Michael J. Michalski, the Milwaukee police officer slain in the line of duty on July 25, 2018, was a veteran officer honored for excellence in service and remembered as a police officer people looked up to.
Michalski’s sibling posted a heartbreaking tribute to the fallen officer on Facebook, saying he was “way too young to die today.” Michalski, a 17-year veteran of the Milwaukee Police Department, died Wednesday following a shooting on the city’s north side, in the Metcalfe Park neighborhood. He was the second Milwaukee police officer to die in recent months.
Michalski, 52, is survived by his wife Susan and their three sons: John, Josh and Andrew.
During Thursday’s press conference, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett said of Michalski: “A loss like this is a horrendous loss, to his family, to the department and to the city. It’s a tragic reminder of the stress [Milwaukee police officers] are under and the conditions they encounter, sometimes on a daily basis. 99% of the community would have run but he went in there and made the ultimate sacrifice.”
Police responded to a call about a suspect wanted on drug and gun violations Wednesday afternoon. Officers approached and encountered the suspect entering a residence before shots were fired at officers. During the exchange, “one of our members was injured,” Police Chief Alfonso Morales said in a statement.
Here’s what you need to know about Michael Michalski:
1. Officer Michael Michalski Was a 17-Year Veteran on the Force Who Won An Excellence In Police Service Award in 2017 & Was a Member of the Special Investigations Division
Mike Michalski, as he was sometimes affectionately referred to as, worked with the Milwaukee Police Department for 17 years before his life was cut short on July 25. According to the Milwaukee Police Department, Michalski received a merit award in 2017 and 2018 for Excellence in Police Service.
Michalski was also a member of the Special Investigations Division with the MPD and court records show he was a bicycle officer last year. The MPD wrote a post on Facebook six years ago honoring Michalski and another officer for finding four pounds of marijuana during a traffic stop.
“Excellent work by Police Officers Michael Michalski, Timothy Zielinski on traffic stop shortly before 8 p.m,” the post reads. “Officers stop vehicle, occupants ran away – but the good guys were faster than the bad guys! Officers caught 3 suspects and recovered 4 lbs of marijuana and a large amount of cash.”
Mourner Jo Karz posted on Facebook that Michalski started his career with the Milwaukee County Sheriff’s Office and that his death was a “huge loss.” The Whitewater Police Department also posted an emotional tribute to Michalski, saying the department was heartbroken at the news of another fallen officer in the area.
“The City of Whitewater Police Department is deeply saddened by a second death, in as many months, of an on-duty City of Milwaukee Police Officer. Officer Michael Michalski, a 17 year veteran, died Wednesday afternoon after being shot by a suspect in the City of Milwaukee. The loss of our colleague is a terrible tragedy and we send our heartfelt condolences to his family, friends and co-workers. Please keep them in your prayers.”
Michalski’s cousin Donna Sorce also confirmed on Facebook that Michalski had passed, writing: “RIP Michael Michalski you were an awesome cousin and a great cop. looked up to you”
2. Michael Michalski Was ‘Way Too Young To Die’, Loved His Wife & Child & Gave His Life Serving Others, His Sibling Wrote
Michalski’s sibling, who uses the name Pat Michals on Facebook, wrote an emotional tribute on social media: “My brother was way too young to die today. He loved his wife and son very much. He gave his life serving others and will be missed by everyone who knew him. Love you Michael.”
Michalski is remembered by Police Chief Morales as a friend who was “well loved” by the Milwaukee Police Department.
“It’s a difficult time for the police department. He’s a 17-year veteran who was well loved by the department and a friend of mine,” Morales said.
In a press conference Thursday afternoon, Morales said Michalski was a “cookie cutter” police officer, somebody that set the standards for how Milwaukee police officers should be. “Pretty much everyone loved him, [I] can’t think of anyone that has anything negative to say about him or family,” Morales said during the emotional conference.
Another tribute to the fallen officer stated: “Another fine Milwaukee Police Officer is shot and killed in the line of duty tonight – Mike was a truly great guy and cop. You will be missed by all of us Mike.”
Glen Haase wrote: “RIP MIKE MY FRIEND…” followed by a picture of the MPD badge.
A court case that Officer Mike Michalski was named in back in 2015 highlights the difficult and dangerous situations he had previously encountered on the job, as well as how police work can sometimes find itself questioned in the court system. In this case, Michalski and his partner were investigating shots fired and encountered and arrested a man with a gun in his pocket, but the courts said they didn’t have reasonable suspicion to stop him, questioning whether Michalski and his partner unlawfully “seized” the suspect, Dontray Smith.
During his testimony, Officer Michalski stated the encounter with Smith was a “field interview,” rather than a citizen contact, and suggested that Smith was a suspect in the shooting incident that the officers were investigating that night. He explained that since he had heard gunshots in the area, “for safety reasons, walking in an alley like that, I’m going to ask someone are they in possession of anything like that—guns, knives, a weapon or something like that.” He further clarified that were the encounter a consensual “citizen contact,” he would have posed different questions, such as “[d]id you see somebody run through a yard? We’re looking for somebody.” He reiterated that if he is “going to a shots fired call I’m going to ask that person, ‘Do you have a gun on you?'”
In another case involving a homicide, Michalski, one of the arresting officers, was considered a “wholly persuasive and credible” officer in court documents, and that his credibility was easy to assess regarding the case because he didn’t often testify in court.
“In this case, the trial court stated that the testimony of the arresting officers and detectives was ‘wholly persuasive and credible.’ The court singled out the observations of Officers Pajot and Michalski as “very credible,” in part because they do not testify in court as often as the detectives. The court stated that the officers’ credibility was easier to assess than the detectives who were more experienced witnesses.”
3. Michalski Was Shot Down in Cold Blood While Answering a Call About a Suspect Wanted on Gun & Drug Violations
Morales released an update around 6:30 p.m. Wednesday confirming that the officer, a 17-year veteran of the department and friend of the chief, had died as a result of his injuries.
“I’m saddened to inform you the officer injured did not make it today,” Morales said.
Michalski was a member of the Special Investigations Division and was looking for a suspect wanted on gun and drug violations, according to police. Morales said the incident unfolded after a check for the suspect, Jonathan Copeland Jr., became violent. Officers approached and encountered the Copeland entering a residence before shots were fired at officers.
Sources tell TMJ4 the officer was hit twice in the shooting. He was taken to Froedtert Hospital and pronounced dead shortly after.
A witness gave an account of what happened to Fox 6, claiming the suspect allegedly yelled “I’m not going back to jail,” before unleashing a spray of bullets on responding police officers.
“Apparently it was a stop, and the guy hopped right out of the car and he’s like ‘I’m not going back to jail,’ and he got to shooting out the gate. Just got to shooting. And not only did he hit the officer, but he hit other innocent bystanders that was in the area. As of now, the officer, it don’t look like he’s in great condition right now. It don’t look like he’s gonna make it, to be honest. I stay right there on the corner, so I actually seen everything unfold from beginning to last. It was on the next block. I don’t know if they was getting ready to run into his house, or if it was just a traffic stop, but you could see the man get right out the car and just get to shooting and yelling ‘I’m not going back to jail. Y’all going to have to kill me.”
Another witness told Fox: “I don’t know if they was getting ready to run into his house, or if it was just a traffic stop, but you could see the man get right out the car and just get to shooting and yelling ‘I’m not going back to jail. Y’all going to have to kill me.'”
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel released the name of the suspected shooter: Jonathan C. Copeland Jr., 30, of Milwaukee. Copeland was taken into custody in the 2400 block of N. 28th St. on a tentative charge of first-degree intentional homicide, according to arrest logs.
A warrant was issued for Copeland’s arrest May 18 after he was charged with possession with intent to deliver heroin, court records show.
Morales said during a press conference than Copeland was being investigated for parole violations, possession of heroin, and domestic abuse charges when he opened fire on police officers. Copeland has a long and lengthy criminal record, dating back to his juvenile years, according to Morales. You can read more about Copeland here.
4. Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett Released a Statement Expressing His “Sorrow & Anger” at the Shooting
Milwaukee County Acting Sheriff Richard Schmidt issued the following statement in the wake of the officer’s shooting:
“My heartfelt condolences to the family, friends and fellow officers who today suffered the loss of a beloved Milwaukee Police Department officer. Our community mourns once again at this tragic loss of life. May God’s comfort be felt in this most difficult moment.”
Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett released an emotional tribute to the fallen office after the shooting, stating: “Words cannot describe the sorrow and anger I feel at this time. Our police officers as they do every single day, put their lives on the line to protect the people who live in this city. Tragically, in the last few hours, one of them lost their lives trying to protect us.”
Barrett continued: “We as a community are grieving. The police department is grieving. This officer had been on the department a long time — well respected. Well liked. He was doing what he was hired to do — protect us. As police undertook their activities today, they knew they were undertaking a dangerous assignment as they do every single time they respond. I’m asking every resident of this city to pray for the families of police officers, to respect our police officers and thank them for the sacrifices they and their families make on our behalf.”
La Keisha Butler, Executive Director of the Milwaukee Fire and Police Commission, issued this statement:
“The Milwaukee Fire and Police Commission extends its sincerest condolences to the family of the fallen officer and the Milwaukee Police Department.”
5. The Shooting Comes Mere Months After The Death of Another Officer Who Died After Crashing His Vehicle While Pursuing a Suspect
The shooting comes nearly two months after the death of a Milwaukee police officer, Charles “Chuckie” Irvine Jr., who was killed after he crashed his vehicle while pursuing a reckless driver.
“He laid down his life protecting his friends, the citizens of Milwaukee,” Senior Pastor Jason Webb told mourners gathered for Irvine’s funeral service Saturday, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
“He laid down his life for me as a resident of Milwaukee in Sherman Park,” Webb said. “And even though I never met him, he was my friend because he made the greatest sacrifice for me and all of Milwaukee’s residents.”
Before Irvine, the MPD hadn’t had an officer shot and killed in the line of duty since 1996. On Saturday, September 7, 1996, Officer Wendolyn Tanner was shot and killed during a foot chase of a known felon and parole violator that he and his partner were attempting to arrest.