BELOIT—The Rock County District Attorney’s Office has ruled the actions by Beloit police Sgt. Shannon Dykstra, who shot a suspect who attempted to disarm her following a traffic crash on Dec. 15, were lawful following an independent state investigation.
Rock County District Attorney David O’Leary said Dykstra acted “lawfully and in accordance with her duty as a sworn law enforcement officer” following the incident in which she shot Bautista Almaraz after he attempted to disarm her, according to body camera footage reviewed by O’Leary and cited in the independent investigation by the Wisconsin Department of Justice’s Division of Criminal Investigation. Demographic information for Bautista was not immediately available on Friday afternoon.
In a news conference on Friday afternoon, Beloit Police Chief Andre Sayles confirmed Dykstra remained on administrative leave following the incident. Now the command staff will conduct an internal review of the incident, along with a review of the use of force involved, Sayles said.
“We anticipate a thorough investigation,” Sayles said. “We encourage the public to continue to have patience while we work through the investigation on our side.”
The following is cited in a report by O’Leary based on the investigation by DCI:
Dykstra was investigating a traffic crash near Prairie and Copeland avenues after Almaraz “threw himself” into the passenger side of the vehicle.
The person in the vehicle attempted to speak with Almaraz to check his welfare, but Almaraz kept walking and did not respond.
The sergeant was driving by the area following the crash and attempted to make contact with Almaraz. Dykstra requested additional units and advised that Almaraz was having a “mental health issue,” before making contact with him a final time on Prairie Avenue south of Crescent Drive, O’Leary’s report states.
At that time, Almaraz “lunged forward with his right hand and grabs Sgt. Dykstra’s duty weapon” before a struggle ensued as Dykstra was able to create distance between herself and Almaraz before giving verbal commands to get on the ground. Almaraz appeared to ignore commands, O’Leary said, and kept running at Dykstra and lunging at her “multiple times.”
“Dykstra continued backing away and giving verbal commands. Bautista Almaraz lunged towards Sgt. Dykstra a final time forcing Sgt. Dykstra to fire her duty weapon, twice, striking Almaraz,” O’Leary’s report states.
During the incident, Dykstra reports Almaraz was giving her a “1,000 yard stare” while he was attempted to take her service weapon and lunging at her, O’Leary said.
“Sgt. Dykstra was repelling repeated attacks by Bautista Almaraz and was protecting not only her life, but the lives of any civilians who were in and around the vicinity of the incident and who were potential victims of Bautista Almaraz’s life-threatening behavior,” O’Leary wrote.
The incidents cited by O’Leary were captured on Dykstra’s body-worn camera and based on reports given to DCI.
Almaraz was treated and released from Mercy Hospital in Janesville. He was subsequently charged with attempting to disarm a peace officer and criminal damage to property, according to Rock County Circuit Court records.
The case remains pending and he is scheduled to appear in court for an adjourned initial appearance on Jan. 26.
The Beloit Daily News has submitted records requests to review body camera footage of the incident from the Wisconsin Department of Justice along with the criminal complaint filed against Almaraz from the Rock County Circuit Court Clerk’s Office.