Salem Public Safety Department Chief David Shortess, at a press conference Monday, praised Officer Michael Ventura, who died in a crash on Highway 50 in Salem while on duty Friday, as a good officer that he had confidence in.
Shortess also asked the public to give the department and Ventura’s family time to grieve and for a thorough investigation by the Wisconsin State Patrol to be completed before jumping to any conclusions about Friday’s events.
Shortess, his voice breaking with emotion at times, said in part:
“Until we figure this out, I just want the citizens of Salem and of this county to know that this was a good officer and he was doing just as he was paid to do. He was taking some sort of law enforcement action. We don’t know exactly what that was at this point. He was working diligently at his task and until we have answers I’d like people to just give us time to get through this grieving process and to give the family time to get through this as well.”
Ventura, 33, of Mt. Pleasant, was new to law enforcement and only on the job part-time at Salem for about the last six weeks. The crash happened around 6 p.m., Friday. Ventura was in a department vehicle with his emergency lights activated traveling westbound on Highway 50 east of Highway B. The squad left the roadway on the median side, Ventura appears to have corrected and the vehicle traveled across the westbound lanes into the north ditch, where the vehicle rolled. Ventura was ejected from the vehicle. Flight for Life medical transport helicopter was called to the scene, landing on the highway and transported Ventura to Froedtert Hospital in Milwaukee, where he was pronounced dead. The crash snarled traffic on the highway for hours as law enforcement investigated the scene.
Shortess said the Wisconsin State Patrol was called in to handle the investigation including a reconstruction of the incident because of the nature and severity of the crash.
“The reconstruction is an infinitely more detailed and complex investigation into a crash,” said Capt. Timothy Carnahan, Wisconsin State Patrol.
Carnahan described the process as three-pronged involving looking at actions of the operator, the condition of the vehicle and evidence on the roadway.
“Once you take everything of what occurred physically and mechanically, you attempt, to the extent you can, to answer questions about why things occurred,” Carnahan said.
Carnahan said it would be difficult to say how long the process will take.
“We want to do as detailed an investigation as we can for the agency, for the family and for the citizens and government of Salem to answer those questions about exactly what and why things occured,” Carnahan said.
A memorial service honoring the life of Michael Ventura will be held on Thursday, at 10 a.m. at Gateway Technical College in the Madrigrano Auditorium, 3520 30th Ave., Kenosha.
The incident is taking an emotional toll on town employees and officials, Shortess said.
“Everyone that works for me I consider as family,” Shortess said. “It’s greatly effected all of us.”
Here is video of Shortess’ prepared remarks:
Here is video of Carnahan addressing the reconstruction process: