Commentary and information about public safety and security, intelligence and counterintelligence, open government and secrecy, and other issues in northern Idaho and eastern Washington.

Location: Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, United States

Raised in Palouse, WA. Graduated from Washington State University. US Army (Counterintelligence). US Secret Service (Technical Security Division) in Fantasyland-on-the-Potomac and Los Angeles. Now living in north Idaho.

Friday, December 31, 2004

Theft, Gunfire, and Death in Hayden, Idaho

The Idaho State Police is investigating the wounding of Coeur d'Alene police officer Michael Kralicek and the death of Michael Madonna at Madonna's residence in the Grouse Meadows residential subdivision of Hayden, Idaho, shortly after midnight on Tuesday, December 28, 2004. One account of the shooting was reported on December 30 in the Idaho Spokesman Review article by writer Kevin Taylor.

In conducting this homicide investigation involving a police officer, two deputy sheriffs, and Madonna, the Idaho State Police (ISP) will ask some questions that may irritate some people. The questions will try to get answers to explain exactly what happened, what was the timing and sequence of events, and why they happened. A thorough investigation, one which may make some law enforcement supervisors and administrators uncomfortable, is essential if they are to learn the lessons to avoid future incidents. As ISP Captain Clark Rollins said, "When you think about the crimes that led up to this, why did this happen? It's crazy."


It is expected that the ISP's investigation will produce a meticulously detailed timeline of events and answer several relevant questions about this incident.

- Was Michael Madonna's theft of the two kegs shortly after 9 p.m. a felony or misdemeanor? What was the dollar value of the property stolen? Were the kegs inside the business or outside when he took them? The answers to these questions are relevant, because they determine the severity of the initial offense that started a sequence of events ending with one man dead and one seriously injured.

- When the first Coeur d'Alene police officer arrived at Madonna's residence minutes after the theft, the officer knocked on the front door but there was no answer. For how long, if at all, had Madonna's pickup been out of the view of the two civilian pursuers before the officer arrived? The officer and the two beer distributor employees left after noting items in the back of Madonna's truck. What were the items they observed? Were the beer kegs visible in the back of the pickup truck at that time? If the theft was a felony, why did the officer leave rather than call for backup to establish a secure perimeter, conduct a search for the suspect, and then secure the pickup and evidence?

- Three hours later, Coeur d'Alene police officer Kralicek and two Kootenai County deputies were dispatched. Kralicek was to question Madonna about the theft, and the deputies were to talk with him about the minor hit-and-run damage to a wall at the Grouse Meadows entrance. Who made the decision to dispatch the officer and deputies? At the time Kralicek and the two deputies were dispatched to Madonna's residence, had the decision already been made that Madonna was to be arrested? Had they been told by supervisors, formally or informally, that they were to arrest Madonna? Or were they simply interviewing him as the newspaper reported?

- Why was it deemed necessary to conduct that interview at suspect Madonna's residence in a residential neighborhood shortly after midnight? If investigating relatively minor property crimes was the reason for contact, why not confront the suspect at a time and place that would give the officer and deputies more control and tactical advantage and present less of a threat to others? What was the urgency compelling contact during the night at his residence in a residential community?

- Was the city police department or county sheriff's office aware of any emotional or mental problems with Michael Madonna? Was he known to be violently aggressive or potentially suicidal? If so, was that information conveyed to the officer and deputies in any manner other than the "alert code" prior to dispatching the officer and deputies to make contact with him?

- Before dispatching the deputies and officer, had anyone determined whether or not Madonna owned any weapons and had any weapons in his house? For example, did he have a concealed weapons permit? Did he have prior police contacts when weapons were found in his possession? Had this information been conveyed to the officer and deputies?

- Almost certainly the three law enforcement officers knew about the "alert code" on Madonna for resisting arrest in an incident two weeks earlier. That incident involved Madonna's trying to get control of a Coeur d'Alene police officer's handgun while Madonna was under arrest for DUI and handcuffed in the patrol car. Why, then, did they not handcuff Madonna for their own safety and to prevent his fleeing when they first approached him shortly after midnight Tuesday morning in his driveway?

- Did Officer Kralicek actually enter Madonna's house in pursuit? When Madonna fled into the house, did Officer Kralicek draw his own weapon? If Officer Kralicek entered Madonna's house, had Kralicek drawn his own weapon before entering? At what point, if any, did Kralicek draw his own weapon?

- Has it been forensically confirmed that the bullet that struck Officer Kralicek came from Madonna's handgun?

- What was the position of each participant (Madonna, Kralicek, KCSD deputies)when the shooting began, and what were their positions throughout the shooting?

- ISP Captain Rollins said more than 20 rounds were fired. If two were fired by Madonna from his revolver, then at least 18 rounds were fired by the deputies. The newspaper accounts do not indicate if Kralicek fired any rounds. Three rounds struck Madonna, so at least 15 rounds did not. Have all bullets fired been located? Where did each bullet strike?

These are some of the obvious questions the ISP will ask and answer. There are many more. The public should not be upset by having them asked. Their answers, and the thoughtful analysis of them, should lead to safer and more professional law enforcement in our community.

Our local news media should seek public disclosure of the final ISP report. Often, law enforcement agencies object strongly to this type of report being made public. Usually, they assert that disclosure would (a) Interfere with enforcement proceedings; (b) deprive a person of a right to a fair trial or an impartial adjudication; (c) constitute an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy; (d) disclose the identity of a confidential source or confidential information furnished only by the confidential source; (e) disclose investigative techniques or procedures; or (f) endanger the life or physical safety of law enforcement personnel. Of all the exemptions, only (c) might apply, and it could easily be overcome by redacting personal identifiers of civilian witnesses.

In this incident, there were over 20 shots fired in the span of a few seconds in a residential neighborhood shortly after midnight. The residents of the Grouse Meadows subdivision were put at greater risk of injury or death because of all the events that transpired. They are entitled to know the facts, all of them, that resulted in their personal safety being placed at risk. The community at large is also entitled to that information so that it can form informed opinions about the conduct of its elected and appointed law enforcement administrators and supervisors.

Just as there are people who would seize on the report to be hypercritical of the law enforcement actions, so there are those who believe any public examination of law enforcement conduct is never necessary. Fortunately, most people in our community are between those polar extremes. We can handle the truth.

Addendum on 09-22-2007: The answers to some of the questions in this post are in Theft, Gunfire, and Death in Hayden, Idaho: Part II posted on February 16, 2005.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

An excellent analysis. There are indeed questions.

1:36 PM, January 06, 2005  

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