Source: Lake Geneva Regional News

Sheriff awards citizens, deputies

by Rob Ireland

May 30, 2013

ELKHORN — The Walworth County Sheriff’s Department recognized private citizens who help respond to tragic and, at times, dangerous situations.

During a May 16 awards ceremony, the Walworth County Sheriff’s Department recognized sheriff’s deputies and others for their service.

Bus driver responds to tragedy

As Walworth County Sheriff David Graves read the nomination letter for Lyle Eichman he started to get choked up. He said it was hard because he was at the scene.

At 6:55 a.m., on May 4, Eichman was driving a bus for the Big Foot Area School District. An 8-year-old boy told the bus driver that his 13-year-old brother had shot himself seconds before. The children’s parents had already left for work, and no one was home. Lyle rushed to the boy, but found that he already died.

“Lyle turned his attention to the 8-year-old boy and the one other 10-year-old girl who was the sole passenger on his bus,” according to the nomination letter written by Sgt. Tim Otterbacher. “He remained calm, removed them from the scene, and offered comfort to them until law enforcement and EMS arrived. Lyle’s swift and courageous actions prevented the two young children from witnessing a gruesome and disturbing scene, reducing the mental impact of this tragedy on two young lives.”

Lyle, a veteran and former medic, said during the ceremony that his medic training instantly kicked in during the tragedy.

Missing girl comforted, returned home

On April 22, 2012, Macy and Scott Dreger were working on their yard when they found a toddler screaming in the corner of their property.

It was a cold and windy day and the child was lightly dressed, had no shoes, abrasions on her hands and appeared exhausted. The Dregers wrapped the girl in a blanket and gave her a stuffed animal.

“The girl was Hispanic and did not speak English. Deputies unsuccessfully attempted to use an off-duty deputy via telephone to speak with the girl in Spanish in an effort to find out where she came from,” Deputy Jerry Post wrote on the nomination form.

Post contacted a friend, Yecenia Perez-Huerta, to assist with translating.

“Yecenia, who was in Elkhorn, immediately responded to the scene west of Delavan,” Post wrote. “Yecenia comforted and spoke to the girl while EMS attended to the injuries to her hands. She identified where the child came from and, because no one else had a child safety seat, transported her back home.”


Lisa Loepke and Gary Rowland have been on the SWAT Team as tactical EMS since 2007 and 2008 respectively.

“They are the medics and caregivers for citizens, law enforcement personnel and suspects at all SWAT calls,” Sgt. Jeff Patek wrote in the nomination.

Loepke and Rowland wear tactical uniforms, ballistic vests and helmets.

“They are exposed to many of the same dangers faced by sworn law enforcement officers, and they do it all for a $1 a year,” Patek wrote. “Tactical members are able to focus on the tasks at hand knowing that if they are injured, a highly-trained medical professional is only steps away to take care of them.”

Cell phone repair

Cell phone repair is a private business in the Delavan Crossings shopping center. Det. Robert Craig approached the store manager, Steve Loewe, and asked if the business could assist the sheriff’s department in mobile forensic investigations.

“Digital devices containing important evidence are locked or damaged making it difficult to extract data,” Craig wrote in the nomination form. “Expert technicians using specialized equipment and repair techniques can facilitate data extraction.”

Craig wrote that CPR has “greatly contributed to a number of important investigations.”

Not all hard workers wear badges

Since 1991, Vicki Runnells has worked with the Walworth County Sheriff’s Office Central Records Division. She has been a supervisor since 2005.

“Vicki’s organizational, managerial and educational skills have been central to keeping records management operational for the entire department over the last year and a half,” Clerk Robyn Schwartz wrote in her nomination form. Runnells was recognized as the civilian employee of the year.

Schwartz wrote that she spends countless hours working to ensure procedures are streamlined.

“This dedication often means she sacrifices valuable family time to come in on weekends to catch up on her own work, which was set aside to help others during the week,” Schwartz wrote.

EMS team wins award

The jail staff that runs the Walworth County Electronic Monitoring Program was recognized with the Meritorious Unit Award.

“In an era of shrinking revenues and budgets, governments have had to find ways to maintain the services expected by the public with reduced resources,” the nomination letter states.

The letter also states that the program is “recognized as a premier program throughout the state of Wisconsin and is used as a model for several other counties seeking to develop their own programs.”

Those receiving recognition include Capt. Scott McClory, Jail Administrator John Delaney, superintendents Howard Sawyers and Steve Sax, Sgt. Robert Duffey, Deputy Jerry Post and correctional officers Chris Bannigan, Cleo Renner, Jim Henriott, Bill Mann, Dan Klawien and Heather Martin.

Hausner nominated for distinguished service award

On Feb. 12, 1985, Tom Hausner joined the Walworth County Sheriff’s Department. He was promoted to sergeant in 1991, and served as a patrol sergeant on all three shifts and as the sergeant in charge of court security. He retired Dec. 31, after 27 years with the department.

In his nomination letter, Patek wrote that Hausner’s most defining duty was with the SWAT team. In 2001, Hausner became commander of the SWAT team.

Patek wrote that Hausner’s first call as commander was a hostage incident with an officer-involved shooting.

The unit won awards under Hausner and he led the team through several high-risk incidents, Patek wrote.

“There wasn’t a team training that went by without one, and sometimes several of the following phrases being heard: ‘It’s not the way, it’s a way,’ ‘If you stay ready you don’t have to get ready,’ It’s just another tool for your tool box,’ ‘Slow is smooth, smooth is fast,’ and ‘You don’t have to like it, you just have to do it.’”

Correctional Officer of the year

Correctional Officer Eric Pelky was nominated for correctional officer of the year by five of his supervisors.

His nomination letter states that he routinely goes above and beyond his normal duties and is involved in the gang unit.

“Pelky often dedicates his own time during breaks and before/after his shift to review inmate photos and other intelligence information that often leads to the identification of gang members,” the nomination form states.

“He is frequently consulted during his off-duty time to provide information, guidance and expertise in gang-related matters.”

Pelky also interviews gang members for additional intelligence information, and he monitors the gang members in the jail.

“All of these efforts have led to the identification of numerous gang members that would have otherwise slipped though the cracks,” the form states.

Crime prevention team recognized

Deputies Rahn Smith and Dan Nelson were recognized for their efforts on the crime prevention unit.

“Over the last few years they have worked extensively to provide crime prevention and public safety education and services through countless talks, presentations, programs and outreach to schools, businesses and community organizations,” the nomination form written by Sgt. Alan Gorecki states.

Smith and Nelson have a tent at the Walworth County Fair.

They also gave a presentation at a local bank shortly before the bank was robbed.

“The guidance deputies Smith and Nelson provided during their presentation was instrumental in the bank employees’ ability to remain calm and gather the information critical to law enforcement’s rapid location and apprehension of the suspect.