Wisconsin Police Cruiser Hits Pedestrian During Blackout

"An 89-year-old man is in critical condition after he was struck Tuesday night by a Wausau Police Department squad car, according to the Marathon County Sheriff’s Department.

Wausau Police Lt. Bryan Hilts said the crash occurred at about 9:50 p.m. on North 17th Avenue near Shopko while much of the city’s west side was under a power outage. Portions of the Wausau area lost power for several hours Tuesday night at about 8:30 p.m. after a malfunction at a substation caused power outages for nearly 11,000 residents. Hilts said the roadway was unusually dark due to the blackout, and no street lights were operative at the time of the crash.

Hilts said the squad car, driven by Officer Shawn Pierschalla of the Wausau Police Department, was traveling southbound in the left lane of 17th Avenue at a speed of 24 mph when the man stepped into the lane and was struck. The posted speed limit in the area is 25 mph, and there was no crosswalk in the area of the crash, Hilts said.

Squad car video released by the Wausau Police Department shows the car traveling slowly down the darkened street. The pedestrian appeared to stop in the middle of the road, and was only visible a moment before impact. Headlights of several cars driving north on 17th Avenue are also visible in the video.

“The street was substantially darker than it would normally have been,” Hilts said.

The Marathon County Sheriff’s Department was called in to investigate the incident, and Hilts said Piershcalla submitted to and passed mandatory drug and alcohol testing immediately following the crash. No citations are expected to be issued.

Hilts said Pierschalla, who has been an officer with the Wausau Police Department since May, 2007, was transporting a dog to the Marathon County Humane Society at the time of the crash. Neither the officer nor the dog was injured, and Pierschalla has no previous traffic incidents on his record, Hilts said.

“The officer was unable to see the pedestrian in the lane of traffic,” Hilts said. “He’s very upset about the incident. As an officer, we swear an oath to serve and protect, and when incidents like this happen that cause injury, it’s very upsetting for all of us.”

The name of the pedestrian, who was transported via ambulance to Aspirus Wausau Hospital, has note yet been released."


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