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‘We’ll catch this person:’ Man sought in fatal shooting of off-duty Officer John Hetland at Racine bar

John Hetland

RACINE -- A manhunt was underway Tuesday, June 18 after an off-duty Racine police officer was shot and killed while attempting to stop an armed robbery at Teezers bar Monday night, June 17.

According to Racine police, off-duty Officer John Hetland witnessed an armed robbery in progress at Teezers near 20th Street and Lathrop Avenue.

"He went behind the bar and demanded money and wielded a gun," said Kenosha County Sheriff David Beth of the shooter.

Investigators said Officer Hetland jumped over the bar and tried to take the man down, but was shot once and killed in the process. The weapon was not located.

Officer Hetland was a 24-year veteran of the Racine Police Department.

"Officer Hetland was a trusted and highly respected member of the department, serving in various positions over the years, including an assignment as a field training officer, as well as a member of the Greater Racine FBI Gang Task Force," said the Racine Police Department in a news release.

The Kenosha County Sheriff's Department released the following photo of the shooter:

Suspect in fatal shooting of off-duty Racine Police Officer John Hetland

In a news conference on Tuesday afternoon, Racine Mayor Cory Mason offered his condolences to Hetland's family and his family on the police force.

Racine Mayor Cory Mason

"This is a real loss for the city, but the other thing I want to say is, the City of Racine and City of Racine Police Department is in mourning today. Today, those officers need your support more than ever. They are going through a tragic time. They have lost a brother who has been a mentor and a friend to them, who has helped them protect this city for years," Mason said. "We grieve his loss, but we offer love and support for those officers out there today doing their jobs to keep us safe."

Kenosha County Sheriff David Beth shared a brief story about when he told a recent group of police graduates that they were going to be the closest thing to superheroes.

"Last night in Racine, we lost one of our superheroes," Sheriff Beth said. "He wasn't even officially working at the time -- and he was doing what he was trained to do for the last 24 years -- and that was to protect the public and stop criminals."

Kenosha County Sheriff David Beth

Sheriff Beth indicated multiple rewards were being offered for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the shooter, including $20,000 from the FBI and $5,000 from a private Racine business.

"We'll catch this person," the sheriff said.

If you have any information regarding the identity of this person, or any information regarding this crime, officials asked that you please contact Crime Stoppers at 888-636-9330, 262-656-7333 or (800) 807-TIPS (8477). You can remain anonymous.

"I know, for me, it hasn't quite settled in that John is not coming through the door anymore and say, 'Hi,'" said Ian Hemmingway with Klamm Total Automotive in Racine. "He was one of the good cops -- one of the cops that stands for what you think of when you think of protect and law enforcement. I'm sure he wouldn't have been able to sleep with himself had he not gone up and stood up for people. I hope John can get some justice. He deserves it for sure."

Officer Hetland's body was transported to Draeger-Langendorf Funeral Home on County Line Road in Mount Pleasant on Tuesday afternoon -- after being transported from Racine to the Milwaukee County Medical Examiner's Office early Tuesday for an autopsy.

PHOTO GALLERY

 

A Go Fund Me account in support of Officer Hetland has been started by the Racine Police Department. CLICK HERE to learn more.

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