Prosecutor clears Madison police officers in fatal shooting

MADISON — Three police officers in Madison who fatally shot a drunken man after he fired at them have been cleared of any criminal wrongdoing.

The Wisconsin State Journal reported Monday that Dane County District Attorney Ismael Ozanne has decided not to file charges against Sgt. Ryan Gibson and officers Sonny Martinez and Justin Nelson in the death of 63-year-old Dean Thomas in October.

“In this incident, the officers were faced with a subject who was armed with a handgun and who was not responding to commands while advancing on them before firing in the officers' direction,” Ozanne said in a statement. “Responding to that threat with deadly force is permitted under the law.”

According to Ozanne's statement, the dispatchers received a 911 call from Thomas' apartment on Oct. 27. The call was disconnected and when dispatchers called back they were told that a man was shooting a gun outside. The call was disconnected again.

The first two officers who arrived encountered Thomas coming toward them with a handgun. They backed out of the building while ordering Thomas to drop the gun.

Two more officers arrived. Thomas continued to walk toward them, refusing to obey commands to drop his gun. He raised the gun and fired in the officers' direction. Three of the four officers returned fire with an AR-15 rifle and two 9 mm handguns. The officer who didn't fire said he didn't have a clear shot because the other officers had moved between him and Thomas.

Ozanne said it's unclear why Thomas opened fire. His blood alcohol concentration was 0.22%, which is nearly three times the legal limit to drive, the district attorney said.