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St. Croix County sheriff ‘angered, embarrassed’ after off-duty deputy’s OWI arrest

John Shilts Jr.

An off-duty St. Croix County Sheriff’s Office K-9 officer was arrested on suspicion of drunken driving over the holiday weekend.

Sheriff Scott Knudson said in a news release issued Wednesday, Jan. 2, that deputy John Shilts Jr., a seven-year veteran of the department, was arrested by Wisconsin State Patrol troopers after the Dec. 30 traffic stop outside New Richmond.

Shilts, one of three members of the agency’s K-9 unit, was placed on paid administrative leave pending an internal investigation, Knudson said.

“I am angered, embarrassed and disappointed at the actions of John Shilts Jr.,” Knudson said in the release,” noting that deputies recently handled a fatal crash where alcohol was involved. “I’m aware of the response this incident on Sunday night will have from the community. We must remember that those in law enforcement are human. However, it is also imperative that these same individuals be held to a higher standard of conduct, and when mistakes are made, they are handled accordingly.”

According to state court records, Shilts, a 33-year-old New Richmond resident, was also cited for a seat belt violation, operating left of center and speeding (30-34 mph over limit) as a result of the incident.

According to the news release:

A St. Croix County sheriff’s deputy on patrol at about 11 p.m. was northbound on County Road A in the town of Richmond when he spotted a vehicle coming toward him. The vehicle was speeding and operating southbound in the northbound lane of traffic.

The deputy had to take evasive action — driving onto the shoulder — to avoid a collision with the vehicle. The officer eventually caught up with the vehicle and stopped it near county roads A and G.

The driver, identified as Shilts, gave signs of impairment. The deputy contacted the Wisconsin State Patrol to avoid a conflict of interest. Troopers arrested Shilts on suspicion of OWI-first offense and took him to St. Croix County jail, where he was booked.

“The deputy that encountered John Shilts Jr. handled his interaction appropriately,” Knudson said. “Another agency was called in to eliminate any conflicts of interest, or any appearance of preferential treatment.”

The Wisconsin State Patrol did not immediately respond to a request for more information on the arrest.

Shilts is the son of Knudson’s predecessor in office, John Shilts. The arrest was the second time a member of the department’s K-9 unit has been arrested on suspicion of an alcohol-related driving offense. Former deputy Ryan Fowler resigned after a 2016 incident in North Dakota.

Mike Longaecker

Mike Longaecker is a regional/enterprise reporter for RiverTown Multimedia. His coverage includes St. Croix County government, higher education and state politics in Wisconsin. 

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