A standoff in downtown Onalaska ended quietly and safely on Tuesday evening.
The La Crosse County Sheriff’s Department had heavily armed, camouflaged deputies staged behind the Bearcat armored vehicle on Main Street, looking to arrest one man with felony warrants out of Monroe County and other warrants in La Crosse.
The event began around 5:30 p.m., as authorities were on a loud speaker telling Jarel Jenkins, the person with those felony warrants, to come out of the blue apartment building between 3rd and 4th streets.
Onlookers watched from a few blocks away, as police were at every intersection, surrounding downtown Onalaska and sidewalks were taped off.
At one point, an officer told one bystander not to stand in the road, because that officer noted he had on body armor, and they didn’t, and they could be caught in crossfire.
None of that came to fruition, however. The only “action” that could be heard from afar was authorities breaking a second-story window.
Marte Peterson, the Emergency Response Team Commander with the La Crosse County Sheriff’s Department, said they had sent gas into one room of the apartment, but that just forced the three inside to another room.
“Broke the window out, because he had, like a red red blanket covering,” Peterson said. “Our goal was to break the window, get the blanket out of there, try to establish more communication. And, if we were unsuccessful, we were going to put more gas in.”
Peterson said removing the blanket from the street side window allowed them to better see inside and assess what was going on. With two others in the apartment, he said they weren’t sure what the situation was.
“We didn’t really have any solid information, one way or the other,” Peterson said. “If they were free to leave, if they’re not free to leave, or if they just were unwilling. But a lot of times people are just fearful.
“That’s a message we try to get out. The other two weren’t, they weren’t in trouble for anything. ‘Just come on out. We’ll get you out safely and you can go.’ But, I think they feel that if they’re associated with the situation, that they’re in trouble, too. And (that makes them) hesitant to come out.”
Throughout the ordeal, authorities were on that loudspeaker asking those inside to come out, they can come out safely. Other times, they were saying to come out, they’re under arrest.
As the sun set and things got dark, the 27-year-old Jenkins did finally come out behind the two others, without much of an incident.
“That main suspect we were looking for came out last,” Peterson said. “He was pretty visually upset. But I just put my hand on his shoulder and said, ‘Hey, you made the right decision.’ He didn’t feel like he did. He felt sad, he was scared.”
Jenkins was booked into La Crosse County jail on eight charges, along with an out of county warrant.