Expert: Attack on Wis. CO potentially lethal

The expert said an inmate who stabbed a CO with a weapon he created from a toothbrush could have killed the officer


By Dan Holtz
Leader-Telegram, Eau Claire, Wis.

EAU CLAIRE, Wis. — An Eau Claire County Jail inmate is accused of attacking a corrections officer with a sharp-edged weapon he created from a jail-issued toothbrush.

A forensic pathologist told authorities Emmitt M. Ritter-Simpson could have killed the officer with the weapon had he been successful in stabbing the officer in the neck.

When interviewed after the attack, Ritter-Simpson said he had no recollection of the incident.

Ritter-Simpson, 22, 1611 Western Ave., was charged Wednesday with a felony count of attempted first-degree intentional homicide, two felony counts of second-degree recklessly endangering safety and a misdemeanor count of resisting an officer.

Judge Jon Theisen set a $100,000 cash bail for Ritter-Simpson, who returns to court Tuesday for a preliminary hearing.

Simpson has been in the jail for three months on a $50,000 cash bail stemming from a January incident in which he is accused of being in a standoff with authorities at Maples Mobile Home Park on Eau Claire’s north side. 

According to the criminal complaint from the latest incident:

Correctional officers Jason Higley and Shane Jensen were escorting Ritter-Simpson from a housing unit to a visitation room at the jail for a visit with his attorney at 1:45 p.m. Feb. 8.

Jail video footage shows Ritter-Simpson grabbing Higley’s head and drawing it toward himself.

Ritter-Simpson had an edged weapon in his left hand. He made a stabbing motion toward Higley’s head and neck.

Higley was able to duck away from Ritter-Simpson and was not stabbed.

Jensen used his stun gun against Ritter-Simpson, but it had no effect. Multiple corrections officers then arrived to assist Higley and Jensen.

A third officer used his stun gun on Ritter-Simpson, and it was effective. Ritter-Simpson was taken into custody and escorted to a safety cell.

The weapon Ritter-Simpson used was a jail-issued toothbrush with the rigid plastic handle sharpened to form a point and an edge.

All the corrections officers involved in the incident told authorities Ritter-Simpson threatened to kill them and their families. At one point, the officers said, Ritter-Simpson shouted that “I will kill your families when I get out. I am not going to prison alive.”

Ritter-Simpson was interviewed two weeks after the incident and said he did not remember what happened.

Ritter-Simpson recalled he was reading a book and was told his attorney was there to see him. He then remembered getting out of his bed and leaving his cell. Ritter-Simpson said the next thing he remembers is waking up “strapped to a chair.”

Forensic pathologist Robert Corliss of UW-Madison analyzed the altered toothbrush and jail video of the incident. The modified toothbrush was capable of inflicting lethal harm if used as a weapon in an assault, Corliss said. 

Sheriff Ron Cramer said his corrections officers were placed in a dangerous situation.

“Officers reacted to the threat in an appropriate manner based on their training and experience, including adherence to office policy and best practices,” he said. “We are proud of our staff for a challenging job they do day in and day out to maintain safety and security of the jail facility.”

Ritter-Simpson was previously charged with 12 felonies — including 10 counts of second-degree recklessly endangering safety — in connection with the January standoff.

According to the criminal complaint in that case:

Police responded to the mobile home park, 1611 Western Ave., at 2:50 p.m. Jan. 16 on a report of a man shooting a pellet pistol at family members.

During a standoff, which lasted for several hours, Ritter-Simpson fired the BB gun at officers, striking several, including one in the forehead, and yelled threats and obscenities at officers.

At about 5:40 p.m., Ritter-Simpson exited the mobile home and surrendered to officers.

In his interview with police, he admitted firing the BB gun at police and said he barricaded himself in the trailer because he wanted to die. When asked why he decided to surrender, Ritter-Simpson said, “I guess the switch flipped back.”

©2018 the Leader-Telegram (Eau Claire, Wis.)

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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