Prosecutor says Branson police were justified when they shot and killed Randall J. Wesolek
Following an investigation by the Missouri State Highway Patrol and a review by the Taney County Prosecutor, three Branson Police officers were ruled justified in the February shooting death of Randall J. Wesolek.
Branson police released body camera footage at a Wednesday press conference and fielded questions about the fatal incident that took place at the Express Gas Station on West 76 Country Boulevard — the first time Branson officers shot and killed someone since 2006.
Wesolek, 43, was wanted for several felony warrants when Branson police approached the man — sitting inside his vehicle in front of the gas station along with his dog in his lap around 10 p.m. — after being alerted that Wesolek was in the area.
The officers appeared cordial in their initial interaction with Wesolek before running his identification for confirmation. When two officers returned to Wesolek's vehicle to tell him he was under arrest for his warrants, he refused their commands.
"I didn't do anything," Wesolek repeated.
A five-second struggled ensued as Wesolek was still sitting in his vehicle before an officer yelled "Don't reach!"
After an officer yelled, "Gun!" — Wesolek's right hand, mostly obscured by the dog in his lap in the video, was said to be moving toward the center console — all three officers fired, killing the man.
When Wesolek fell onto the pavement from his car after being shot, the video showed a pistol falling from his hand. An officer picked the weapon and showed that it had a bullet in the chamber.
Wesolek's dog, a "gray and white pitbull-type breed" appeared to be injured before running away from the scene. It was never found.
Branson Chief of Police Eric Schmitt said the determination in this case took nearly eight months due to the death of longtime Taney County prosecutor William Duston, who died of cancer in May. The new prosecutor who ruled the officers' actions were justified is Brad Hughes.
Schmitt said his officers did everything they were trained to do and noted that the circumstances are "going to be with them all of their lives."
The chief also exhibited sympathy for Wesolek and his family.
"He made a mistake," Schmitt said. "But that doesn't mean he wasn't loved by his friends and family."