Family seeks answers after a 911 call leads to confusionSubmitted: 04/10/2017
Dakota Sherek
Dakota Sherek

Family seeks answers after a 911 call leads to confusion
RHINELANDER - A bomb squad team, special responders, and dozens of law enforcement officers filled a Rhinelander neighborhood last Friday for what they thought was a potentially violent situation. 

The hours-long ordeal eventually ended with the discovery that it was simply a medical emergency.

"Total shock as to how this all played out and how they [law enforcement] got this information that was not true," said Shannon Smith, daughter of the 911 caller.

Thomas Smith was detained by law enforcement after he called 911 for a medical emergency.

"He point blank was trying to get help and it was taken way too far, and now my dad is in the hospital," said Shannon.

He got medical help, but the family says police wounded him, too.

"My dad does have cuts, scrapes on his head, a bump on his head, cut-up knees," said Alan Smith, Thomas Smith's son.

Sixty-five-year-old Smith has Parkinson's disease, and his family says he cannot physically speak. So when Smith called 911, the dispatcher had to use a special technique to communicate with him.

911 operators can prompt callers to respond through button pushes. 

"It's not been used in… forever," said Oneida County Sheriff's Office Capt. Terri Hook.

When Smith indicated that he needed both the police and an ambulance, the dispatcher asked follow-up questions throughout the 56-minute call. 

Smith's responses led law enforcement to believe Smith was being held hostage by a man with guns and explosives.

Smith's family doesn't buy it.

"When a person cannot communicate, and he's short of breath, you're going to press every button on the phone to get help," said Alan.

The dispatch call ended abruptly. So when Smith exited his home, the Oneida County Special Response team detained him.

The family says Smith was treated roughly.

"He did say he was forced down, he was slammed to the ground," said Alan.

Hook says Smith was not following directions, so Smith was then "decentralized." 

"We acted on the information that we had," Hook said. "We couldn't have acted any other way."

The family says Smith will be OK, but the experience has taken a toll on him.

"He is just really shaken up, he's very upset, a lot of different emotions going on with my family," said Shannon.

Meanwhile, Hook says law enforcement did what they needed to do.

"We needed to keep the community safe as well as our officers safe, and we just did the best we could with the information that we had," said Hook. 

The family thinks the situation should have been handled differently.

"I'm his voice, and I'm going to make sure that this doesn't happen again to anybody else," said Alan.

WJFW spoke with Smith's son on Monday. He said Smith would most likely be in the hospital for a couple more days.

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WAUSAU - When you think of Wisconsin, two things might come to mind - beer and snow. 

The Granite Peak Ski Area in Wausau decided to combine the two and host an annual brew fest. 

Andy Ledesma is the head brewer at Red Eye Brewing Company in Wausau. The Granite Peak Brew Fest is one of the many perks of his job.

"No other beer fest is like this, that's for sure," said Ledesma.

He definitely wasn't alone serving more than 40 beers on Saturday. 

Jeff Geurink works for South Shore Brewery in Ashland. They've been around for 20 years, but they wanted to make this brew fest a part of their line up.

"Get our name out there and make sure people are enjoying our beer and get as much information as possible out about our brewery so then when they go out and get a beer, they remember us," said Geurink.

Something everyone will remember from the brew fest was the set-up.

"Snow bar?! You can't get that in the summer time," said Roland Bruhnke.

He's right. Most beer festivals are in the summer. But when it's still feeling like winter in March, Granite Peak turns lemons into lemonade, or more appropriately, hops into beer.

"I think it definitely helped that when they get to the bottom of the hill, you see a bunch of beer," said beer salesman Jesse Bartnik.

So even though beer and physical activity isn't the best combination, dozens of people were loving it this weekend.

"The winter, the skiing, the beer, it's all one big package all rolled into one," said Bruhnke.

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RHINELANDER - This time of year, winter activies start to wind down and the summer fun hasn't quite started yet.

That's why Fisher's Resort and Bar on Lake George in Rhinelander enjoys having it's annual ice golf tournament each year.

"In year's past, March is always kind of a slower season up here in the Northwoods so we figured we'd create an event and put efforts towards a local organization," said Fisher's Resort and Bar owner, Russ Fisher.

That local organization they raise money for is the Hodag Sno-trails snowmobile club.

This year, the tournament had it's biggest turn out.

30 teams came to play, including first timer Dennis Herrmann who lives right across the lake.

"This has nothing to do with golf, I can tell you that right now. But it's a challenge for all the obvious reasons. But you do it for the charity, you do it for the fun and it gives everybody the chance to get out," said Herrmann.

This year they cut it down from 18 holes to 13 so people could get inside faster to enjoy the chili and the raffle items after their round of golf.

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CRANDON - UPDATE (3/23/18): The Forest County Medical Examiner released the name of the inmate who died in the Forest County Jail earlier this week. 

The Forest County Sheriff's Officer said a man committed suicide Wednesday morning. 

An autopsy showed 44-year-old William Zastawniak died by hanging. 

He was facing three child sexual assault charges. 

The medical examiner is still waiting on toxicology results. 

The death is still under investigation.

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The Crandon School Board voted unanimously Friday evening to change the wording of superintendent Dr. Doug Kryder's absence from the district.

Kryder is now on "paid administrative leave." Originally, he had been "suspended with pay."

The board said it made the change based on advice of its lawyer. The board met for two and a half hours in closed session on Friday.

Kryder is under investigation by the Lincoln County Sheriff's Office.

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CRANDON - Planners in Tomahawk dreamed about a bike loop around the city starting in the early 2000s.

Two decades later, it's finally about to happen.

After more than 15 years of negotiation, the city bought a critical piece of land from the Canadian National railroad.

It will allow the city to start building a 4.6 mile bike loop around the city.

"It's a win-win for everybody. There was a little frustration from by position, but you just...kept your foot on the gas through the whole process," said Tomahawk Public Works Director John Cole.

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MADISON - The Conservation Congress plans to ask attendees at its spring hearings whether lawmakers should charge people to use state land and eliminate group hunting.

The congress asks hearing attendees every year for their positions on current outdoors issues. The answers are advisory only.

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RHINELANDER - The warmer weather might have you spending more time outside with man's best friend.

But the remaining snow and ice could increase the risk of injury for dogs.

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