No criminal charges will be filed against Monroe deputy in officer involved shooting case

March 08, 2018

[SPARTA WI] Monroe County District Attorney Kevin Croninger announced today that the actions of Deputy Jesse Murphy of the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office on January 07, 2018 were lawful and reasonable acts of defense of others. Therefore, there will be no criminal charges in relation to the incident resulting in the death of Skyler D. Burnette, on January 07, 2018 in the City of Sparta.

Wisconsin law allows all persons, including police officers, to use deadly force in an act of selfdefense or defense of others if the person reasonably believed that he or another person faced an unlawful interference that created a risk of death or great bodily harm. If, as here, the person’s actions are privileged under the law of self-defense and/or the defense of others they cannot be convicted of any crime.

At approximately 09:58 a.m. on January 07, 2018, the Monroe County dispatch center received a phone call from a distraught female on Saint Anne Street in the City of Sparta, the information provided by the female was not entirely clear. The female stated that the father of her children wanted to see the children and would “only stop if he sees his kids.” Screaming and crying could be heard on the phone call. Officer Marc Nelson and Officer Christopher Welker of the City of Sparta Police Department, were the first officers to respond.

While officers were enroute, a separate call was received from another female caller. The caller advised her son had a knife to the throat of his girlfriend and the caller previously removed a different knife from the male. This information was immediately relayed to responding officers. Officers were also advised that the male and female were still in the residence and that the second 911 caller was outside the residence.

Upon arrival at the residence, Officer Marc Nelson briefly spoke with the second female caller and then proceeded to the apartment. Upon arriving near the entrance to the apartment, Officer Nelson could hear a female screaming and crying within the residence. Officer Nelson and Officer Welker attempted to gain entrance to assist the female but were initially unsuccessful as the door was barricaded with a couch. Officers were eventually able to gain entry to the apartment. Within the apartment, officers observed Skyler Burnette holding a knife and holding a female hostage.

Officer Nelson, Officer Welker, Sergeant Booker Ferguson of the City of Sparta Police Department, along withDeputy Jesse Murphy of the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office entered the apartment. Burnette and the female were seated on the floor near the hallway.

Over the course of the next 18 minutes or so, the officers attempted to deescalate the situation and negotiate a resolution with Burnette. Review of body camera footage of involved officers displayed that during that 18 minutes, law enforcement ordered Burnette at least 44 times to drop the knife, Burnette was also ordered numerous times to release the female victim. These orders were made while officers directed their firearms towards Burnette. Burnette consistently and repeatedly refused to do so, demanded to see his children and at times appeared to have delusions about what was occurring. Furthermore, Burnette told officers the female victim was pregnant and made comments about a suicide attempt and wanting law enforcement to shoot him. During this time frame, officers were unable to exercise any type of force on Burnette as doing so would have endangered the life or safety of the female victim.

After approximately 18 minutes, Burnette appeared to further escalate the situation as he changed his position and held the knife in a manner as if he was about to attack the female victim. Burnette’s movement created a line of sight for Deputy Jesse Murphy who fired a lethal shot to the right ear area of Burnette. Burnette was still holding the female victim hostage with a knife to her throat at the time he was shot. Burnette was immediately incapacitated by the round. Officers quickly moved forward, removed the now lifeless body of Burnette from the female victim and quickly removed her from the residence. First responders arrived in the apartment shortly thereafter. However, little help could be provided to Burnette, as it was immediately obvious the injury sustained was not compatible with life. In an interview following the incident the female victim indicated she believed Burnette was going to kill her.

An autopsy was conducted on January 08, 2018 at the University of Wisconsin Hospital Anatomic Pathology Laboratory by Dr. Robert Corliss. The autopsy revealed there was one gunshot wound to Burnette. This gunshot wound was to the head, through the right facial skull, pharynx, second cervical vertebra and upper left back. Initial toxicology results reflected that Burnette had methamphetamine (1020 ng/ml), amphetamine (92.1 ng/ml) and Cannabinoid THC-COOH (4.4 ng/ml) in his system at the time of his death.

The Wisconsin Division of Criminal Investigation conducted a thorough investigation into the shooting that resulted in the death of Skyler D. Burnette. District Attorney Croninger completed a thorough review of all evidence in relation to this incident. Based on that review, District Attorney Croninger has conclude that all officers involved, including Deputy Jesse Murphy were reasonable in their beliefs that there was imminent danger of death or great bodily harm to the female victim. These beliefs were reasonable because of Burnette’s actions of holding the female victim hostage at knife point, his refusals to comply with any police orders including orders to drop the knife and orders to release the victim, and Burnette’s escalation of the incident in the moments immediately preceding the firing of one round by Deputy Murphy. The use of deadly force by Deputy Murphy was reasonable under the circumstances and therefore privileged under Wisconsin law.

Public copies of the reports from the Wisconsin Division of Criminal Investigation are available at

https://www.doj.state.wi.us/dci/officer-involved-critical-incident.