Readstown Police Chief Captured in Nebraska
The LaCrosse Tribune by Matt Johnson - March 2, 2012
READSTOWN, WI — Embattled Police Chief Shay Larson was arrested by authorities in Elm Creek, Neb., overnight. Prosecutors on Thursday charged Larson, 29, with two felonies and six misdemeanors in Vernon County Circuit Court, and law enforcement was seeking to arrest him.
Vernon County Sheriff John Spears said Larson was captured at a truck stop motel without incident. Larson had been on an over-the-road trucking job. The Nebraska State Patrol said a tip from a Wisconsin law enforcement agency helped them make the arrest. Spears said the Vernon County Sheriff’s Department was in contact with Nebraska authorities before the arrest. Spears said that Larson was due in a Nebraska court this afternoon, and if he waives extradition to Wisconsin, the sheriff’s department would send deputies to Nebraska to transfer Larson back to Vernon County. A sordid story of sex and lies are at the heart of the criminal complaint. Prosecutors say Larson used his position as chief to leverage sexual favors while he was on duty and lied to investigators. According to the complaint: Larson engaged in conduct “very disturbing and sexual in nature” with a woman in the village park on April 21. Later that month, a confidential informant working with the West Central Drug Task Force said she had been touched and sexually propositioned by Larson while he was on duty. In two other instances, Larson was on duty when he approached women in a sexual manner or made sexual references to them. Another witness said Larson encouraged her to drive after she had been drinking to rendezvous with him at the village park. Investigators learned in September that Larson had oral sex performed on him three times by another woman who “felt obliged to perform Larson’s request due to the fact he was a police officer.” This occurred in a store that was open for business in downtown Readstown. At first, Larson lied about having oral sex with the woman but later admitted the acts to investigators and provided details to “verify the credibility of the information,” according to the complaint. Larson’s inappropriate behavior wasn’t limited to sex, investigators said. One witness described an incident when Larson witnessed three people drinking alcohol during a birthday celebration in the Readstown Village Park. According to the complaint, a woman in the group said she had to use a restroom, and Larson led them to the cemetery in Soldiers Grove so she could urinate behind a headstone. The group continued drinking, and the person celebrating the birthday said “he would never forget this birthday as he was partying with a cop.” The complaint also lists numerous times when Larson told witnesses not to tell people that he had witnessed their illegal behavior or asked people not to report his behavior. Larson is charged with two felony counts of misconduct in public office. The six misdemeanor counts include two counts of fourth-degree sexual assault, three counts of disorderly conduct and one count of obstructing an officer. The two felony counts each carry a maximum penalty of 3 ½ years in prison and a $10,000 fine. The charges come after a six-month investigation by the county sheriff’s department and an ongoing independent investigation by the village. Larson was placed on administrative leave when the criminal investigation began but has continued to collect a paycheck. “I think that it’s about time he was charged, without a doubt,” said Arthur Piper, a Readstown resident who lodged several formal complaints against Larson before the investigations began. “This was a long time in coming.” District Attorney Gaskell said information from the village’s investigation — led by private detective Gerald Sallmann of Columbus — coupled with information already gathered by the Vernon County Sheriff’s Department, led to the charges. Sallmann said his investigation is still open. “It is definitely moving forward,” Sallmann said Thursday. “It’s turned into being more than I first thought, and it has required more time, but I’m seeing light at the end of the tunnel.”