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Eau Claire officer’s use of deadly force justified in November shooting

Published: Dec. 28, 2021 at 1:10 PM CST
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EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) -Based on a review of the investigation completed by the Wisconsin Department of Justice –Division of Criminal Investigation, the Eau Claire County District Attorney’s Office has concluded that the use of deadly force against LeKenneth Miller on Nov. 3, 2021 was reasonable given the totality of the circumstances.

According to a criminal complaint, authorities received a 911 hang-up call on Nov. 3, 2021 at approximately 2:39 p.m.

Dispatchers called the number back and reached a woman who confirmed that there was an emergency occurring at their location on Selma Street in Eau Claire. Whispering, the caller reported that she and her friend were hiding in a bedroom with the door locked because her friend’s ex-boyfriend, identified as LeKenneth Miller, had come to the home.

The caller reported that Miller had strangled her friend a week prior.

She reported that she did not know how Miller had gotten into the house and that Miller was now trying to get the bedroom door open. She said they could not escape through a window. Information was relayed to responding officers. At approximately 2:47 p.m. the caller said that Miller had now gone to the kitchen and obtained a knife to attempt to pry open the bedroom door.

Shortly after, officers arrived on scene and began approaching the house on foot. Dispatch confirmed that Miller was still in the house. At approximately 2:48 p.m., dispatchers heard sudden and repeated screaming. Dispatchers then broadcast that all available officers should respond to the home based on the emergency.

Once the screaming was heard from inside the house, Officers Kristopher O’Neill and Jason Kaveney drew their service weapons, ran toward the house, and attempted to access the locked front door by kicking it in. Unsuccessful, they ran to a side door where they were met by the caller, who was running out of the house and hysterically screaming that Miller had stabbed her friend.

Officers then entered the home. Immediately upon entering the home and while continuing to hear screams from somewhere inside the house, officers encountered Miller in the kitchen, approximately 10-12 feet from them. Officers report that they saw Miller arming himself with another knife and immediately upon officers’ entry, Miller turned to look at officers as he raised the knife in his right hand.

Officer O’Neill ordered Miller to drop the knife, but Miller shifted his weight and began moving toward officers with the knife in his hand, whereupon Officer O’Neill discharged his service weapon, striking Miller six times. Miller still did not drop the knife so Officer O’Neill started to reload while officers yelled for Miller to get on the ground. As Officer O’Neill finished his reload, Miller started to drop to the ground and the knife began coming out of his hand. Officer O’Neill did not shoot again.

Officers went further into the home, finding the victim in the bathroom with multiple stab wounds to her face, left eye, hand/arms, and leg. Officer Kaveney related to dispatch that shots had been fired and requested multiple ambulances. The victim was ultimately air-lifted to Mayo Hospital in Rochester, Minn. to be treated for her injuries. Despite first aid efforts, Miller died on scene as a result of his gunshot wounds.

The victim confirmed that she had a previous relationship with Miller and he had been violent with her in the past. Specifically, she indicated that Miller had battered and strangled her the week prior. The victim reported that Miller, who was armed with a knife, stabbed her multiple times.

Investigators located a broken knife in the bathroom with the handle in one location and the blade in another. Another knife was located in close proximity.

Under the circumstances of this case, the Eau Claire County District Attorney’s Office concludes that Eau Claire Police Officer O’Neill’s use of deadly force was justified as a reasonable act of self-defense and defense of others. As such, further action by the district attorney’s office is not warranted.

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