Speed Reads

small town USA

Watch a tiny Wisconsin town justify using an armored vehicle to collect $86k from an old man

A few weeks ago, 24 sheriff's deputies for the town of Stettin, Wisconsin — population 2,500 — showed up at the door of 75-year-old Roger Hoeppner to execute a court judgment and seize $86,000 worth of equipment from Hoeppner's property. When Hoeppner refused to open the door, the Marathon County sheriffs department drove up its heavily armored BearCat vehicle; that brought Hoeppner out, and after an altercation he was arrested on charges of disorderly conduct before agreeing to pay the civil fine (reduced to $80,000).

Now Hoeppner is suing Stettin for $4.5 million, claiming the rural central Wisconsin town used excessive force, violated his federal civil rights, and caused him pain, suffering, emotional distress, damage to reputation, and economic loss. At a press conference on Monday, the Marathon County Sheriff's Office didn't apologize for sending out the BearCat. In fact, they're arguing it was the safest and most effective way to collect the civil judgment from an aggressive case like Hoeppner.

"People may not always understand why, but an armored vehicle is almost a necessity now," Capt. Greg Bean tells the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. "I've been involved in about five standoff situations where, as soon as the MARV [Marathon County Response Vehicle] showed up, the person gives up," saving time and money, plus keeping everyone safe. Read more about the long-running dispute at the Journal-Sentinel, and watch Marathon County justify its use of a military vehicle at WAOW-9 below. --Peter Weber