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St. Croix County’s Nieskes to review officer-involved shooting

St. Croix County District Attorney Michael Nieskes will review evidence in the investigation of an officer-involved shooting death of a northern Wisconsin teenager. File photo

St. Croix County’s district attorney will determine whether or not the shooting of a teenager by a sheriff’s deputy was justified.

Michael Nieskes said Thursday he was asked by the Ashland County district attorney to review evidence gathered by agents investigating the Nov. 8 shooting death of 14-year-old Jason Pero by Ashland County Sheriff’s Office deputy Brock Mrdjenovich.

The deputy was called to Odanah, Wis., located on the Bad River American Indian reservation, for a report of a man carrying a knife. It was later determined Pero had placed the original 911 call.

According to the Wisconsin Department of Justice, Mrdjenovich encountered Nero, who was carrying “a large butcher knife” and refused numerous commands to drop it. Nero allegedly made two lunges toward the deputy before Mrdjenovich fired on the teen. Nero was later pronounced dead at Memorial Medical Center in Ashland.

The Department of Justice said initial reports indicate Pero “had been despondent over the few days leading up to the incident” and that a subsequent search warrant supported those suspicions.

Mrdjenovich is on paid administrative leave pending an investigation by the DOJ’s Division of Criminal Investigation.

Nieskes said he has not yet received any reports from the investigation. He said he will be tasked with reviewing evidence and interviews gathered in the investigation and determining whether Mrdjenovich was justified in the shooting. Nieskes would also determine if criminal prosecution is warranted — if it’s decided that the shooting was not justified.

The investigation in the Mrdjenovich case, he said, “is going to be substantial.”

Nieskes said there is no timeline at this point and that the duration of the process “depends on the nature of the investigation.” Other officer-involved shooting cases are resolved in four to six weeks, Nieskes said, adding that some take longer.

Nieskes said the statewide and national spotlight the case has drawn doesn’t make his role in the process more challenging.

“No, media coverage does not affect the determination,” he said.

Mike Longaecker

Mike Longaecker is the regional public safety reporter for RiverTown Multimedia. His coverage area spans St. Croix and Pierce counties. Longaecker served from 2011-2015 as editor of the Woodbury Bulletin. A University of Wisconsin-River Falls graduate, Longaecker previously reported for the Red Wing Republican Eagle and for the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau. You can follow him on Twitter at @Longaecker

(715) 426-1072
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