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Jonathan Copeland Jr., accused in ambush death of Officer Michalski, pleads not guilty to homicide charges

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Jonathan Copeland Jr.

MILWAUKEE -- Jonathan Copeland Jr. -- the man charged in connection with the death of Officer Michael Michalski was in court Thursday, Aug. 9 for his preliminary hearing, which he waived.

Probable cause was found for further proceedings, and Copeland was bound over for trial.

He pleaded not guilty.

A scheduling conference was set for Aug. 28.

A FOX6 News crew in the courtroom Thursday reported it was filled with police officers and family members of Officer Michalski and Jonathan Copeland.

Jonathan Copeland Jr.

Michael Crivello

"It's never easy to see a defendant that has caused such great harm on an officer and ultimately the entire community. Certainly we appreciate all the prayers we know are coming our way, for the strength of the family making it through this very difficult time. We appreciate the support of the entire community to help us through the two most difficult months of many of our careers," said Michael Crivello with the Milwaukee Police Association.

Jonathan Copeland Jr.

Copeland faces the following charges:

  • First degree intentional homicide, use of a dangerous weapon
  • Attempt first degree intentional homicide, use of a dangerous weapon
  • Possession of a firearm by a felon

A criminal complaint filed against Copeland says officers were in the area near 28th and Wright on July 25 because Copeland had an “open arrest warrant” for felony drug crimes, as well as a warrant for absconding from Department of Corrections supervision. Copeland was spotted going into a home in the area, and officers went to that location in an effort to arrest Copeland.

According to the complaint, officers arrived at the residence and formulated a plan to search the house for him. Officer Michalski, wearing his police uniform, “began to ascend the rear staircase to the upper floor” of the home after Copeland wasn’t found on the lower floor.

Jonathan Copeland Jr.

Michalski was wearing a body camera. The video shows as he climbed the staircase, a pile of clothing came into view. There was slight movement in the pile of clothing, the complaint says, and then the “camera view suddenly blurs, consistent with the officer moving rapidly to attempt a retreat.” Gunshots rang out at that time — and the video went black as Michalski fell onto the camera.

Another officer’s body camera captured “Michalski lying motionless on the stairs to the upper floor.” The complaint says Officer Michalski was shot in the head.

The complaint says two other officers were outside and heard the gunfire from inside. One saw a window screen get pushed out of a window and Copeland was seen leaning out from inside. The complaint says Copeland pointed a gun at one of the officers and shot at him. An officer returned fire, and Copeland pulled his body back into the house. An officer then saw a gun (a .45 caliber “High Point” semi-automatic pistol) thrown from the window onto the lawn, and Copeland was heard yelling that his hands were up and not to shoot him. Copeland was arrested on the stairway landing.

Milwaukee police officer shot near 28th & Wright

It was determined that the door to the upper unit at 28th and Wright was locked, and the complaint indicates Copeland became trapped on the landing — where he hid silently for 10 minutes and “ambushed and shot Officer Michalski” as he began to close in.

The complaint says Michalski immediately fell after the first gunshot and never moved again. Officers carried him out of the stairwell and he was taken to the hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

The medical examiner determined the cause of death to be a single gunshot wound to the head. His death was ruled a homicide.

Jonathan Copeland

The complaint says on the morning of July 25, Copeland sent a text to his wife, in which he appeared to threaten to shoot police if they were to come after him. This, after authorities say on July 23, Copeland's wife called police to report that he was threatening to shoot up her house because she refused to reimburse him for an expense he had incurred.

In the exchange were texts reading: "Police can't save you FYI. N I Will pop 1 of they (expletive) if u try to jam me up."

After his arrest, Copeland told officers "they got me for murder. I shot him," according to the complaint. While being transported to the hospital, the complaint says Copeland said "I will take it off your waist and put one in the back of your head too," a statement that was recorded by body cameras.

The Milwaukee Police Department has created a GoFundMe page for Officer Michalski’s family.

Anyone wishing to make a donation may do so at any Tri City National Bank, or you can send any donations to the address below:

Michael J. Michalski Memorial Fund
C/O Tri City National Bank
7525 W. Oklahoma Ave.
Milwaukee, WI 53219

Copeland Jr. is being held on $1.5 million cash bail. The court added another $20,000 bail to top of that for the drug charges. If convicted of all the charges, Copeland could spend life in prison.

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