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WIZM 2021 review: Major year for crime in region

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FILE - Entrance to Milestone Material quarry on County M, north of West Salem, where three men were found dead back in July.

As 2022 approaches, it brings a tumultuous past year for crime stories in this part of the country to an end. The WIZM newsroom looks back at some of the law and order stories, which made news in 2021.

In the La Crosse region, a triple-murder at a quarry near West Salem was one of the most serious crimes committed in western Wisconsin during 2021.

On July 23, three men — Peng Lor, Nemo Yang and Trevor Malony — were shot multiple times outside the Romskog quarry.

Within a few days, two suspects were arrested — identified as Khamthaneth Rattanasack of the Wausau area and Nya Thao of Holmen.

After the arrests, La Crosse County Sheriff Jeff Wolf said the motive for the shootings seemed to be a $600 debt owed to one of the suspects.

The two men have pleaded not guilty to homicide charges. No trial dates have been scheduled, and their next court hearings in the case are set for late March.

The COVID pandemic and other factors have delayed a number of courtroom cases in the La Crosse area, including some murder trials.

One homicide trial in La Crosse County, however, did go to a jury in 2021.

In November, Shavonte Thompson was tried for the 2019 shooting death of 18-year-old Javier Ayers, in a north La Crosse alley. La Crosse County District Attorney Tim Gruenke said there had been bad blood between the families of the suspect and the victim.

Security video showed Ayers being shot by someone who got out of a car and quickly rode away. Defense attorney Patrick Flanagan said the video didn’t clearly show the shooter.

After a two-day trial, jurors found Thompson guilty of 1st degree murder. He’s scheduled to be sentenced on Jan. 13.

Outside the region, three major courtroom trials in Wisconsin and Minnesota got national attention while a fourth is awaiting trial.

Former Minneapolis policeman Derek Chauvin was convicted in April of causing the death of George Floyd by kneeling on the victim’s neck for several minutes.

Chauvin got a 22-year prison sentence.

During the Chauvin trial, Officer Kim Potter shot driver Daunte Wright in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota.

Potter was convicted of manslaughter just last week.

In southern Wisconsin, 18-year-old Kyle Rittenhouse of Illinois was acquitted for killing two men during demonstrations after a police-involved shooting in Kenosha.

Lastly, in Waukesha, Wis., Darrell Brooks was charged with killing six people by driving into a Christmas parade. Brooks is awaiting trial.

A native of Prairie du Chien, Brad graduated from UW - La Crosse and has worked in radio news for more than 30 years, mostly in the La Crosse area. He regularly covers local courts and city and county government. Brad produces the features "Yesterday in La Crosse" and "What's Buried on Brad's Desk." He also writes the website "Triviazoids," which finds odd connections between events that happen on a certain date, and he writes and performs with the local comedy group Heart of La Crosse. Brad been featured on several national TV programs because of his memory skills.

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