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Alleged drunken shooting spree results in arrest

Jared E. Nelson

ELMWOOD -- Several gunshots fired on Elmwood’s Main Street in the early morning hours of Friday, Jan. 27 terrified at least one resident and resulted in the arrest of a local man after extensive damage was discovered at Countryside Cooperative gas station.

Pierce County prosecutors charged Jared E. Nelson, 21, Elmwood, with two felonies and two misdemeanors in Pierce County Circuit Court Jan. 30: felony criminal damage to property, endanger safety by reckless use of firearm, discharge firearm within 100 yards of a building and possession of a firearm while intoxicated. If convicted, he faces up to 10 years in prison and $25,000 in fines.

According to the complaint:

A Cenex Countryside Cooperative employee called police at 5:37 a.m. Jan. 27 to report that someone had drilled a hole into the entry door of the store.

The officer determined a drill did not cause the damage, but a bullet which came through the steel exterior siding, through the wall into the door jamb into the steel-framed door. The bullet hit the interior handle of the door and broke apart. The officer found pieces of lead on the floor and in the door sill plate.

The employee discovered the damage at 4:50 a.m. when she couldn’t unlock the front door to open the store.

Two witnesses approached police later in the morning. A man, who lives behind Cenex, said he heard gunshots between 1-2 a.m. coming from Main Street. He thought nothing of it because the week before he heard what sounded like fireworks going off.

Another man told police his friend saw muzzle flashes and heard gunshots from near the dealership on South Main Street around the same time.

The officer found two spent rifle shell casings (caliber 7.62X39) laying on the sidewalk in front of 128 N. Main St.

At about 11 a.m. Cenex employees discovered several more bullet holes dotting another building on the Countryside property. Police recovered a bullet jacket from beneath a store shelf.

Video footage from Cenex facing Main Street shows a man shooting toward Cenex from an open doorway at 128 N. Main St. with the interior lights at that address turned off. The video also shows a muzzle flash from the doorway and debris flying off the gas pumps’ canopy.

Further investigation revealed one of the gas pumps and the canopy overhead had been shot. Six bullet holes were found in the siding of the warehouse building next to the store, while another bullet went through a sign attached to the front of the building. Metal storage bins inside were impacted and an officer found bullet fragments in the bins.

Another bullet had damaged a handle on a threading machine inside; that bullet was located on the floor in the mechanics bay. Stored silage bags contained another bullet.

Countryside Division Supervisor Tim Toraason estimated total damage costs of $12,950.

Elmwood Police Chief Michael Schaffer and a deputy went to T&S Hardware (116 N. Main St.) to see if Nelson, who lives at 128 N. Main St., was at work. His father, who also works at the hardware store, said he hadn’t shown up for work that day.

At about 1 p.m., police went to Nelson’s residence. He let them in and told police he had been home alone the previous night. He admitted to drinking a quarter-bottle of Jim Beam and being depressed about his debts.

Upon request, he showed police an SKS rifle with the same ammunition as was recovered in the investigation. The trash can contained three spent steel shell casings of the same caliber.

Nelson told police he didn’t remember shooting his rifle at all because he was drunk. After he was transported to Pierce County Jail, another neighbor came forward and said she heard two gunshots at 1:45 a.m. She was scared and hid in the back of her apartment. Ten minutes later she heard several more gunshots, the last one being at about 2:30 a.m.

Nelson’s next court appearance is set for 2 p.m. March 9.

Sarah Nigbor

Sarah J. Nigbor serves as a regional editor for RiverTown Multimedia, a position she began in April 2017. She joined RiverTown Multimedia in October 2013 as a news reporter for the New Richmond News, before being appointed editor of the Pierce County Herald in February 2015. She graduated from the University of Wisconsin-River Falls with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Spanish and French in 2001. She completed a minor in journalism in 2004. 

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