MILWAUKEE (AP) — Fearing a mass shooting, authorities chased nearly 800 leads in search of a Wisconsin man they believed had a cache of stolen firearms and had written of his desire to commit violent acts against the government.
But it wasn’t until Thursday evening that a retired school counselor provided the break in the case, alerting investigators to a man he’d found camping on his property about 125 miles (200 kilometers) northwest of Janesville, Wisconsin. That’s where a manhunt for Joseph Jakubowski, 32, began after authorities said he broke into a gun store April 4 and sent a threatening 161-page manifesto to the White House.
“Make no mistake, what could’ve happened here was a mass shooting. That was our concern,” said Janesville Police Chief David Moore.
Law enforcement officers arrested Jakubowski at 6 a.m. Friday after setting a perimeter around him overnight. Milwaukee-based FBI special agent Justin Tolomeo said officers recovered five guns, multiple boxes of ammunition, a sword and containers of flammable liquid, as well as a protective vest and helmet.
Jakubowski looked disheveled and sleep-deprived and didn’t put up a fight when officers arrested him, said Rock County Sheriff Robert Spoden.
“I can tell you that he surrendered without incident. There was no use of force,” Spoden said. “It ended up being a very Good Friday.”
Jakubowski’s capture settled fears among residents and authorities over what he might do with his stockpile of weapons and ammunition. In his manifesto, Jakubowski detailed a long list of grievances against the government and law enforcement, and threatened unspecified attacks.
Jakubowski made his first court appearance in Madison on Friday afternoon. He faces local and federal weapons charges for allegedly stealing 18 firearms from a Janesville gun store. The FBI said it was considering additional charges with federal prosecutors.
Jeffrey A. Gorn, the property owner who called authorities, told The Associated Press he was driving his four-wheeler on his property late Thursday night and checking his deer stands when he spotted a blue tarp and discovered a man camping on his land. Gorn said he didn’t realize it was Jakubowski, the target of an intense manhunt by at least 150 federal, state and local law enforcement officers.
Gorn approached the tent fashioned from the tarp and asked if anyone was inside. Jakubowski came out.
“He said he was off the grid,” Gorn said. “And I told him you’re not too far off the grid. You’re on my grid.”
Gorn, 58, a former high school guidance counselor, said he talked with Jakubowski for an hour.
“He seemed angry at the way he views society, how he believes money is controlling society,” Gorn said, adding that the man was “extremely cordial.”
“He never raised his voice, never showed any sign of doing anything inappropriate. I shook his hand twice,” Gorn said. “He wanted me to see his points of view. He wanted me to see what he had written to various people.”
Gorn said Jakubowski asked for food and asked if he had to leave the field. Gorn told him he could stay the night.
When he returned to his house, Gorn said he felt a bit uneasy with the campsite and called the Vernon County Sheriff’s Office. Law enforcement officers began to descend on the property in the dark and set up a perimeter around the camp. Gorn estimated 100 officers arrived and sat down with him to look over maps of the property. A thermal imaging camera showed Jakubowski was in the tent, he said.
News of Jakubowski’s capture brought relief to residents of Janesville.
“With the kind of weaponry he had, he could’ve done extensive damage,” said Richard Erdman, owner of The Coin Shop, a pawn shop downtown. He said his wife had been avoiding the mall, fearing it could be the target of an attack.
“These kinds of things keep people on the edge,” said Fabian Gonzalez, the general manager of the Milwaukee Grill. “A little bit stressful.”