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Hobart/Lawrence officers rely on training during active shooter

By Heather Graves

HOBART – It’s often said, during a crisis situation, a person’s body goes on autopilot – performing tasks like it’s second nature.

For Hobart/Lawrence patrol officers Ian Schiefelbein and Casey Breitzman, both of whom responded to the May 1 shooting at the Duck Creek Kitchen + Bar, inside the Oneida Casino/Radisson Conference Center, that statement couldn’t be more true.

“It is something you never expect to hear come over the radio,” said Schiefelbein, 28. “I’m proud of the officers, like Casey, who went in without a thought of themselves. It was just get in there, stop the threat and save lives.”

Both officers are new to the squad with just a year and a half under their belts.

Neither were on the force when Brown County held its countywide rescue task force training at the Resch Center in 2019 but did participate in a similar, smaller-scale training at Hemlock Creek Elementary School in De Pere last year.

Arriving within minutes of the first 911 call, Breitzman, 28, said his reaction was immediate.

“I knew I was going to be one of the first officers on the scene,” he said. “I wouldn’t say I was afraid, but my adrenaline definitely went through the roof. The only thought that crossed my mind was ‘take a deep breath, get there as quickly, and safely as I can and do whatever I can to protect the public.”’

Breitzman grabbed his Kevlar helmet and rifle from his squad car, joined three Brown County officers to form contact team three and entered the building.

“I’m probably one of the greener officers that were there – just a year and a half on,” he said. “But, I definitely felt like I was adequately trained for my role in that situation between the academy and training we’ve done since being hired on.”

For the next several hours, Breitzman’s team swept the conference center and casino areas identifying potential threats and guiding the public to safety.

“Even though we knew pretty early on that the shooter was in custody, we still didn’t know if there were other shooters, or if other people were around hiding, etc.,” he said. “So we still had to clear everything. I was impressed with how everyone was working together and the communication there was and how supervisors that were inside the building were managing it.”

Breitzman said it wasn’t until several hours later he finally felt his body begin to relax.

“Once I was outside the casino, so the casino had been cleared, (Wisconsin Department of Justice – Division of Criminal Investigation) was on the scene, FBI was on the scene – my contact team was put on inner perimeter scene security, around the exterior of the casino,” he said. “At some point after that, Lt. (Brian) Murphy from Ashwaubenon (Public Safety) made his way around saying if you haven’t been in touch with your loved ones yet make sure you text them. I think at that point, I finally started to be like, ‘ok, I can start to relax a little bit.’”

Schiefelbein was at the county jail when the call came in, arriving on the scene 10 to 15 minutes after the initial 911 call.

He said he used the drive over to mentally prepare himself for what he was about to encounter.

“I had a lot farther to travel and think about than Casey did, but tried to stay calm, control my breathing and think over what my training prepared me for,” Schiefelbein said. “While it is never going to completely prepare you for that situation, the biggest thing going through my mind was what did my training tell me to do and how can we help as many people as possible.”

When he arrived on the scene, he was immediately assigned to assist with gathering witness statements.

“When I got there, there were red and blue lights everywhere,” Schiefelbein said. “There were people everywhere, walking down Highway 172, on their cellphones – it was chaos.”

Familiar with dealing with traumatic situations during his time on the force, he said this situation was unique.

“I did my best to put myself in their shoes, thinking about what these people went through,” Schiefelbein said. “As officers, we see a lot and we’re used to situations like these, not usually this big, but we are used to the trauma. So it is easier for us to deal with. Everyone deals with trauma differently. So trying to put myself in their shoes and think about what they are going through and trying to relate with them, try to calm them down and gather as many details as possible from them.”

Schiefelbein and Breitzman were both on scene way past midnight, before heading back on regular duty.

“It was weird going back on duty and taking regular calls again after something like that,” Schiefelbein said. “You just try to get back into the regular swing of things.”

Looking back, he said he is thankful for the level of training officers have in Wisconsin.

“I think the training we have here is one of the top training curriculums we have in the United States,” he said. “I’m proud of how our training went that day. There were a lot of things that went right. There are some things that went wrong, so we’ll learn from that and hopefully be able to do more training like this because you never know. You don’t want this to ever happen again, but you never know. I’m proud how everyone came together, put their training to use to neutralize the threat quickly and save the additional lives.”

Breitzman said he doesn’t see the situation changing his viewpoint on law enforcement or affecting how he treats calls.

“If anything, hopefully, this will prevent me from ever becoming complacent,” he said.

It has, however, sparked his interest in further training.

“It has definitely made me want to pursue more training when it comes to team tactics, response to those types of situations or basic SWAT because of how important those skills were in this environment,” he said. “(The incident) definitely shows the importance of that type of training.”

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