‘Our shift never ends’: Officers prepare community for emergency

MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) -- As Madison Police work to find a suspect in the Shake the Lake shooting, officers are preparing the community in the event of another emergency.

For Sergeant Tony Ruesga of the Darlington Police Department, the Shake the Lake firework show was just another Independence Day celebrating with his family. But when shots rang out, his training as a police officer kicked into gear.

“Sadly, the only time we actually think about those things is when something's happened,” Sgt. Ruesga says. “Then it's like, 'Well maybe I should have been paying attention.' And that's too late. Being proactive about those things, rather than reactive, may save your life."

Sgt. Ruesga was a spectator at the event, visiting with his wife, daughter, and his daughter's boyfriend. He says he reacted first as a father, and second as an officer, as he walked toward where the shots were fired.

“I knew right away my daughter was still, she was in that area because, it was coming from the tunnel area, and she was in the Monona Terrace,” he says. “I’ve been policing for over 20 years, and first thought for me was [to] go get my daughter.”

Along the way, Sgt. Ruesga paid close attention to everything he saw.

"I was looking for anybody that was ... that was suspicious, running, or if anybody threw something, specifically a gun,” he says. “I think I can speak for most all police officers. Our shift never ends.”

Keeping close watch is something Sgt. Ruesga says we should all do: pay attention to license plates, keep track of people nearby, always plan an exit strategy, and report anything suspicious.

“Being vigilant of what's around us, and training our children to be vigilant and looking and paying attention to your surroundings, it's really, really important,” Sgt. Ruesga tells NBC15 News. “We would prefer to respond to thousands of calls that don’t go anywhere, rather than not respond to the time that it does happen.”

In the end, Sgt. Ruesga hopes the shooting won’t keep the community from public celebrations.

"Actually the first thing I said to my wife as we got into the car, I'm like, 'A lot of people won't come back to this event now, because of that,’” He remembers. “And they should not do that. They should continue to go to those events."

In a press conference last week, Madison Police Chief Mike Koval echoed this sentiment, saying, “We need to have everybody feel to some extent deputized to be an extra set of eyes and ears for us as they see conflict occurring."

NBC15 News reached out to the Madison Police Department for a status update on the shooting. Officers are still investigating the incident, and have not made any more arrests.

If you have any information about the shooting, contact Madison Area Crime Stoppers at (608) 266-6014.