DCI officers cleared in Forest City police officer shooting

Published 1:12 pm Tuesday, November 1, 2011

By Peggy Senzarino, Mason City Globe Gazette

FOREST CITY — Two Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation agents have been cleared of any wrongdoing in the shooting of a Forest City police officer, according to a report released Tuesday.

Thaddeus Ellenbecker, 34, was shot outside his apartment at 806 S. Seventh St. in Forest City on Oct. 20 in a struggle with two Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation agents.

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The agents had been questioning Ellenbecker about his possible involvement in a fire at the Forest City Police Department and in the theft of an assault rifle from a police vehicle.

According to a report on the incident released by the Iowa Department of Justice, it was Special Agent Chris Callaway who struggled with Ellenbecker. Special Agent Steve Peterson shot Ellenbecker in the upper thigh after being unable to pull Ellenbecker off of Callaway.

On Oct. 20, Ellenbecker was interviewed at the Sheriff’s Office and left to walk back to his apartment which was located seven blocks away. Callaway followed.

He told investigators he observed a change in Ellenbecker’s demeanor and called Peterson for backup.

Ellenbecker went into the apartment for about 10 minutes and came out with his wife and two young children. He wanted the family to go to his parent’s home in Rochester.

At that point, Callaway saw that Ellenbecker was armed with a 40-caliber pistol. He followed him into the alcove of the apartment building where the struggle ensued.

Callaway grabbed Ellenbecker from behind and placed his hand on Ellenbecker’s hand attempting to keep him from getting to his gun. Both Callaway and Ellenbecker were pinned against the door struggling for the gun.

After a short while, Ellenbecker was able to get leverage on Callaway and push him against the adjacent wall.

In the meantime, Peterson arrived.

Upon reaching the men, he attempted to grab Ellenbecker’s feet.

When this tactic didn’t work and when Ellenbecker appeared to gain leverage on Callaway, Peterson drew his weapon and fired one shot into Ellenbecker’s upper thigh.

Peterson said he shot Ellenbecker in the thigh because it had the least chance of hitting Callaway if he missed or if the bullet passed though Ellenbecker.

Ellenbecker told authorities he was attempting to get his wife and children to leave the apartment so he could kill himself. Ellenbecker claimed he didn’t intend to harm Callaway or anyone else.

“Based on all the available evidence, including Ellenbecker’s own statements and admissions, it is determined that the actions of Callaway and Peterson were taken in self-defense and were legally justified. No action is warranted against either agent,” the report states.

Ellenbecker remains in the Cerro Gordo County Jail facing charges of second-degree arson and second-degree burglary, both Class C felonies.

He is being held on $20,000 cash-only bond.