RACINE — Multiple law enforcement agencies continued a manhunt as the city of Racine mourned the loss of one of its fallen officers on Tuesday.
John Hetland, a 24-year veteran of the Racine Police Department, was off-duty when he was shot and killed attempting to halt an armed robbery around 9:40 p.m. Monday at Teezer’s Tavern, 1936 Lathrop Ave., in Racine.
The Kenosha County Sheriff’s Department took over as the lead investigator in the officer’s shooting.
Kenosha County Sheriff David Beth said a masked man, dressed in all black with only his eyes exposed, went behind the bar, pulled a gun and demanded money in the crowded restaurant.
Hetland hopped over the bar and engaged the suspect when he was fatally injured from a single bullet wound, Beth said.
“Officer Hetland tried to figure out the best way to get his hands on the suspect,” Beth said. “He ended up jumping over the bar to do his best and take the suspect out and protect the public.
“During the course of him attempting to get control of the suspect, there was a little distance gained. The suspect took the gun and shot officer Hetland.”
The suspect was captured on video inside and outside of the bar. The suspect is described as a thin, black male in his 20s, roughly 6 feet tall and wearing a dark hooded sweatshirt. He ran from the bar in a southwest direction, according to Beth.
“We have teams of people going out and investigating every single lead we can get right now,” Beth said. “Every person that was in the bar has given statements and have been extremely cooperative. We’re canvassing the area looking for more video footage and leads.”
The Walworth County tactical unit remained at the scene, which was taped off and frequently visited on Tuesday. Many area residents stopped at the business to leave flowers and other items while offering support for officers who remained at the scene.
“A lot of the staff we tried to send home because they haven’t slept for a day and a half,” Beth said. “It’s not something we ever look forward to in law enforcement, but we’ll catch this person.”
Hetland was a first-shift patrol officer and a member of the Wisconsin Professional Police Association board of directors. He previously served as a field training officer and was a member of the Greater Racine FBI Gang Task Force.
Racine Mayor Cory Mason said he first met Hetland when he was campaigning in 2017.
“He was one of the first members of the police department I met with to get this opinions and insights,” Mason said.
Mason reminded the community to support law enforcement, particularly during this difficult time.
“I think everybody is mourning today,” said Mason, who ordered flags to half-staff on Tuesday. “I think everybody is still in shock. I was at roll call this morning with the officers when they came in.
“I can’t say it enough: Law enforcement really needs our support. They are grieving the loss of a brother and a friend.”
The FBI is offering a $20,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person or people responsible for Hetland’s death. Andis Corp. of Racine stepped forward with an additional $5,000 reward on Tuesday.
Anyone with information regarding the investigation should contact Crime Stoppers at 262-656-7333, 888-636-9330 or 800-807-TIPS.