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St. Croix Co. deputy charged with OWI back at work while court case continues

John Shilts Jr.

A St. Croix County Sheriff's deputy arrested on suspicion of operating while intoxicated and later charged with possession of a firearm while intoxicated, all stemming from a Dec. 30, 2018 traffic stop, has been back at work for months in a limited role.

John A. Shilts Jr., 33, was cited for multiple moving vehicle violations while off duty the night of Dec. 30, 2018, when he allegedly almost struck a St. Croix County deputy's patrol vehicle; he made his initial appearance in court Monday in front of Polk County Circuit Court Judge Daniel Tolan.

The case was reassigned after a February request for a new judge.

Sheriff Scott Knudson said Shilts is working in a non-uniformed capacity handling administrative duties.

He said state statute requires Shilts to be on paid leave. Shilts, a seven-year veteran of the department, has been working in the limited capacity since about January, Knudson said.

"To have somebody sit at home and collect a paycheck when we could be utilizing him here and it does not compromise any activities ... it made sense to me to utilize the resources we have here," Knudson said, adding that an internal investigation into Shilts' incident is complete.

The sheriff said Shilts' duties include assisting investigators and working in the department's evidence room. Knudson said all the evidence from Shilts' criminal case was being handled by the arresting agency — the Wisconsin State Patrol.

"There is no access to any case involving him that will bring into question any item," Knudson said.

He said what happens next with Shilts' role in the department depends on the outcome of his criminal case.

Knudson confirmed in an email to RiverTown that the weapon found in Shilts' vehicle leading to the misdemeanor possession of a firearm charge was not a department-issued firearm.

Shilts also was cited for a seat belt violation, operating left of center and speeding (30-34 mph over limit) as a result of the OWI incident. He pleaded not guilty to all traffic violations in early January and has yet to enter a plea on the misdemeanor possession of a firearm charge.

Shilts is scheduled to make his next court appearance July 12.

According to the complaint:

Shortly after 11 p.m. Dec. 30, 2018, a St. Croix County Sheriff's deputy encountered a vehicle on County Road A and had to swerve into a ditch to avoid a collision. The deputy caught up to the truck and initiated a traffic stop.

After realizing it was Shilts driving the vehicle, the deputy called State Patrol to help with the stop due to the conflict of interest.

Shitls initially stated it was another vehicle, not his, that almost hit the deputy's vehicle.

State Patrol arrived around 12:15 a.m. Dec. 31, 2018, and put Shilts through a field sobriety test, but Shilts refused to take a preliminary breath test, saying, "I'm not doing it because I passed the fields."

Shilts was arrested at 12:39 a.m. and placed in the trooper's squad car.

The trooper went to Shilts' vehicle to retrieve his wallet and phone and saw a loaded, holstered handgun and handcuffs inside the driver's door.

Shilts is the son of Knudson's predecessor in office, John Shilts.