MILWAUKEE – A Milwaukee officer who “was loved by everyone” died during an exchange of gunfire in a house where police were searching for a man suspected of drug dealing and domestic violence, the city’s police chief said Thursday.
The lone suspect, who was not injured in the shooting Wednesday, was arrested after he ran out of bullets and surrendered, Chief Alfonso Morales said at a news conference.
Morales said the officer was Michael Michalski, 52, a 17-year veteran of the department who leaves behind a wife and three sons.
“He is the person who you would want to cut out and cookie-cut and say, ‘This is what we want the Milwaukee Police Department to represent,'” said Morales, as three dozen solemn-faced officers in uniform and plain clothes stood behind him.
Michalski is the second Milwaukee officer to die in the line of duty in less than two months.
He was a member of a special unit recently formed to target the most dangerous criminals in the city. At about 5 p.m. Wednesday on Milwaukee’s north side, the unit went searching for one of those targets — a man Morales identified as Jonathan C. Copeland. He was wanted for a parole violation, heroin possession, harassment, intimidation and domestic violence, Morales said.
Copeland’s criminal record dates back to when he was a juvenile, the chief said.
Officers saw the suspect go into a house and followed him in, Morales said. That’s when the suspect started shooting, he said.
Michalski was taken to Froedtert Hospital, where he was pronounced dead. Police vehicles with their squad lights activated later escorted his body from the hospital to the Milwaukee County Medical Examiner’s Office.
“Pretty much everybody loved him,” Morales said of the fallen officer, whom he called a friend. “I can’t think of anybody who has anything negative to say about Officer Michalski.”
Charges against Copeland are pending but he remains in custody.
After the shooting, Mayor Tom Barrett responded to the scene at Metcalfe Park neighborhood and asked residents to pray for the families of the city’s police officers. Standing next to Morales on Thursday, he repeated those remarks and said the shooting “is another tragic reminder of the stress” officers face every day.
“He went in there and made the ultimate sacrifice on behalf of the residents of the city,” Barrett said.
Michalski’s death comes less than two months since the department lost another officer in the line of duty. On June 7, Officer Charles Irvine Jr., 23, was killed in a squad car crash during the high-speed pursuit of a suspect. Irvine was the first Milwaukee officer killed in the line of duty in 22 years.
Gov. Scott Walker ordered that the Wisconsin and U.S. flags be flown at half-staff throughout the state until Michalski is buried.