Man shot by Douglas County deputy diesFriends and neighbors say Andy Closson was on his cell phone early New Year’s morning talking to someone and repeating over and over that he just wanted to die.
By: John Myers, Duluth News Tribune
GORDON, Wis. — Friends and neighbors say Andy Closson was on his cell phone early New Year’s morning talking to someone and repeating over and over that he just wanted to die.
Just after 2 a.m., along the U.S. Highway 53 bridge over the St. Croix River, a Douglas County deputy sheriff shot Closson when the 21-year-old apparently raised a deer hunting rifle and pointed it at the deputy.
Andrew Lee Closson was pronounced dead later Tuesday morning at a Duluth hospital.
The deputy was unharmed and was placed on administrative leave, a common procedure for officer-involved shootings, pending an investigation that officers Tuesday afternoon said was being led by the Wisconsin Division of Criminal Investigation.
Friends and neighbors said Closson, whom they described as an otherwise “good kid,” appeared distraught in recent months over losing a girlfriend and was drinking on New Year’s Eve when he snapped.
“He kept saying ‘I want to die, I want to die’,” said Randy Aull, who was involved as the incident unfolded just before 2 a.m.
According to Aull, Closson had spent New Year’s Eve with friends and family at the home of his father, Rick Closson, at the intersection of Terry Drive and Antoine Circle in the “downtown” area of the Town of Gordon, about 40 miles south of Superior.
At some point, Andy Closson demanded that he be allowed to take a car and drive to his ex-girlfriend’s house. When his family refused to give him the keys “he just flipped,” Aull said.
According to Aull and others, Andy Closson then retrieved a .30-30 caliber deer hunting rifle and fired a couple of shots inside his father’s home and a few more in the garage. A family member then ran to Aull’s house across the street to call 911.
Aull said he immediately ran out of his house hoping to retrieve Rick Closson’s two younger children, ages 9 and 6, from the Closson home where the shooting was happening.
“I ran around the garage and ran right into Andy face-to-face. He backed away from me and lifted the gun up and pointed it right at me,” Aull said. Aull said he tried to wrestle the gun away from Closson. When that failed, Aull then went into the house, followed by Closson with the gun.
Aull said he wasn’t sure why he tried to grab the gun or why Closson didn’t shoot.
“He never said anything to me. He never threatened me. I told him I was just going to take the kids and go, that they shouldn’t see this,” Aull said. “He didn’t try to stop me.”
Aull quickly left the Closson house with the children. Within minutes, Andy Closson also left the home, just as the first officers were arriving on the scene, including town Constable George Booth. Neighbors say Closson may have fired additional shots into the air as he was walking from his father’s home, near the Wisconsin Central Railway tracks, about four blocks to Highway 53.
A deputy discovered Closson walking along the four-lane highway when, according to a release from Douglas County Sheriff Tom Dalbec, Closson raised the rifle and pointed it at the deputy. It’s not clear how many shots the deputy fired.
In the news release, Dalbec said the first call for help came just after 1:40 a.m. with a report of gunfire in the Gordon home. Dalbec confirmed no one was hurt during the shooting inside the home. Authorities have not named the deputy involved in the shooting.
Authorities also hadn’t officially released the name of the victim Tuesday. But Gordon, population 722, was abuzz with word over Closson’s death. According to friends and neighbors, Closson had grown up in Superior and moved in and out and back into his father’s home in Gordon over the past four years.
Closson was described as a “good friend” and a “good neighbor” by everyone interviewed who knew him. Facebook and Twitter posts also mourned Closson’s death, and friends said Aull also posted on Facebook that he just wanted to die.
“I want people to know he wasn’t a bad kid. This wasn’t him. He was nice to our kids here. They hung out with him. I hunted with his dad,” Aull said. “Something just went off in him. He was drinking and I don’t know what else was wrong.”
Penny Carlson of Gordon said her daughter, Casey, knew Andy Closson well and had just seen him over the weekend.
She said Casey was too distraught to talk about the passing of her friend.
“She does want people to know that this isn’t who he was. He was a great friend and a great guy,” Carlson said. “She’s upset that this is how people are going to remember him.”
Kyle Wirkus, who also lived across the street from the Clossons, described Andy “as a nice guy. You’d never think something like this would happen.”