‘Heartbroken’: Friends, family fondly remember Chetek, Wis., officer killed during traffic stop
Family and friends in the small town of Chetek, Wisconsin, confirm Officer Emily Breidenbach was one of two officers shot and killed during a traffic stop Saturday afternoon.
The second officer, who had not been identified as of this report, was from the Cameron Police Department a few miles up the road.
Both officers died at the scene after an exchange of gunfire. The suspect later died at the hospital, according to a news release from the Wisconsin Department of Justice Division of Criminal Investigation, the agency leading the officer-involved shooting investigation.
A squad car outside the Chetek Police Department was draped in black and covered in flowers Sunday, a memorial for Officer Breidenbach.
Her brother, Mike Breidenbach, told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS in a statement, “To know her was to love her.”
“She could’ve gone anywhere to work but loved Chetek,” he continued.
Tim Shogren, a lifelong Chetek resident, was biking past the police department just as the memorial was completed.
“Every time I see that car, it’s going to remind me of Emily,” he said through a sniffle.
Shogren, like so many, remembers her fondly.
“It’s like a family trying to grieve right now because the entire area’s just in shock,” Mary Pittman, a close friend of Breidenbach, shared.
Pittman remembered her friend to be in tandem with the department’s therapy dog, “Grizz,” and how they both had so much affection for the kids in town.
“We all wanted to not believe it to be true, to be honest with you,” Pittman said about hearing the news Saturday.
Breidenbach was one of five police department personnel listed on the Chetek website. The same can be said for the Cameron Police Department just a few miles north.
“Normally, you don’t hear sirens like that around here unless it’s something big,” said Joy Larson, sitting on her front porch on Main Street in downtown Cameron. “So I knew something big was going on.”
The Wisconsin Department of Justice did not respond to requests for additional information as of Sunday afternoon.
Here’s what we know from the information provided Saturday: A Chetek Officer — now known to be Breidenbach — made the traffic stop around 3:30 p.m. Saturday. It’s unclear when the Cameron police officer arrived, but gunfire was exchanged at some point during the traffic stop.
Authorities have not officially released officers’ or the suspect’s identity but said the suspect died at the hospital.
“I gotta give the police officers credit because they take their chance every time they go out on duty for something,” Larson said. “For it to hit a small town like the one that I live in here is sad because all of the police officers are very nice.”
“For years, we’ve always said ‘Barron County strong,’ and we will be strong again and we will get through this,” Pittman added.
Mike Breidenbach said his dad was the Chetek police chief when he and his sister were kids, and they were all so proud when she was later hired.
He called his sister an amazing role model and mother and said, “We are all heartbroken and numb right now. She was my sister and I loved her very much.”