The Dane County District Attorney’s Office ruled last week that there is no potential criminal court liability for the City of Monona Police Officer involved in the death of Elliot Johnson in September.
According to the DA’s office, it is “clear the officer was not using deadly force and the injuries which caused Mr. Johnson’s death could only have been caused by Mr. Johnson.”
According to a statement from the DA’s office, on Sept. 17, a Monona police officer observed Johnson traveling over 80 miles an hour in his vehicle, leading to a vehicle pursuit that ultimately ended in Johnson crashing into a utility pole. At that point, the officer ordered Johnson to show him his hands. Johnson then stepped out of the vehicle briefly before returning to the vehicle. The officer then used his taser on Johnson.
The officer heard a “pop” from the vehicle and took cover behind his vehicle, according to the statement. After other officers arrived, Johnson was taken from the vehicle. A search of the car by the Wisconsin State Crime Lab found a loaded 9 mm handgun on the floor of the vehicle and a fired 9 mm cartridge case was found. An autopsy revealed that Johnson died of a gunshot wound to the head.
Protests have blocked the Beltline in recent weeks following Johnson’s death and several other Monona Police Department incidents, including the handcuffing of a Black man, Keonte Furdge, in his home in June and a police pursuit of Rodney Freeman, Jr. later that month, in which Freeman was found dead in a lagoon days after a police pursuit from an apparent drowning. No criminal charges were pursued in the Freeman case, while Furdge has filed a federal lawsuit against the city and the involved officers.
Outgoing Police Chief Walter Ostrenga said he and Interim Police Chief Sara Deuman recently met with the protest organizers to discuss the protests.
“My goal was to convey to them how dangerous it was,” Ostrenga told the Monona City Council last week. “I think everyone came away from that meeting with a better understanding of what the issues were for both sides, so I thought it was real productive.”