Appleton, WI – Bodycam footage captured the moment that an Appleton firefighter was fatally shot by a man who he had just helped save from a drug overdose (video below).
The gunman also shot and wounded an Appleton police officer, and used a woman as a human shield during the shootout that ensued, WISN reported.
The incident began at approximately 5:30 p.m. on May 15, when 47-year-old Ruben Houston became unresponsive while riding on a bus.
Witnesses called 911 and requested assistance for a man who was believed to be having a seizure, Appleton Police Chief Todd Thomas said during a press conference on May 16.
Appleton Firefighter Mitch Lundgaard and two of his fellow firefighters were the first to arrive at the Valley Transit Center, and quickly determined that Houston appeared to be experiencing a drug overdose.
They treated him with two doses of Narcan, then told him he would need to go to the hospital for additional medical attention in order to prevent another overdose.
Houston admitted that he had consumed four of his wife’s morphine pills in an effort to combat knee pain, according to the firefighters.
But he refused to go to the hospital.
Investigators later learned that Houston was out on bond for drug charges when the altercation occurred.
Appleton police responded to the scene to help subdue the increasingly agitated man, and calmly explained that they would have to take him to the hospital against his will if he did not agree to go voluntarily, bodycam footage showed.
“If you go voluntarily, you hop on the cot, you ride down there, you get checked out, it’s done,” the officer explained.
He told Houston that he didn’t want to take him to the hospital against his will, and briefly outlined what that process would entail.
“Do you have any weapons on you?” another officer suddenly interjected.
“No sir,” Houston responded, turning towards him.
“Okay, you have a bulge on your right side,” the officer continued.
Houston claimed that the bulge was just his cell phone, and the officers calmly told him not to reach towards it.
One of the officers reached towards Houston’ right side, but he brushed his hands away and took a step backwards, the video showed.
“Look man, I have a problem with officers touching me,” he said.
Police told him to “lift up his shirt then,” at which point Houston drew a .380-caliber handgun and backed away quickly while firing two rounds, WISN reported.
First responders and bystanders scrambled for cover as the shots rang out, bodycam footage showed.
One of the bullets Houston fired struck 36-year-old Firefighter Lundgaard in the back, WISN reported. The 14-year department veteran died of his wounds.
The second bullet wounded one of the Appleton police officers, but he survived the attack.
Houston then took a woman hostage and used her as a human shield while he continued to fire at police.
The officers returned fire, striking Houston, who later succumbed to his wounds at the hospital.
The female hostage was grazed in the head by one of the bullets during the shootout, but she survived her wounds.
She was later identified as 30-year-old Brittany Schowalter, according to ABC News.
Witnesses said that the shooting unfolded rapidly, and estimated that the gunman fired off between six to 12 rounds before he was subdued, WBAY reported.
Firefighter Lundgaard joined the Appleton Fire Department (AFD) in 2005, and served his department as a firefighter inspector and relief driver engineer, Appleton Fire Chief Jeremy Hanson said during a press conference.
He was posthumously promoted to the rank of driver/engineer, WBAY reported.
Firefighter Lundgaard leaves behind his wife and three young sons.
"When Mitch became a firefighter, he swore to serve his community. Helping people,” his family said in a statement released by Appleton Police Department (APD) Public Information Officer Meghan Cash. “He died selflessly doing that so a part of our community was tragically taken from us…when we lost Mitchell."
“We have seen in the past few days how many lives were impacted by Mitch's service by our community,” the veteran firefighter’s family said. “Knowing that Mitch will not be forgotten, brings us a comfort during this difficult time."
The officer-involved shooting was later determined to be justified, Outagamie County District Attorney Melinda Tempelis announced on Tuesday, according to WISN.
Tempelis said that the harrowing encounter could have easily resulted in additional injuries or deaths, had it not been for the heroic actions of police at the scene.
“It’s because of the heroic bravery of [Appleton Police] Sergeant [Christopher] Biese and Officer [Paul] Christianson, who saw the threat and had to quickly respond,” Tempelis said during a press conference.
Despite having been shot, Officer Christianson immediately returned fire and remained engaged in the shootout.
He has been with the department for nearly 15 months, and Sgt. Biese is a 15-year veteran-of-the-force, according to ABC News.
“Sgt. Biese and Officer Christensen acted heroically, moving and repeatedly engaging the suspect as he fired. Even after Officer Christensen was hit, and clearly in extreme pain, he battled on because people’s lives were still in danger,” Appleton Police chief Todd Thomas told ABC News.
“They were both guardians and caregivers — and, when needed, they were true warriors — vividly demonstrating the strength of the thin blue line,” Chief Thomas declared.
“It shows the public just how a seemingly insignificant, non-emergency call for a police officer, can quickly turn deadly,” the chief added. “This is why our officers have to always remain vigilant, and why there is no such thing as a routine call.”
You can watch bodycam footage of the first responders’ encounter with Houston in the video below. WARNING - Graphic Content.