By Dawn Walschinski and Christopher Johnson
It was Jonathon Tubby’s family’s first Easter without him.
“Easter was hard,” said his aunt Sarah Wunderlich. She would normally make an Easter basket for her nephew, but instead made one for his mother Nina Hellendrung, Sarah’s sister.
“I’m assuming he went to everybody’s house for baskets, so he probably had half a dozen baskets,” said Sarah with a laugh.
“To-go plates,” added Jonathon’s aunt Sue Doxtator.
“Care packages,” said Sue’s husband Arlie Doxtator.
Happy memories are tinged with sadness in the wake of the shooting death of Jonathon while in the custody of the City of Green Bay Police the night of October 19, 2018.
“It’s those little things that we forget, those little moments where we expect him to show up or call or message,” said Sarah.
Arlie, Sue and Sarah are the family’s spokespeople who deal with media requests and an ongoing civil lawsuit against the Green Bay Police Department. While they won’t disclose the details of their lawsuit, in a statement they said they wanted local law enforcement to have better training and equipment.
“It’s a positive thing that some of these things are happening now … but that still doesn’t ease our pain,” said Arlie.
Cameras in the Brown County Shariff’s sally-port where the shooting took place were updated, and Green Bay Police and the Oneida Nation are communicating with each other more. However, a tour of the reservation by Green Bay Police officers was a stressor for family members who were in tribal buildings they visited that day.
“When they came to Norbert Hill, I was in the High School office, and I was like ‘why is that bus here?’” said Sarah. “And I looked and I was like ‘I gotta get out of here. I need to be away from them.’ … And as I was walking away … one of my nieces come walking by, and I was telling her to hurry, and she asked why, and I said Green Bay PD is walking in, and even she was like ‘ahh!’ and she took off running out of there.
“And we know it’s not all their fault. We understand that. One man pulled the trigger, and there were a lot of discrepancies within the whole night. But that trauma is so ingrained in us that little things like that can trigger emotions,” said Sarah.
Other things, like the news, can cause stress for family members.
“I always dread watching the news because there’s always something on there about police shootings,” said Sue.
On April 7 a Green Bay man stabbed a police dog during an arrest. The dog, Pyro, was the same dog that was going to be used to subdue Jonathon.
“Every time something like that comes about, or something happens, it’s setting us back again,” said Sue.
While dealing with their own pain, the three have been helping with the rest of the family.
“Our focus right now is Dean (Tubby) and Nina, Jonathon’s mom and dad, to get them the help that they need, because they struggle daily,” said Sue.
“One of my nephews, he keeps having the same nightmare that the same cop that shot Jonathon keeps pulling him over. I don’t even know if he knows what he looks like, but he keeps having that dream that he’s the one that gets pulled over next and that freaks him out. He shouldn’t have to live like that,” said Sarah.
Between working with their lawyers and dealing with reverberations of their loss, Sarah, Sue and Arlie say healing has been difficult.
“It’s not like when my mom passed away. You mourn and then gradually … it doesn’t go away, but it eases. You can face the day that Mom’s not suffering any more … and I’m good with that. I’m not good with this. There is no ‘he’s not suffering anymore,’” said Arlie.
While they haven’t sought out formal mental health counseling, each finds comfort in their family and community.
“I get my counseling and I get my comfort from my wife, and from my grandkids and my great grandkids and my family, my friends. I got a lot of comfort when I was a Tsyunhehkwa,” said Arlie. “I spent so much time in that cornfield. That’s where I got my counseling, that’s where I was able to hold it together for everybody.”
“Besides my two (children), I have nephews and nieces at the house constantly, and at dinner we’ll set the table, they’re all younger than Jonathan, so they always ask questions and stories, so that’s really helpful to me to remember a lot of the funny and the good times,” said Sarah.
She recounted a wedding she attended when Jonathan was younger.
“Everyone was dancing on the dance floor and all of a sudden people made a circle, and I was ‘like who are you all circling,’ and I went over there and it was him and I was like ‘holy wah,’ and it was like hip hop dancing, and he was right on and the whole crowd was just cheering for him,” she said.
Both Sarah and Sue have become closer calling each other to check in.
“Me and Sue, we message ‘how are you doing today?’ we talk about maybe we should have weekly meetings, so we can just check on each other,” said Sarah with a laugh.
“Otherwise we’re on the phone for hours,” said Sue.
“In every possible way it’s exhausting, mentally, spiritually, emotionally. And that’s all on top of raising kids and work and everything else,” said Sarah. “I think just knowing to take care of ourselves, if it’s that time alone to go cry or scream or be angry or whatever it needs to be, as long as we’re taking those times, too, that will get us through this.”
Friends and the community have also stepped up to help the family during this time.
“We can’t tell them enough how thankful we are for what they’ve done and what they’ve given us,” said Sarah. “We ask them to move forward with a good mind and a good heart, and we’re lucky because people are listening, and that’s the way we want to continue to move.”
“I just don’t want the community to think that we’ve forgotten … we have not forgotten at all,” said Sue. “I know the community is angry and anxious, we’re angry and anxious, too, but in order to keep ourselves together, we count on their support and their words and our family and each other, and moving in the right, good way.”
“Remember that good mind,” said Arlie. “The negativity just doesn’t help. It’s easier to deal with a hug that it is to deal with negativity.”
The family has set up a memorial fund in Jonathon’s name at Bay Bank in response to the community’s generous requests to help.
“We don’t want the community to feel like we’re not accepting their offerings,” said Sue. “It’s hard for our family, we’ve talked about fundraisers … but the momentum to actually do it is really difficult for us.”
The family also wants to thank members of the Oneida Business Committee for their support.
“There’s been nothing but support from them. When it first happened, I think we heard from just about all of them say ‘if you need anything,” said Arlie.
“They’ve taken our lead and our request for privacy for not going out there and putting anything out there. They were getting a lot of pressure to do something, and we asked them not to as a family,” said Sue.
They also thanked Bobbi Webster for helping them with deal with local media and for organizing press conferences and organizing an event at Wise Women Gathering.
“She’s been there with everything,” said Arlie.
October 19, 2018
According to a report from Brown County District Attorney David Lasee, Jonathon, 26, had been pulled over that night and arrested for an outstanding warrant by Green Bay Police officers Erik O’Brien and Colton Wernecke. While he was being driven to the Brown County Jail, Jonathon was able to maneuver his handcuffed arms from behind his back to his front. He tucked his arms under his giving the appearance that he had a weapon.
After approximately 50 minutes of attempting to get Tubby to exit the squad car, pepper spray was deployed through the back window of the vehicle. Jonathan quickly exited through the back window and was knocked down by a non-lethal bean bag round. Jonathon rolled from the trunk of the car, one arm still under his shirt, and ran in the direction of O’Brien who fired eight rounds in quick succession from his service weapon, five of which struck Tubby. It was later determined that Tubby was unarmed and still handcuffed throughout the standoff. After an investigation by Wisconsin State Division of Criminal Investigation no charges were filed against O’Brien.
The family disputes the DA’s findings.