Emmitt M. Ritter-Simpson picked different weapons this time, but his standoff with police earlier this week at an Eau Claire trailer park bore similarities to an incident 3½ years ago at an Augusta foster home.
When he was 17, Ritter-Simpson barricaded himself in a basement and aimed a bow and arrow at his foster dad and police officers. During the standoff, he’d egged police to come in and get him before he eventually surrendered. After arresting the teen, officers found his attempts to booby-trap basement stairs to hurt anyone who attempted to go down them to get him.
In Tuesday’s standoff with Eau Claire police, Ritter-Simpson fired a BB gun multiple times out of the window of a trailer home, aiming for officers and striking a few of them. He’d also created makeshift shrapnel bombs out of tobacco containers, black powder, nails and glass, which he’d threatened to use on the officers.
After several hours of yelling obscenities, threatening police officers and shooting BBs, Ritter-Simpson ultimately surrendered Tuesday evening, was brought to jail and now faces a lengthy list of criminal charges.
Ritter-Simpson, now 21, who had been living with relatives in a trailer home at Maples Mobile Home Park, 1611 Western Ave., was charged Thursday with 12 felonies — 10 counts of second-degree recklessly endangering safety and counts of battery to a law enforcement officer and strangulation/suffocation. Misdemeanor charges of obstructing an officer, battery and disorderly conduct also were filed in Eau Claire County Court for his standoff at the trailer park.
Leading to the standoff
According to the criminal complaint, Tuesday’s incident started when Ritter-Simpson became upset that a woman he’d once dated was helping his grandmother bring groceries into the trailer. He yelled at the two women, insulted them, tackled the former acquaintance to the ground and punched her. When a man pulled the two apart, Ritter-Simpson grabbed his hooded sweatshirt and used it to choke him, causing him to temporarily pass out.
Everybody except Ritter-Simpson left the trailer and stood outside to call 911. After a few minutes, Ritter-Simpson appeared in the doorway and pointed his BB gun at them, firing a couple of shots that hit those who had fled the trailer.
Police arrived and took up positions around the trailer with guns and stun guns drawn. Ritter-Simpson yelled obscenities and threats at officers and shot BBs through an open window. A few of the officers were hit with BBs, causing minor injuries to some.
After he surrendered to police Tuesday evening, an officer asked Ritter-Simpson why he started a fight and then challenged police with a standoff that lasted several hours.
He replied that he “flipped a switch” with anger, which he said had happened before, according to the criminal complaint filed in the case.
Ritter-Simpson admitted that during the standoff he shot at officers because he wanted to die. He’d also envisioned a scenario of officers storming the trailer, him tossing the homemade grenades at them, stabbing them and stealing one of their guns to shoot his way out.
The officer then asked Ritter-Simpson why he voluntarily surrendered after the lengthy standoff.
“I guess the switch flipped back,” Ritter-Simpson said, according to the criminal complaint.
In the 2013 case at the Augusta home, Ritter-Simpson had an argument with his foster mother and became unruly, according to the criminal complaint in that case. After his foster mom called a social worker for help, Ritter-Smith went into the garage and began using a utility knife to sharpen wooden rods.
When his foster dad came home, Ritter-Smith approached him carrying the knife and a pointy dowel. The dad knocked the knife out of the teen’s hand, and Ritter-Smith fled into the basement. After a few minutes, the foster dad went down to check on the teen and found him pointing a bow and arrow in his direction.
Police arrived at the house with guns drawn and evacuated the family. When they told Ritter-Smith to put down his weapons and come out, he replied “No, you come in.”
Eventually the teen surrendered and was arrested without further incident.
Police found improvised booby traps in the basement, namely stairs coated in a lubricant to make people slip on them and light bulbs placed on the bottom stair. Sharpened wooden dowels and metal bars were found near the compound bow and its case.
Ritter-Smith pleaded no contest on Aug. 22, 2013, to charges of criminal property damage, disorderly conduct and obstructing an officer. More severe charges of recklessly endangering safety were dismissed.
Eau Claire County Judge William Gabler sentenced Ritter-Smith to two years of probation. But in March 2015, police arrested Ritter-Simpson for carrying a concealed weapon, Gabler revoked his probation and sent him to jail for three months.
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