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March 29, 2015

Badgers rally to beat UNC, advance to Elite 8 for second straight year

Sam Dekker

Sam Dekker

It required a second half rally, contributions from a two unexpected bench players, and a career night for a rising star to push the Wisconsin Badgers past North Carolina, 79-72, and into the NCAA Tournament’s Elite 8 for a second consecutive year.

Junior Sam Dekker scored a career-best 23 points (10-for-15) to go along with ten rebounds, while Zak Showalter and Traevon Jackson combined for ten points off the bench in the Badgers third Sweet 16 win under coach Bo Ryan. Jackson was playing in his first game after missing 19 games with a broken foot. The senior hit his first shot of the game, a three-pointer from the corner in the first half.

The top seed in the West Region fell behind early and trailed by as much as seven in the second half against the fourth-seeded Tar Heels, but a 19-7 run put the Badgers in front for good. The run included a three-pointer by Frank Kaminsky and four consecutive points from Showalter. [Read more…]

State Patrol says slain trooper made ‘textbook’ response

State Patrol Lt. Col. Brian Rahn and Capt. Anthony Burrell

State Patrol Lt. Col. Brian Rahn and Capt. Anthony Burrell

As investigators continue working to piece together the events that led up to a shootout in Fond du Lac, the former colleagues of a slain state trooper say he did everything he was supposed to leading up to the fatal confrontation.

Trooper Trevor Casper was killed Tuesday evening after following a car matching the description of one tied to a bank robbery earlier in the day in Wausaukee. State Patrol Lieutenant Colonel Brian Rahn says Casper did everything he was supposed to after spotting the vehicle, and kept in communication with dispatch. Rahn said “it was textbook, from the time he made contact with the vehicle…until the event was over.”

The state Department of Justice said that the suspect killed in the shootout was Steven Timothy Snyder, who video confirmed was responsible for a bank robbery in Wausaukee earlier in the day Tuesday. The DOJ also said that Thomas Christ of Wausaukee was also shot and killed Tuesday afternoon, after an encounter with Snyder near Christ’s property.

A spokeswoman with the DOJ said it has not been confirmed that Snyder was linked to other bank robberies.

The State Patrol said that Casper was on his first solo day of patrol on Tuesday, after just graduating from the academy last December. Captain Anthony Burrell said Casper was “very dedicated to his job, his family, and his friends.”

Casper’s family released a statement Wednesday thanking those who have shown support following such a horrific loss. “As a family we are so deeply honored that our son served as a law enforcement officer with the Wisconsin State Patrol and we share in their grief and loss. We are so deeply saddened by this loss and wish to thank everyone who has assisted us during this time.”

Wisconsin state trooper killed in shootout

Trooper Trevor Casper

Trooper Trevor Casper

Investigators have released the name of a bank robbery suspect who was involved in a shootout Tuesday evening with Wisconsin State Patrol Trooper Trevor Casper which left both men dead.

The state Department of Justice has identified the man as Steven Timothy Snyder, and said notifications has been e made to Snyder’s family in Michigan.

Fond du Lac Police Chief Bill Lamb said Casper was following a vehicle that matched the description of one tied to a bank robbery in Wausaukee earlier in the day on Tuesday. The suspect then got out of the vehicle near a grocery store, where the exchange of gunfire took place in which both Casper and Snyder were killed.

Snyder may also be linked to the fatal shooting of a man, whose body was found along a road near Wausaukee on Tuesday. Investigators said the body was found near where police believe Snyder switched vehicles following a robbery at the State Bank of Florence. During that robbery, Snyder allegedly fired a gun and initially fled in the vehicle of a bank employee.

The 21-year-old Casper is a native of Kiel, who only recently graduated from the academy in December. Lamb expressed condolences to the trooper’s family and the entire Wisconsin State Patrol.

The state’s Division of Criminal Investigations is handling a review of the shootings.

With legal fight on Voter ID done, Wisconsin group looks to educate

WRN: File Photo

WRN: File Photo

Monday’s decision by the US Supreme Court not to hear a challenge to Wisconsin’s Voter ID law marked the end of a long legal battle.

The law, passed by the Republican-controlled Legislature and signed by Governor Scott Walker in 2011, was used in just a single election – a primary race in early 2012. A long line of state and federal court decisions have kept it from being used since then. However, after the nation’s high court declined to hear an appeal of a decision this week that upheld the law, it will be in effect after the upcoming April 7 elections.

Andrea Kaminski is the executive director of the Wisconsin League of Women Voters, which filed one of the original challenges in state court that stopped the law. She expressed disappointment in the outcome of the federal case and is worried that it will keep thousands of voters from being able to cast a ballot in the future. Kaminski said “in the course of these lawsuits, it’s been revealed that an estimated 300,000 voters in our state don’t possess the kind of ID that this very strict law requires.”

The state Department of Transportation has continued to provide free photo ID cards to individuals who say they need one for voting, and there is a process in place to help individuals who lack the documentation needed to get a card. Kaminski worries about making sure voters know what assistance is available to them, and added that it’s unfortunate the state will likely rely on non-profit groups to get that message out.

After the April election, Kaminski said her group plans to work to educate voters about what they will need to vote in the future. Next February is expected to be the first statewide election voters where will have to show a photo ID at the polls to obtain a ballot.

Watchdog says report of $1.5 million donation from Menard’s owner not surprising

Governor Scott Walker (Photo: WRN)

Governor Scott Walker (Photo: WRN)

The head of a state government watchdog group says he’s not surprised by news that a wealthy Wisconsin resident secretly donated money to a conservative group which provided backing to Governor Scott Walker.

The report from Yahoo! News claims John Menard Jr. donated $1.5 million to the Club for Growth, a conservative group that supported the governor during the recall elections. The article points out that the Menard’s chain of home improvement stores has benefited from $1.8 million in special tax credits, along with reductions in environmental regulations, under the Walker administration.

Wisconsin Democracy Campaign director Matt Rothschild said the revelations are yet another example of how “Wisconsin is for sale” and why campaign finance reform is badly needed in the state. Rothschild said it’s is unlikely to go away either, until the U.S. Supreme Court overturns the Citizens United decision, which led to largely unregulated corporate contributions to political causes, or an amendment to the U.S. Constitution is adopted that says “once and for all, corporations are not persons, money is not speech, and we can regulate expenditures and contributions during campaigns, so our government isn’t up for sale.”

Governor Walker was in meetings at the Capitol Tuesday, after the story came out. An aide to the governor said he did not have time for questions from the press, following a meeting of the state building commission, but his office did release a statement. Walker spokeswoman Laurel Patrick said the Yahoo! story is “misleading and purposefully left out important contextual facts, which were provided to the reporter, to create a false narrative.”
Patrick added that the contracts that provided performance-based tax credits to Menard’s were done through the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation, and that “Governor Walker was not involved in either contract.” She also pointed out that “Menard has so far received the same number of citations under the Walker administration as under the Doyle administration, which is one under each. The issue under our administration was resolved.”

The information in the report was obtained from anonymous sources with knowledge of a stalled John Doe probe into illegal coordination between Walker’s campaign and conservative groups during the 2012 recall election. The future of the investigation is set to be considered by the state Supreme Court later this year.