Protesters: Response to standoff was too much

Protesters: Response to standoff was too much

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RACINE — Family and supporters of a man charged in connection with a Nov. 1 standoff staged a protest in Downtown Racine on Saturday decrying what they called a heavy-handed response by police to the incident.

About a dozen protesters waved signs and yelled at passing cars at about 3 p.m. outside the Public Safety Building, 730 Center St. They next marched down Seventh Street to Monument Square, where preparations were taking place for the Holiday Parade.

Participants in the protest contend police did not do due diligence in investigating the events that led up to the 3½-hour standoff at the home of Kurt Hanson, 55, in the 4000 block of Victory Avenue. Hanson’s 3½-year-old Australian cattle dog named Angel was killed by police in the incident. The police chief responded to some of their allegations by saying they were either false or appeared unfounded.

“The reason we came out to do this was the merciless shooting of my brother’s pet in the back four times and my brother being incarcerated when a man came to his door threatening him four times with a gun,” said Karen Wyatt, 51, of Racine. “The underlying motivation I have for coming out here and doing this is I think the Racine Police Department has become an organization that functions as a killing machine rather than justice for the people.”

Hanson’s neighbor, Kim Polk, and police said the standoff occurred after Hanson allegedly threatened Polk’s husband with a machete after he went to Hanson’s house to confront him about threatening Kim Polk over leaf blowing and the picking up of excrement left by Angel. Karen Wyatt contends Polk’s husband was armed when he confronted Hanson, an allegation police did not respond to on Saturday.

Hanson was charged in Racine County Circuit Court on Nov. 3 with several charges, including recklessly endangering safety.

“If (Police Chief) Art Howell wants to use military tactics on the civilian public for an incident involving dog poop and allows it to escalate, then this is war,” said Harry Wait, 60, a self-proclaimed activist who participated in Saturday’s protest. “We have now printed our terms of surrender for Art Howell.”

Howell said Saturday in an email that he is compiling a report on the incident, which he will give to Mayor John Dickert upon completion. Howell said his department is still in the process of transcribing all the 911 tapes from the incident.

Wyatt said it was police who let the dog from the house and that video from a neighbor shows the dog was running in the yard playfully. Howell called Wyatt’s allegation “false and completely baseless.”

“Although the formal review process is not complete at this time, all available information and evidence shows that officers were positioned outside of the home for the entire standoff, where they clearly had no opportunity to release Hanson’s dog (who was inside the home),” Howell said in an email to The Journal Times.

In an earlier press release on the incident, police said Hanson appeared at the door with Angel, who was growling and barking. Police said Hanson threatened to use the dog as a weapon and ultimately did release the dog into the yard.

Wyatt also contends that police were offered a key to gain access to the residence, but opted to use tear gas instead. Howell said the allegation about the key appears “unfounded at this time” and tear gas was not used.

“Even if such an offer would have been extended, the circumstances officers faced on this occasion would have made it unsafe to enter Hanson’s home with a key,” Howell wrote. “The issue at hand had little to do with accessing a locked dwelling. The issue at hand had to do with securing an intoxicated individual who repeatedly threatened to kill officers.”

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