WI Police Cleared in Shooting that Killed Firefighter

June 15, 2019
Prosecutors determined two police officers were justified in fatally shooting a suspect who shot and killed Appleton firefighter Mitch Lundgaard in the line of duty in May.

Two police officers who shot and killed a suspect who fatally shot a Wisconsin firefighter in the line of duty were cleared of any wrongdoing Friday.

Ruben Houston, 47, opened fire with a .380 semiautomatic pistol after being administered two shots of Narcan on May 15. The gunfire hit 14-year veteran Appleton firefighter Mitch Lundgaard, as well as an Appleton police officer, who returned fire with another officer.

The Outagmie County district attorney determined that Sgt. Christopher Biese and Officer Paul Christensen, the officer who was shot in the exchange, were justified in firing on Houston, killing him, ABC News reports. Footage of the incident from Biese's body camera, which was released Thursday, shows Houston getting up after receiving the Narcan, and officers noticing "a bulge" on his right side

Houston told police that the bulge was a phone, but he then pulled out a gun and began shooting. Lundgaard was hit in the back, and Christensen was struck in the lower body.

A bystander, Brittany L. Schowalter, 30, was believed by police to have been used as a human shield by Houston, according to ABC. She was hit by the return fire by police but survived the incident.

“Sgt. Biese and Officer Christensen acted heroically, moving and repeatedly engaging the suspect as he fired," said Police Chief Todd L. Thomas. "Even after Officer Christensen was hit, and clearly in extreme pain, he battled on because people’s lives were still in danger. They were both guardians and caregivers — and, when needed, they were true warriors — vividly demonstrating the strength of the thin blue line.”

A firefighter inspector and relief driver engineer, Lundgaard had driven the department's apparatus to the scene. He also was a father of three children, ABC reports.