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The History of the La Crosse Police Department
By Retired Lt. Daniel J. Marcou, 1990

The La Crosse Police Department of 1989 consists of 83 sworn personnel, 11 Civilian Service Employees, and 10 civilian personnel.

In 1989, the La Crosse Police Department has experienced several headline-grabbing armed standoffs. In March, a husband shot his ex-wife and her male friend and then, after a long standoff, Officers, upon entering the house, found that the individual had killed himself.

In May, a gunman fired a handgun into a crowded Buckhorn Bar, 600 block of St. Paul Street, and was later cornered by Officers in the back yard of a residence near George and Hayes Street where he was still armed with a handgun and a large knife. After five and a half hours, he put down the gun and was taken into custody by Officers.

Also in May, a trial was held for an individual who shot his dog 19 times with a semi-automatic handgun. The dog died.

That same month, a man phoned La Crosse Emergency Dispatch Center and told them that Officers would be killed if they returned to his home where they had been investigating a report of a man repeatedly driving a car into a tree. After a standoff, the man, who had been armed with a rifle, gave up.

In June, an armed man threatened to take lives and was finally talked out of his rifle and ammunition. The incident occurred as a result of a domestic dispute. The individual refused to give up the baby that he was clutching and would only do so after several hours of negotiations.

As in earlier times, even though guns are on an upswing, edged weapons are still the weapon of choice, and in 1989 they are repeatedly being used by criminals. No figures are available for 1989, but it appears that stabbings are on the rise.

Street gangs are making the headlines in La Crosse in 1989, but experts state that the gangs in La Crosse are in the “want-to-be category” at this time. Two gang-related stabbings brought this gang to the front pages. Both incidents were cleared and arrests were made.

Drug abuse in the community is a major problem and the La Crosse Police Department is on the offensive. Certain Detectives have been assigned to attack the supply side of the drug abuse problem and they have been very effective. So much so that one drug pusher was found to have Detective Marion Byerson’s picture hung on his wall and was using it as a dartboard.

The demand side of drug abuse is being addressed by the Chief’s new
D.A.R.E. (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) Program. Specially trained Officers from the Department will be spending time in schools throughout La Crosse in an effort to discourage drug abuses by giving children the tools they need to build a better, fuller, more satisfying life without drugs or alcohol. The effects of this program may not be realized for a matter of years.

Also in April of this year, third shift Officers experienced a street riot. A crowd from the closed Coon Creek Canoe Races came to La Crosse to continue the party on Third Street, and, after a fight was quelled by Officers, the crowed turned on the Officers, taking over the 200 block of Pearl and spilling over onto Third Street. A great deal of patience was shown to the crowed. After taking much verbal abuse and after members of the mob threw beer mugs, ax handles, and ice, and at least one gun shot was fired into the air by a mom member, Police took action. Officers Brian Puent and Jeff Graves called additional Officers to the scene. Sgt. Ray Serres called the Fire Department after warnings to move where not heeded by the unruly, intoxicated group. The Fire Department was then given the command to turn their hoses on the crowd. This was very effective with most, but there would some who insisted that they should be arrested, and they were.

In the early morning hours of August 26, the La Crosse Police Department received a tip that a homicide suspect was at the Exel Inn in La Crosse. Acting on this information, Officers contacted the FBI to verify there was an outstanding active warrant for “Aggravated Homicide” on the individual. An arrest team moved in and the suspect was apprehended by La Crosse Police Officers after attempting to leap out of the bedroom window. James W. Kirby, who was wanted for the stabbing death of a young mother in Ohio and numerous other felony counts, was taken into custody and later extradited to Ohio to face justice.

(This book went to print in 1989.)

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400 La Crosse Street, La Crosse, WI 54601
Grand River Great City, La Crosse, Wisconsin