Western Wisconsin volunteers to cover shifts as St. Croix deputies mourn slain officer

Funeral for Deputy Kaitie Leising will be held Friday at Hudson High School

Flowers from community members adorn the patrol car driven by St. Croix County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Kaitie Leising, age 29. She was shot and killed Saturday while responding to a suspected drunk driver in the western Wisconsin town of Glenwood. Rich Kremer/WPR

Officers from across western Wisconsin are volunteering to cover patrol shifts in St. Croix County this week as members of the sheriff’s office mourn the killing Saturday of one of their deputies.

During the first press conference since 29-year-old St. Croix County Sheriff’s Deputy Kaitie Leising was shot and killed while responding to a suspected drunk drive Saturday afternoon, Sheriff Scott Knudson said his 30 patrol officers aren’t on the street this week.

“Shifts have been covered for days,” Knudson said. “People want to help. Other agencies have come in. And again, I cannot thank them enough.”

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St. Croix County Sheriff Scott Knudson speaks to reporters next to a memorial for Deputy Kaitie Leising, who was shot and killed in the line of duty Saturday. Rich Kremer/WPR

Knudson said his department and their families are reeling at the sudden violence that took Leising’s life. He said Leising was talking with alleged shooter Jeremiah Daniel Johnson of Minnesota for around 8 minutes when he “spins and shoots.”

Statements from Knudson and the Wisconsin Department of Justice say Johnson ran into a wooded area after shooting Leising. On Tuesday, Knudson said a swarm of officers with the Wisconsin State Patrol, the villages of Baldwin and Woodville assisted with the search, along with Sheriff’s Department SWAT teams from Dunn, Barron and Pierce counties.

One of the officers spotted Johnson hiding in the woods, heard a gunshot and watched Johnson collapse, according to the DOJ.

Knudson said counselors have been brought in to help deputies, along with first responders and dispatchers talk through the trauma.

“What was done 20, 30 years ago, when it was, ‘Suck it up and get back out there’ — it doesn’t work,” Knudson said. “We need time to process and grieve. But it’s also important to make sure that we are good to get back out there because our citizens deserve that as well.”

Knudson said Leising leaves behind a wife and 3-month-old son. Donations for the family are being collected at WESTconsin Credit Unions.

Funeral arrangements for Leising are scheduled for Friday. Public visitation at the Hudson High School will run from 9 a.m. until noon. A funeral with law enforcement honors will take place in the high school’s parking lot immediately after.

Leising’s death is the first for the St. Croix County Sheriff’s office in more than 64 years, Knudson said.

Already this year, four Wisconsin police officers or sheriff’s deputies have been shot and killed in the line of duty.