Across the country, plans to deal with active shooters inside a building are becoming as commonplace as fire and tornado drills.
All types of businesses and gathering places are putting together plans for how to prevent, escape or deal with assailants in all kinds of environments.
Chippewa Falls Police Chief Matthew Kelm said that it’s similar to schools having implemented lockdown plans years ago, and that interest in training has increased over the past decade.
“I’d say in recent years, certainly as it’s been commonly reported … more businesses have reached out,” Kelm said.
“It is becoming more and more normal for businesses to consider that.”
While schools and churches can dominate headlines with shooting incidents, FBI data shows they more frequently occur at businesses.
A FBI study of active shooter incidents from 2000 to 2013 recorded 160 incidents where an individual actively engaged in killing or attempting to kill people in a confined and populated area.
That does not include gang- or drug-related incidents, or any incident where a gun is simply fired.
Of those, just under 50 percent occurred in businesses. Schools of all types, including universities, accounted for about another quarter.
At that time, they found an average of 11.4 a year occurred, and it was increasing over time.
A more recent FBI study of 2016 and 2017 found that in 2017, there were 30 active shooting incidents throughout the nation and 138 were killed in the shootings, the first time a death toll has risen above 90 for a single year.
The FBI concluded that “the enhanced threat posed by active shooters and the swiftness with which active shooter incidents unfold support the importance of preparation by law enforcement officers and citizens alike.”
And it appears communities are heading that warning.
Sheridan Pabst, an investigator with the Chippewa Falls police department, gives the presentations and coordinates more in-depth drills for businesses and organizations.
He said the interest has come from all over, from businesses, churches and government organizations among other things.
He noted that the majority of attacks in business settings start with a particular target, but then spiral off.
“It’s usually someone related to a staff member, one way or another,” Pabst said.
Pabst said the increased interest in training was a response to the environment, similar to the bomb drills of the Cold War era.
Winter’s sharpest bite in years moved past painful into life-threatening territory Tuesday, prompting officials throughout the Midwest to take extraordinary measures to protect the homeless and other vulnerable people from the bitter cold, including turning some city buses into mobile warming shelters in Chicago.
Temperatures plunged as low as minus 26 in North Dakota with wind chills as low as minus 62 in Minnesota. It was nearly that cold in Wisconsin and Illinois. Governors in Wisconsin, Illinois and Michigan declared emergencies as the worst of the cold threatened on Wednesday.
The National Weather Service forecast for Wednesday night called for temperatures in Chicago as low as minus 28, with wind chills to minus 50. Detroit’s outlook was for Wednesday overnight lows around minus 15, with wind chills dropping to minus 40.
“These are actually a public health risk and you need to treat it appropriately and with that effort,” Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel said Tuesday. “They are life-threatening conditions and temperatures.”
In Chippewa Falls, the expected high Wednesday will be near minus 14 degrees, while the wind chill will reach as low as 52 below.
A wind chill of minus 25 can freeze skin within 15 minutes, according to the National Weather Service.
Schools in Chippewa County and around Wisconsin were closed Tuesday and will remain closed Wednesday. Some may even close Thursday, when the high will reach 5 below. Friday’s forecast calls for temperatures to finally reach above zero, then Saturday and Sunday will be in the upper 30s.
Chippewa Valley Technical College announced it would be closed Tuesday and Wednesday. UW-Stout canceled all classes after 3:35 p.m. Tuesday and will remain canceled throughout the day Wednesday. UW-Eau Claire, which doesn’t start the spring semester until Monday, announced that its winterim classes are canceled for Wednesday.
At least four deaths were linked to the weather system, including a man struck and killed by a snow plow in the Chicago area, a young couple whose SUV struck another on a snowy road in northern Indiana and a Milwaukee man found frozen to death in a garage.
Recycling won’t be picked up in Chippewa Falls on Wednesday or Thursday. And the Chippewa Falls public library announced it was closing at 5 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday.
Officials in large Midwestern cities including Minneapolis, Milwaukee, Chicago and Detroit were desperately trying to get the homeless off the streets.
Minneapolis charitable groups that operate warming places and shelters expanded hours and capacity, and ambulance crews handled all outside calls as being potentially life-threatening, according to Hennepin County Emergency Management Director Eric Waage. MetroTransit said it wouldn’t remove people from buses if they were riding them simply to stay warm, and weren’t being disruptive.
Emanuel said Chicago was turning five buses into makeshift warming centers moving around the city, some with nurses aboard, to encourage the homeless to come in from the cold.
“We’re bringing the warming shelters to them, so they can stay near all of their stuff and still warm up,” said Cristina Villarreal, spokeswoman for the city’s Department of Family and Support Services.
Shelters, churches and city departments in Detroit worked together to help get vulnerable people out of the cold, offering the message to those who refused help that “you’re going to freeze or lose a limb,” said Terra DeFoe, a senior adviser to Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan.
Nineteen-year-old Deontai Jordan and dozens of others found refuge from the cold in the basement of a church in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
“You come here, you can take a nap, you can snack, you can use the bathroom, you might even be able to shower,” he said. “And then they’re feeding you well. Not to mention they give out clothes, they give out shoes, they give out socks.”
Hundreds of public schools from North Dakota to Missouri to Michigan canceled classes Tuesday, and some on Wednesday as well. So did several large universities.
Closing schools for an extended stretch isn’t an easy decision, even though most school districts build potential makeup days into their schedules, said Josh Collins, spokesman for the Minnesota Department of Education.
“Many students, they might have two working parents, so staying home might mean they’re not supervised,” he said. “For some low-income students, the lunch they receive at school might be their most nutritious meal of the day.”
American Indian tribes in the Upper Midwest were doing what they could to help members in need with heating supplies.
Many people on the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in the Dakotas live in housing that’s decades old and in disrepair, or in emergency government housing left over from southern disasters such as hurricanes.
“They aren’t made for this (northern) country. The cold just goes right through them,” said Elliott Ward, the tribe’s emergency response manager.
The extreme cold was “a scary situation” for the White Earth Band of Ojibwe, said Chris Fairbanks, manager of the northern Minnesota tribe’s energy assistance program.
“We have many, many calls coming in. We’re just swamped trying to get everybody what they need,” she said.
The cold was even shutting down typical outdoor activities. A ski hill in the Minneapolis area said it would close through Wednesday. So did an ice castle attraction.
The cold weather was even affecting beer deliveries, with a pair of western Wisconsin distributors saying they would delay or suspend shipments for fear that beer would freeze in their trucks.
The unusually frigid weather is attributed to a sudden warming far above the North Pole. A blast of warm air from misplaced Moroccan heat last month made the normally super chilly air temperatures above the North Pole rapidly increase. That split the polar vortex into pieces, which then started to wander, said Judah Cohen, a winter storm expert for Atmospheric Environmental Research.
One of those polar vortex pieces is responsible for the subzero temperatures across the Midwest this week.
Linda Conner grew up in Green Bay and is passionate about the Packers. The Pittsburgh area resident has thought for years about returning to Wisconsin.
Conner said she has been selected for her dream job, as she will become the new center director of the Chippewa Valley Family YMCA.
“In my office hangs my Green Bay Packers stock and my cheese head,” Conner said Friday. “This gives me my two loves — my love of Wisconsin and my love of the YMCA.”
Conner has worked for the YMCA for 18 years, and is currently the operations director of the Baierl Family YMCA in Pittsburgh.
Theresa Hillis, Eau Claire YMCA chief executive officer, praised Conner as the right choice for the job, saying Conner “stood out at the top of the list” of applicants.
“Her extensive experience at the Y includes serving on the development team for strategic planning, leading the property and healthy living committees and co-chair for the Association Leading Change Initiative for employee and member engagement,” Hillis wrote in a letter announcing the hiring.
Conner will be moving to the area at the end of February and will start her duties here March 4. She said she moved to Pittsburgh with her husband, Chuck, several decades ago. Their two children are now both graduated and out of the house, and they have decided to make the big move back here. They already own a home in Boulder Junction in northern Wisconsin, where they visit every year.
“When I saw this opportunity, I felt it was the right timing,” Conner said. “He’s fallen in love with the area.”
Conner graduated from UW-River Falls with a degree in agricultural education, and has traveled the state as an FFA officer. Conner toured the YMCA in Chippewa Falls as part of her interview, and she was impressed with what she saw.
“What amazed me is the vitalness (the YMCA has) to the community,” she said. “It can address everyone’s health goals.”
Conner also praised the YMCA’s child care wing, calling it “an amazing fit to the community.” She also likes that stories highlighting members, telling histories of why they joined the YMCA and continue to come, line the walls throughout the building.
She was cautious in answering a question about the biggest challenges facing the building.
“My first role is to really understand the strengths of the Y,” she said. “I can’t wait to get to know Chippewa Falls. I could see the charm of the community. I’m looking forward to making the Y serve the community better.”
Conner replaces Jennifer Sherbinow, who worked at the Chippewa Valley Family YMCA for 19 years, including the past 12 as executive director. However, Sherbinow parted ways with the YMCA in October.
In June 2017, the Chippewa Valley Family YMCA announced it wasn’t going forward with a proposed $10 million capital campaign to remodel the building, after a study showed there wasn’t enough interest and investors in the community to move forward.
The Chippewa Valley Family YMCA has about 5,200 members.
The YMCA opened in 1980 and sits on 10 acres at 611 Jefferson Ave., and the building was designed for expansion. In 1985, the facility opened the first state-licensed daycare in the state at a YMCA. It is now a 15,200-square-foot child care wing. The building underwent a significant, $2.7 million expansion and renovation that began in June 2004, wrapping up in summer 2005.
“I can’t wait to get to know Chippewa Falls. ... I’m looking forward to making the Y serve the community better.” Linda Conner
A Lake Hallie man who participated in illegal hunts in the fall of 2015 was convicted Monday for his role in the incidents.
Austin M. Galindo, 19, 3107 Hwy. OO, pleaded no contest in Chippewa County Court to resisting a conservation warden. The plea came on what was to be the opening day of his trial.
Judge Steve Cray fined Galindo $443 and revoked all of Galindo’s Department of Natural Resources privileges for one year.
Galindo was initially charged with failure to attach an ear tag to a deer, hunting during closed season, and illegal shining of deer.
According to the criminal complaint, in November 2015, Galindo used a spotlight to shine deer around Chippewa Falls, and his accomplice, Colton Denning, shot at deer. This occurred after 10 p.m., which is past legal hunting hours.
Denning, 20, of 369 Daisy Lane, Altoona, pleaded guilty in February 2018 to illegally shining deer and resisting a warden. He was ordered to serve two days in jail and his hunting rights were revoked for six years.
“Galindo shined a trophy buck with a spotlight that Denning shot with his bow and from (a) vehicle off road,” the complaint states. Denning “knew people from the Chippewa Falls community were familiar with seeing the buck around the city and watching it due to its large rack and unique drop tine.”
The buck was described as a 14-pointer.
Denning would later register the animal in Clark County because he was fearful people would recognize it if he registered it in Chippewa County.
Denning also admitted to authorities he had done a similar hunt in October 2015 near Jim Falls, saying he shot at between 20 and 25 deer one evening, using a bow and arrow, and he estimated he killed nine of them.
When police interviewed Galindo, he denied his involvement in the illegal hunts.
However, police searched Denning’s residence, where they seized the trophy buck, and they also obtained a photo of Denning, Galindo, and another person who had posed with the animal.