Kewaunee County Sheriff Matt Joski stands by as District Attorney Andrew Naze addresses reporters Tuesday afternoon.
By Warren Bluhm
The last two hours of Tyler Whitmire’s life began with going for a walk along the Ice Age Trail and smoking marijuana with a female friend, Kewaunee County District Attorney Andrew Naze said Tuesday.
Not long afterward he was grabbing the wheel of her car as she drove and striking her with a hammer, then threatening people who tried to come to her rescue.
Naze announced that he would not file criminal charges against the police officers involved in the confrontation with Whitmire on a rural highway, including sheriff’s deputy Jamie Tlachac, who shot and killed Whitmire as he charged at another deputy holding a knife over his head.
Naze said he drew his conclusion after reviewing voluminous reports prepared by the state Division of Criminal Investigation, videos, 911 calls, photos and other records.
Not long after Whitmire and his female acquaintance smoked marijuana, he complained of feeling ill and wanted to turn back, Naze said.
Whitmire “did not seem to be with it, and it was difficult to hold a conversation with him,” he quoted the woman as saying.
While she was driving him back, Whitmire grabbed the wheel of the vehicle, nearly striking an oncoming vehicle. She stopped the car abruptly along County Road AB in the town of Franklin.
“Mr. Whitmire grabbed a hammer from the passenger-side door, and he struck the female acquaintance several times, striking her twice on the head,” Naze said. “He also proceeding to smash out the windows of the car, both the front windshield and the side passenger windows.”
The woman was heard yelling, “I’m your friend, please don’t hurt me,” Naze said.
The incident occurred near two homes along County Road AB, and one homeowner saw Whitmire hit the woman with the hammer. As the man approached, he heard her say, “Help me, he’s going to kill me,” Naze said.
Whitmire then ran toward the other house, where that homeowner and his daughter were coming down the driveway, and ran into the house, emerging with a kitchen knife that had a 5-inch blade, Naze said.
“Homeowner 1 tells Mr. Whitmire to put the knife down; Mr. Whitmire tells Homeowner No. 1, ‘My life is over, just kill me.’”
Whitmire then chased after the second homeowner’s daughter with the knife, but she made it safely inside the first house.
As the neighbors interacted with Whitmire, he was heard to say, “I did drugs, my wife is done with me,” and “I just want to die, I screwed up my whole life.”
At that point four officers arrived – Tlachac, Deputy Jordan Salentine, Sgt. Dustin Smidle, and Kewaunee Police Officer Brian Gale with K9 officer Charlie.
Naze played the dashcam video of the incident, which shows Whitmire crossing the road and then running with the knife over his head toward Salentine, who was holding a rifle.
“As Mr. Whitmire closes in on Deputy Salentine, Deputy Tlachac discharges his duty rifle, striking Mr. Whitmire three times,” Naze said. “Mr. Whitmire immediately fell to the ground at Deputy Salentine’s feet.”
He was struck three times, in the hand, chin and back, with the last shot traveling into his body. The DCI summary report said Whitmire died at the scene of internal chest injuries.
Naze said Wisconsin law gives law enforcement officer “a legal privilege to use deadly force to protect others when the officer reasonably believes there is an actual or imminent unlawful interference directed at the other person and reasonably believes that such force is necessary to prevent the imminent death or great bodily harm to the other person.”
Without Tlachac’s intervention, Naze said he believed Salentine “would have suffered great bodily harm or even death from the imminent knife attack.”
As a result Naze ruled that Tlachac’s actions were justified, and he said he won’t be filing criminal charges.
Naze said he talked with the victims and Whitmire’s family about his decision.
The family “want me to tell you that this was completely out of character for Mr. Whitmire,” he said. “He was a decorated Marine; they are in pain, they lost a son. Please respect their privacy.”
Toxicology results are still pending, he said.
Naze said the woman Whitmire attacked was taken to a hospital for treatment of her injuries, but he said he was unable to offer further details.