Wausau, WI Police Press release [via wsaw.com]:
We have done several media interviews and posted a message about this incident on our Facebook page. There are two items we would like to clarify due to the misinformation we are hearing throughout the community.
First is the issue of the police response to the call. At approximately 9:45 PM, a person called dispatch and reported several people got out of their car and pointed firearms at people in another car. Officers responded with lights and siren and located the vehicles described by the caller on Stevens Drive. Based on the information provided by the caller, officers believed there was a serious, potentially life-threatening, situation unfolding with individuals carrying firearms . . .
Because of the reported weapons involved, officers initiated a high risk vehicle contact. This is different than a normal traffic stop where an officer would approach the vehicle. In a high risk vehicle contact, the officers direct firearms at the vehicle to be ready in case someone in the vehicle would attempt to use a weapon. Officers then use the public address system in their squad car to direct the occupants of the vehicle to keep their hands over their head. Officers direct each occupant, one by one, to exit the vehicle and walk backward toward the officers. Then officers place each occupant into handcuffs, check them for weapons, and escort them to the back seat of a police car.
In this case, after all the people were removed from the vehicles, officers went up to check the vehicles for weapons. Once officers approached the vehicle, they saw the Nerf guns and concluded this incident was different than what was reported.
Officers then moved into the parking lot at Wausau West High School to open the roadway for regular traffic. They interviewed the people who were involved in the incident.
The second issue we would like to address in this press release is the decision to issue disorderly conduct citations to the six individuals involved. The basis for this decision was the disruption caused to the neighborhood, not the use of Nerf guns. This incident happened on Stevens Drive, in a residential neighborhood, on the side of the roadway. There was enough disruption to cause a neighbor’s attention to be drawn to see what was happening. The neighbor then saw what they believed to be several people brandishing firearms and pointing them at another vehicle. This resulted in the 911 call.
Attached to this press release is the letter sent home to parents as a joint effort by the Wausau School District and Wausau Police Department to make sure parents and students were aware of this game. This letter was mailed earlier this month. While we encourage our youth to have fun and make great memories, there is potential in a game like this for negative consequences should the game go too far. It is important to make good decisions. Being on the side of the road and moving around with a gun in hand will attract the attention of the neighbors and most likely scare them. This incident happened during hours of darkness and it was not apparent to the 911 caller that the guns used were Nerf guns.
We will continue to investigate this incident by reading police reports, looking at squad video, speaking to officers involved, and listening to radio transmissions to evaluate our response.