PLEASANT PRAIRIE, Wis. – A man arrested in shorts and a t-shirt shot himself in the back of a police squad car. Now, his family has hired what they call a “pit bull” lawyer to find out how it happened.
When Pleasant Prairie police arrested 36-year-old Jacob Albright at the Super 8 on July 20, someone inside snapped a photograph. It appears to show Albright handcuffed behind his back as he is loaded into a squad car – minutes before police say he shot himself to death.
“The fact is he had a gun. They didn’t find it. They should have,” said Jerry Albright, Jacob’s father.
When Jerry Albright talks about his son, he beams about his skill as an artistic craftsman.
“He’s a very good woodworker,” Albright said.
But their relationship was complicated.
“He got angry. I got scared,” Albright said.
In June, the 71-year-old called police when Jacob grabbed his neck and pushed him into a mirror.
“There was no impulse control,” said Nicole Melander, Jacob’s sister.
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Jacob Albright had a lengthy criminal record. But his family said that is no excuse for what happened July 20 – just outside the Kenosha County Jail.
“Obviously the main question is, how did my little brother end up in the back of a police car with a loaded weapon,” Melander said.
Family members say Jacob was wearing basketball shorts and a t-shirt when police arrested him. The photograph appears to show him handcuffed behind his back. Somehow, he still had a gun inside the squad – and shot himself to death just as they arrived at the jail.
“Check underneath his shoelaces if you have to,” said Kailah Bergstrom, niece.
How did it happen? The family has hired civil rights attorney James Gende to find out.
“This is not a drop of the ball situation. This is an absolute blatant disregard of whatever policy and procedure is in place to make sure people are safe,” Gende said.
“And now he’s dead ’cause they didn’t do their damned job! That’s the bottom line,” Jerry Albright said.
“There needs to be accountability,” Bergstrom said.
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Just moments after the shooting, Kailah Bergstrom happened to be driving by and took video. She had no idea it was her uncle on the ground – because police did not tell the family for nine hours.
“At least he would’ve had somebody to sit there with him for five hours, so he wasn’t alone,” Bergstrom said.
Pleasant Prairie Police Chief Dave Smetana declined to identify the officers involved, but he did say three officers have been placed on non-disciplinary administrative leave pending the outcome of the investigation. The Racine County Sheriff’s office is conducting that investigation.