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Newport, Minn. man charged in Hudson fireworks incident

A Minnesota man had gotten off with a fireworks warning on the Fourth of July in Hudson until he allegedly went after the people who called to complain about him and launched a firework at their car.

According to a criminal complaint, an officer responding to the scene had to slam the brakes of his police cruiser “as firecrackers began exploding under the front of my squad” moments before getting out to arrest the suspect.

The suspect, 48-year-old William Joseph Johnson, was later charged with second-degree recklessly endangering safety, disorderly conduct and resisting an officer. Johnson, a Newport, Minn., resident, was released July 5 from St. Croix County jail on a signature bond.

According to a criminal complaint:

Hudson police responded at 9:39 p.m. to Lakefront Park near the St. Croix River dike for people shooting fireworks. Some of the fireworks were reportedly tipping over and shooting at people.

Officer Robert Moody went there and found a man who was holding a firework he was attempting to light. The man, flanked by other mortar firework tubes, said “Oh, come on” as he was approached by the officer.

The officer told the man, identified as Johnson, not to light another firework — an order he ignored until his girlfriend told him to stop. Johnson, described as smelling of alcohol, was loud and profane while protesting the officer’s demand to stop.

Moody explained to Johnson that Wisconsin’s law prohibited setting off fireworks that leave the ground or cause and explosion, a statement prompting to Johnson to reply, “Well, why the (expletive) do they sell them to people then?”

Johnson asked permission to let off one last firework — a brick, about one cubic foot in size, Moody estimated — telling the officer a child had picked out that item. He then turned his inquiry to the complainants who had called the police, referring to them “in an aggressive fashion,” Moody wrote in his report.

Moody was contacted on the scene by the complainants, who explained they were walking their dog on the dike when they had to yank the animal out of the way after a large firework came at them.

“The couple advised they had a family member who had been severely injured by a firework and they indicated concern not only for their safety, but the safety of others,” the complaint states.

After more explanation from Moody and encouragement from his girlfriend, Johnson grudgingly agreed to stop, calling the officers “punks” as he left.

Moody watched Johnson and his girlfriend head east on Walnut Street. He then heard a small cake of firecrackers explode in that area, prompting him to turn around and go to the area, where he saw a puff of smoke near the couple.

Moody wrote that it appeared Johnson was “getting the last word.” He then heard another round of firecrackers go off near Walnut and Second streets, where he found the original complainants, one of whom said Johnson had thrown a firework at their vehicle.

Moody turned his squad onto Walnut Street, where he found fireworks exploding under his vehicle.

Johnson was arrested after a struggle that involved a wrist-compliance hold that Johnson said re-injured his wrist. EMS crews evaluated his wrist and concluded it was not injured.

A police review of Johnson’s criminal history revealed he was convicted of a sex crime nearly 30 years ago in Minnesota.

Johnson returned to court for a July 11 status hearing.

Mike Longaecker

Mike Longaecker is the regional public safety reporter for RiverTown Multimedia. His coverage area spans St. Croix and Pierce counties. Longaecker served from 2011-2015 as editor of the Woodbury Bulletin. A University of Wisconsin-River Falls graduate, Longaecker previously reported for the Red Wing Republican Eagle and for the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau. You can follow him on Twitter at @Longaecker

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