Wisconsin (PT) – Jason Pero went home from school due to illness. A few hours later he was dead, killed by an out of control cop that works for perhaps one of the worst departments in Wisconsin, the Ashland County Sheriffs Department.
For those unfamiliar, Ashland County sits on the South Shore of Lake Superior in Northern Wisconsin, with the city of Ashland serving as it’s hub. Ashland has a population that floats around 8,100 people. Almost half of the total county population of 15,714. Just 9 miles to the East, sits the tiny Native community of Odanah on the Bad River Indian Reservation.
As with so many police murder cases, this one has many unanswered questions. There are also many, many inconsistencies that have yet to be explained. For instance. People from the tribe recall a notice in regards to a man with a gun. Some places were put on lock-down. After the incident, the dept. claimed there was a call about a man with a knife. Local media proclaimed the suspect was over Six feet tall and lunged at the officer. In some instances, Twice. The DOJ would later “confirm” this in their muddled statement.
Young Pero was a short and stalky child. In no sane world, would he pose a threat to anyone. The dept. has also spread the false allegation that Pero was despondent, and called himself into dispatch, as if that would be a reason to shoot a 14 year old child twice…One problem that remains is the fact the dept. has refused to release public records such as the alleged 911 calls. There is a video that clearly shows Jason’s body lying in the street behind the police cruiser. The video shows the deputy exit his vehicle with weapon drawn, approach the body of Jason then walk around to the passenger side of his cruisers trunk…then the video ends. No one seems to know where the deputy, identified as deputy Brock Mrdjenovich was when he discharged his firearm, Statements from community members recall Mrdjenovich kicking something off to the side. This was not initially reported as the alleged knife the “suspect” had. Deputy Mrdjenovich was given a paid administrative leave. To the horrors of the Bad River community, the very same officer that took the life of an otherwise happy 14 year old kid, was put back on “desk duty” a few weeks later and started calling witnesses in regards to the case he himself started by way of murder. If this can be proven to be true, it could implicate deputy Mrdjenovich for crimes including intimidation and Tempering with a witness.
The people of Ashland county are no strangers to corruption and abuse. The Sheriffs Dept. in particular has a pretty sordid history. The most notorious example up until Jasons murder was the case of officer Christopher J. Bond. The sadistic freak who would prey on women housed in the county jail. Most of his victims were Native American. One woman was brave enough to stand up and file a lawsuit. Officer Bond killed himself shortly thereafter. Several other women have since come forward in the form of lawsuits which have been consolidated.
The timing on behalf of the Sheriffs dept. has been inconsistent at best. The DOJ have changed the narrative time and time again. The local media was quick to paint a picture of a tall, lurking figure with a butcher knife who lunged at the officer. Again. Video evidence suggests this is not even close to the case. And again, there is evidence of other counties who can take custody of a man holding a family hostage with an actual knife. In the Wisconsin town of Rhinelander a 21 year old man held his family hostage, leading to a stand-off with police that lasted for hours. He was taken into custody without incident. So why the excessive force in Jason’s case? Considering Deputy Mrdjenovich was in the National Guard, problematic training doesn’t seem to fit the narrative here. Toting the old “feared for my life” rhetoric doesn’t fit either. At all. Anyone who would be fearful of a child with a knife, while carrying tasers, chemical agents, batons, etc. is simply a coward.
This whole incident happened in less than 10 minutes time. From the alleged 911 call, to report of shots fired. Where was this deputy? How long did it take him to get on scene? Why was Jason gunned down in such a short amount of time? Why did the deputy not allow medical response to administer critical first aid upon arrival? Various reports say anywhere from 12-18 minutes went by after paramedics arrived, before police would allow them access to Jason. Why? What possible reason could there be for this action? Considering the history of the region and the fact the deputy is originally from the area, racism can not be ruled out.
The city of Ashland and the Bad River community as well as the Red Cliff community in neighboring Bayfield county have a long history of racial tensions. One of the more well documented events include the “Walleye wars” which took place from 1980 through the first few years of the 1990’s. Whites were upset that Natives could use traditional methods of harvesting fish from traditional waterways. Stating it was unfair and suggesting Natives shouldn’t use current technology, such as aluminum boats and flashlights instead of canoes and torches. Many landings were the site of confrontations between Indigenous warriors and whites, often escalating to verbal abuse and physical assault, as whites would trow rocks while shouting racial slurs. These confrontations have decreased in time, but still exist to this day.
Historically, even the local school district has had issues with racism. In Oct. of 2016 a float was presented during a homecoming parade that depicted a wall with some students behind it dressed as Mexicans flying a Mexican flag made out of cardboard, while members of the football team stand proud in front of the wall. A banner on the side of the float says. “Trump the birds”. The float caused considerable controversy on the local level.
Most recently, and a direct result of systemic abuse; the Ashland School board decided in order to protect the children of local police officers, and insensitive members of the community, it was in their best interest to ask a Native American school teacher, Sandra Gokee who dared show contempt by speaking out about the horrific abuse at the hands of local police, to resign. They put her on administrative leave to let her think it over. She has since been reinstated thanks in part to communities coming together in solidarity, and standing up to the abusive nature of their environment. More on her incredible story can be found here, which brings you to the ACLU website.
Unfortunately, this area has been neglected by authoritarian colonist for as long as most can remember. In 1893 for example, colonists set up the first of many boarding schools. Subjecting students to abuse including punishments for speaking their own language. Indigenous women have been targeted by immigrants who came to the area for jobs in the mining and shipping industries for decades. Those horrors continue to this day, most just moved West as the job markets evolved.
Attempts to communicate with local government has been difficult. The city council was to set up a community meeting but canceled it. The Bad River tribe held a meeting instead. Since Jason’s murder, there have been numerous events, including marches, demonstrations and meetings to try and heal the community, and to hold those responsible accountable. Currently tribal leaders, members of the community, and activists are demanding the resignation of not only deputy Mrdjenovich, but sheriff Mick Brennan as well. You can help by contacting the county and demanding their resignation via the county website, and clicking on the “Report A Concern” icon, or contacting the Sheriff directly via phone: 715-685-7640 and E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org . You can also contact Ashland mayor Deb Lewis.
I know this paints a pretty bleak picture but listen; I grew up just across the bay from Ashland. I know the people who want justice vastly outnumber those who would wish others harm. Talk to each other. Your friends and neighbors. Call your mayors. Attend council meetings and demand things are done to march us forward to change.
It is time the people of Wisconsin, and the entire country for that matter to come together and demand justice for those who have lost their lives to police violence. The Ashland area is not unique to this issue. As of Oct. of 2017, 24 people have been killed by police in Wisconsin. This is a trend that has been rising each year for awhile now. Isn’t it time we face these abuses as a community? Shouldn’t we fight for the safety of our children and communities as well as the Natural rights we all possess?