DA: Green Co. man threatened to start shooting over tree dispute

Paul Douglas
Paul Douglas(Green Co. Sheriff's Office)
Published: Feb. 24, 2023 at 12:06 PM CST
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BROOKLYN, Wis. (WMTV) – The confrontation in the Village of Brooklyn that triggered a large-scale police response began when the suspect himself called 911, claiming someone was stealing his tree and threatening to start shooting people if a deputy did not stop it, according to a criminal complaint against him.

A transcript of that call showed the suspect, Paul Douglas, made the call shortly after 7 a.m. on Tuesday. It quoted him repeatedly claiming a tree removal service was about to remove the large tree on his downtown property. At one point in the conversation, he allegedly told the dispatcher he was going to get his gun and “start shooting people.”

Douglas told the dispatcher a responding deputy should wear a bulletproof vest, the transcript continued, “because s***’s going to happen today. Because they are not going to steal my tree without my permission. That’s a federal offense. That’s a felony. It’s a felony to steal a tree.”

After one more brief exchange, Douglas hung up on the dispatcher, the complaint notes. Soon afterwards, a second 911 call came. That caller claimed a person had gone outside and fired a gun into the air. Multiple deputies responded to the area, in the 100 block of Hotel St., and set up a perimeter. Members of the Dane Co. SWAT team and Madison Police Dept. were also called to the scene to assist.

While they were set up in Brooklyn, the officers and deputies learned Douglas was pulled over and arrested in Oregon. Authorities previously reported he had already left Brooklyn prior to the deputies’ reaching that scene.

Investigators spoke with two men who worked for the tree removal service, Arbor Systems, and were told the workers had responded to a job across the street from Douglas’ residence, the criminal complaint stated. One of them recounted seeing Douglas carrying a rifle and they both said they heard the shot. The second witness also said a third worker told him Douglas had fired a shot into the air.

According to the Green Co. complaint, Douglas has been charged with terrorist threats; second-degree recklessly endangering safety; and disorderly conduct, use of a dangerous weapon. On Tuesday, Douglas posted a $4,000 signature bond for the two felonies, and a $1,000 cash bond for the misdemeanor disorderly conduct.

The law enforcement response restricted access to the village’s polling place at the Community Building, forcing election officials to switch to their backup location. The move led to polls staying open until 9:30 p.m. in the village. The situation also led to Brooklyn Elementary School and Heart of Brooklyn to enact their secure hold protocols.

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