No charges against officer in Appleton shooting; Victim hit by accident
APPLETON, Wis. (WLUK) -- The man fatally shot by a police officer in an Appleton bar May 21 was unarmed and shot by accident, investigators say.
However, Lt. Jay Steinke will not face criminal charges for the death of Jimmie Sanders, Outagamie County District Attorney Carrie Schneider has ruled.
The incident happened just before bar close on May 21, when police say a fight broke out inside Jack's Apple Pub.
Sanders, a man who police say was not involved in the fight and was simply in the wrong place at the time, was shot and killed by police a few minutes later.
“Sanders was accidentally struck by gunfire that was intended to stop a gunman who had just shot at someone in the bar,” Appleton police chief Todd Thomas said at a news conference Friday.
Thomas was joined at the news conference by an investigator from the Green Bay Police Department and Outagamie County district attorney Carrie Schneider.
“This was a significant and tragic event on many levels,” Schneider said.
Schneider says 33-year-old Henry Nellum got into a fight and fired a gun inside the bar and was trying to run out.
That's when she says Steinke entered through a side door and shot four times.
“As Lt. Steinke was firing at Nellum, Nellum was struck by one shot but as he was firing, Lt. Steinke was pushed by parties who were exiting the bar,” Schneider said. “A second shot struck Mr. Sanders in his lower back, striking his left iliac artery.”
A FOX 11 viewer who was inside the bar at the time of the shooting, shared cellphone video of the scene. In it, you can hear four shots fired.
Schneider says Steinke did not turn on his body camera before rushing into the bar.
The DA did not release any of the security camera videos of the incident because of the charges filed against Nellum. Those charges include attempted first degree intentional homicide and felony murder.
Schneider did release a series of photos from inside the bar that show Steinke entering.
After reviewing the investigation from the Green Bay P.D., Schneider decided not to pursue any charges against Steinke.
“Lt. Steinke acted appropriately given the threat and actions of Mr. Nellum,” Schneider said.
The police chief says Nellum is the one to blame for what happened.
“This incident occurred because of the actions of one man,” Thomas said. “A convicted felon who was illegally carrying a handgun in a bar, who got intoxicated and decided to get into a fight, who pulled out his gun and shot it around at someone and then ran at a door, towards a door with a gun in his hand. This man caused this tragic incident, not Mr. Sanders and not Lt. Steinke.”
Sanders' family did not accept the explanation.
"It doesn't make any sense," his sister, Christina Thomas, said. "You can't use murder and accident in the same sentence."
"This is all a cover-up. This is a man who fired a shot without a warning, shot the first black man he saw," Thomas said.
"We're going to protest. We're going to make sure that this doesn't get swept under the rug," said Tory Lowe, an advocate for the family.
Another woman, Dree Sullivan, has been charged with allegedly taking Nellum's gun and hiding it after the shooting.
The Green Bay Police Dept. led the investigation since an Appleton officer was involved in the shooting.