for a 14-year-old boy shot by a deputy on the Bad River Reservation in Odanah.

Chanting “Native lives matter,” the marchers moved from the Wisconsin Department of Justice building to the U.S. Attorney’s Office. The goal was to raise awareness of the fatal shooting of Jason Pero by Ashland County Sheriff’s Deputy Brock Mrdjenovich on Nov. 8.

The DOJ released a statement three days after the shooting stating the Ashland County Sheriff’s Office received a 911 call reporting a male subject walking with a knife in the reservation.

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The statement read, in part:

“Pero approached Deputy Mrdjenovich with a large butcher knife and he refused numerous commands to drop the weapon. On two occasions, Pero lunged at the deputy while the deputy was attempting to retreat. Deputy Mrdjenovich fired his service weapon at Pero, striking him twice.”

The statement went on to state the DOJ determined Pero was the one who called 911 and that he had “been despondent over the few days leading up to the incident and evidence from a search warrant executed on Jason’s bedroom supports that information.”

But family members and Bad River Tribal officials dispute that narrative and have called for the U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division to investigate Jason’s death.

Madison Attorney Patricia Hammel organized the rally in Madison. She said it was a way to call attention to the injustices that Native Anericans face at the hands of law enforcement.

“If it was him that called 911, people call 911, they don’t expect to be shot; and I think if he had been a white kid in Ashland, it would have gone down very differently,” Hammel said.

Many during the rally said race was a factor in the shooting, but Jason’s cousin Miranda Delgado isn’t so sure.

She said she and her family have been in shock about a death that didn’t have to happen. She grew up with Mrdjenovich and said he was friends with Native Americans.

“I do believe a lot of shootings are because of race, but that one was different, I think. I don’t think maybe the officer had the training he should have had,” Delgado said. “That’s what I believe, that’s why he did it. He didn’t know what else to do but pull out a gun.”

The U.S. Department of Justice hasn’t responded to a request for comment on whether the agency plans to investigate Jason’s death.