MERRILL - Plenty of kids will experiment with 911 once or twice even if they're not in danger. Most learn their lesson after one time and don't do it again. But 117 prank calls in 6 months from one kid? That's out of control.
"The most recent was a 'man with a gun' call where there was an active shooter allegedly involved in the city of Tomahawk," Lincoln County Sheriff's Lt. Tim Fischer said. "We had to send many resources, lights and sirens to the scene until we realized it was our prank caller."
But it's not just a kid in Tomahawk making those calls. The number of fake 911 calls is going up, tripling in Lincoln County over the last 10 years. In 2012, the county logged 1619 fake calls, averaging 4.4 per day. Lt. Fischer says that causes several safety issues.
"Our squad cars are going lights and sirens, they're typically exceeding the speed limit, greater risks while driving. What people don't think about is if we're responding to a prank 911 call, we might not be available for the real one that's coming in right behind it," Fischer said.
Prank calls are only one piece of the puzzle. A vast majority of fake dials come from pocket dials -- where phone buttons get pushed accidentally in your pocket or purse.
And what about your old cell phones? It can be easy to give them to your kids to play with. Rhinelander Team Wireless store manager Tim Antoniewicz says that should be avoided.
"If you do still want to give your phones to your kids to play with, you're going to want to remove the battery to make it non-functional so it can't dial 911," Antoniewicz said.
That's one call Lt. Fischer hopes all parents decide to make for their kids.
"If you want to play with 911, get a play phone, get a plastic phone, hit 911, learn where those buttons are," Fischer said. "But don't call us to see if it's going to happen."
CRANDON - Forest County Sheriff's Deputy Craig Justice was justified in shooting and killing 31-year-old Brandon Cude on Jan. 4, Forest County District Attorney Chuck Simono ruled Friday.
The Wisconsin Department of Justice released the results of its investigation in the case, and Simono's decision, Friday afternoon.
The DOJ documents detail how Cude swung a shotgun at Justice at close range. The deputy had just learned Cude had felony warrants against him, and Justice was trying to arrest Cude. Justice fired four shots on the scene, a rural road south of Crandon.
"He didn't get a shot off?" a fellow officer asked Justice after the shooting.
"No. He tried, though. Pulled that sucker out and pointed it right at me," Justice replied in an exchange recorded on a body camera.
EAGLE RIVER - Vilas County officers can now respond to active shooter calls better prepared.
All deputies and patrol offices now have access to steel-plated body armor, something only the Vilas County SWAT Team had before.
"We want to make sure our staff are fully protected," said Vilas County Sheriff's Office Captain Gerard Ritter. "I never want to see anything happen to any one of my staff. And we should outfit them with the protection they need."
Before the new body armor, Ritter said officers and deputies only had access to soft body armor.
"The weave material is designed to stop or slow down a projectile," said Ritter.
Officers will still wear the soft-bodied armor every day, but in active shooter situations, officers can now essentially double up on protection, protection once only offered to the SWAT Team.
"There has been an increase in active shooter incidences across the United States," said Ritter.
RHINELANDER - Police think an Oneida County man downloaded hundreds of pornographic pictures of young girls using a private chatroom.
During Danial Smith's preliminary hearing Friday, Smith's attorney asked if police had any way of knowing it was his client who downloaded the more than 700 photos.
The state Department of Justice learned a computer near Rhinelander downloaded the pictures in late 2016 thanks to a tip from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. The internet protocol (IP) addresses from the downloads were linked to Smith's home on County C in the town of Stella.
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