Prosecutors: Officer-involved shooting at Appleton transit center ruled justified

Data pix.

Shooting at downtown transit center in Appleton

APPLETON – Prosecutors say the officer-involved shooting that happened at the Appleton transit Center on May 15 was ruled justified -- and the officers involved will not face any criminal charges. The gunfire killed a Wausau man identified as Ruben Houston, firefighter Mitchell Lundgaard, and also injured a police officer and bystander.

"After consideration of all available evidence, an assessment of applicable legal rules and principles, I conclude that Sgt. Biese and Officer Christensen acted in an objectively reasonable manner and were justified in their use of deadly force based upon their perceived threat of imminent death or great bodily harm to themselves and others by Ruben Houston. Thus, no criminal charges will be issued in against either officer," said Melinda Tempelis, Outagamie County District Attorney.

Police and emergency responders were called to the Valley Transit Center, 100 E. Washington, at around 5:30 p.m. on May 15 for a man, later identified as Houston, suffering a possible seizure on a bus. Houston was given narcan to counteract a suspected opioid overdose. However, when officers asked Houston if he could be patted down for safety concerns, he became agitated and pulled out a compact .380 semiautomatic handgun, and begins firing.

Body camera video from Sgt. Biese and Officer Christensen capture the moment Houston pulls out the gun, cocks it, and begins firing, striking Officer Christensen and firefighter Mitchell Lundgaard. Houston runs away, as Christensen and Biese still engage him.

Tempelis says Houston then grabbed bystander Brittany Schowalter, 30, and used her as a shield. She was struck during an exchange of gunfire with police.

"His actions were pure evil, plain and simple. But, it is the actions of those first responders and how this community supported us which reaffirms everything we already know about Appleton, and that is what will truly be the final word in this tragedy," said Appleton Police Chief Todd Thomas.

Injuries reported after shooting at Valley Transit Center in downtown Appleton

Injuries reported after shooting at Valley Transit Center in downtown Appleton

The 47-year-old Houston, of Wausau, was shot and killed. Appleton Fire Fighter Mitchell Lundgaard, 36, was also shot and died at an area hospital.

Police Officer Paul Christensen and bystander Brittany Schowalter, 30, were also struck by gunfire; Christensen was treated and released from the hospital, Schowalter needed to be hospitalized.

Last month, police said Christensen and Sgt. Christopher Biese fired at least one shot, but that it was unclear how many rounds were fired in total. Green Bay Police took over the shooting investigation, as required by state law.

Christopher Biese and Paul Christensen

At the time of the shooting, court records showed Houston was free on bond in connection to a Fond du Lac County drug case. He was also facing disorderly conduct charges in Marathon County.

Lundgaard was the first Appleton firefighter to die in the line of duty in 86 years. Scores of people lined the funeral procession route as it weaved its way through the city, days after the shooting. Thousands also and paid their respects for the husband and father of three last during a visitation and funeral service in Grand Chute that lasted late into the evening.

Mitchell Lundgaard

Lundgaard was laid to rest at Riverside Cemetery in Appleton.

Funeral for Appleton firefighter Mitchell Lundgaard

In the days following the shooting, monetary support for Lundgaard’s widow and children streamed in to the GoFundMe fundraising website. Wisconsin native and Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt donated $10,000 to the fund. Watt’s father is a retired firefighter.

As of June 13, more than $219,000 of a $300,000 goal has been raised.

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