Ellsworth man arrested after trailer park standoff

Pierce County Journal newsroom
Posted 8/3/23

An Ellsworth man threatened to shoot officers if they came into his home Sunday while responding to a domestic disturbance call at Evergreen Estates. Police were able to mediate the situation and get …

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Ellsworth man arrested after trailer park standoff


An Ellsworth man threatened to shoot officers if they came into his home Sunday while responding to a domestic disturbance call at Evergreen Estates. Police were able to mediate the situation and get the suspect to leave his home peacefully with no shots fired.

David Joseph Johnston, 44, Ellsworth, was ordered to pay $2,500 cash bail July 24 in Pierce County Circuit Court on felony threat to law enforcement officer and disorderly conduct (domestic abuse) charges. The maximum penalty, if convicted, is six years in prison and/or fines of $10,000.

According to the complaint:

Ellsworth police were dispatched at 5:06 p.m. July 23 to Evergreen Estates in Ellsworth for a domestic incident. An employee from US Bank had reported a verbal and possibly physical incident overheard on an open line from the residence.

When officers arrived, a 44-year-old woman appeared to be in distress outside the home and looked like she’d been crying. She immediately told police there were guns in the house and that her boyfriend had guns on him. The officer escorted her to his patrol car for cover. She said her boyfriend had said he was going to go get the guns from under the bed after they had an argument. When the officer drew out his patrol rifle, she told him he’d only make things worse. She tried to walk back toward the residence but was detained in another patrol car. She gave officers Johnston’s phone number so they could contact him.

Several county deputies and officers responded and set up a perimeter around the trailer. An Ellsworth officer called Johnston and recorded the interaction on his body camera. Johnston continuously slurred his speech and sounded intoxicated. He admitted he wasn’t doing well and that he could see police outside his window.

“I’m going to tell you right now son, I’m locked and loaded,” Johnston said. “Anybody comes through my door and it’s gonna be a mess. I ain’t trying to lose my rights for gun control.”

Johnston told the officer he had an argument with his girlfriend over losing his wallet. He reiterated he had his guns in his lap and if anyone walked through the door, they’d find out he was a wacko. He admitted to drinking and said he was no sheep and not scared.

“I’m sitting right in my living room with guns that don’t just go pew pew pew pew pew, they go badadada and I’m ready,” he said.

He continually spoke about his right to have firearms and his concerns about officers taking his guns. Though he made multiple comments about being armed, no one could see any guns during the situation. He did say he had enough guns and ammo to level the trailer park.

Throughout the conversation, he hold the officer he’d pushed his girlfriend out of the house after the argument about his wallet and said they were both intoxicated.

At one point, he said he could see two officers standing in the middle of the street and that “those two are down. Already I got ‘em. Dead in my sights.” He said if he wanted to, he could have picked off a third of the officers by now. As the threats against officers become more violent, Johnston said he was going to “throw one up and range on your farthest one away. Is that okay?” The officer then heard what appeared to be a round being chambered.

Johnston could be seen looking out the north window of his house throughout the contact. He said he’d had an opportunity for half an hour to shoot the officer he was speaking to, the he could see him near the N-word lover’s house behind a vehicle. Johnston then asked to speak to an officer who had children and became emotional.  

Johnston continued to make comments about the government taking his guns. An Ellsworth officer was able to persuade him to leave his residence and three officers took him into custody without incident. Nothing dangerous was located on him; however, he smelled strongly of alcohol. He was transported to Pierce County Jail where he registered a blood alcohol content level of 0.214.

His next court appearance is a status conference at 2:30 p.m. Aug. 24.

trailer park, standoff, Ellsworth, Pierce County Circuit Court, Wisconsin