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Last Tuesday, decorated Lake Geneva police officer William Walser was out in his car on patrol, backing up another officer on a domestic call. He was about five minutes from a multi-story apartment building, when he overheard a county call for fire backup at the building located at 1195 Elm Street, north of BigFoot Beach. The two-alarm fire call went out but the building was already fully engulfed in flames. Walser rushed to the scene and arrived before any other safety personnel. He walked around the smoking hulk of a building calling out for survivors. From the roof at the back of the building he heard answering calls. The smoke was intense and it was hard to see. Walser saw a young woman come to the edge of the eave with a baby in her arms. In a matter of seconds it became clear to Walser that there was only one way to remove the baby from harm. The mother had to drop Alexi into his waiting arms below, a drop of almost fifteen feet.

The mother did not want to release little Alexi but the officer was persistent. Finally, the mother dropped Alexi and Walser caught the baby and hugged her close. Just as Walser caught the child the mother took a step closer to the edge and then fell to the icy pavement below. Officer Walser was unable to rush to her aid because his arms were full. At that point Officer Tom Giovannoni came around the edge of the building. In his own words: “the baby was in mid-flight when I came around the side of house. I rushed to Willy’s aid but a young woman plummeted to the ground before I could get there.”

Officer Giovannoni rendered first aid to the woman who suffered a broken leg in the fall. The mother was not the only person hurt from the effects of the fire and the dramatic rescue. The assistant chief of police, Michael Reuss, was also on hand, as things developed at the rear of the burning home. He found a neighbor who owned a ladder and had the man bring it over. The assistant chief was able to climb the ladder and assist the grandmother from the edge of the slippery burning roof. Unexpectedly the ladder gave way under the weight and down they came. The assistant chief is recovering from injuries suffered in his fall but the grandmother, who fell on top of him, was uninjured. When the fire was finally extinguished by the fire department the building was a total loss. Meetings are still being held to determine the cause of the fire but all evidence appears to point toward the electrical failure of one the small space heaters operated by a resident.

This is a story of a Lake Geneva Police Department functioning as an effective community support agency of the highest order. No one should forget that this fine department, that does such outstanding work, is guided day and night by a dedicated loyal and hard-working police chief named Mike Rasmussen. Tom Giovannoni, Micheal Reuss and William Walser deserve the highest praise and whatever medals of valor, courage and quick thinking that can be caged together for a celebratory ceremony where everyone can come and act proud of Lake Geneva’s Police Department expertise and its being one of those rare departments across the land that is truly living up to the phrase “to protect and to serve.”


Heroic Lake Geneva Police Officers

The three heroic police officers who saved the family living at 1195 Elm Street when
their home burned down. Tom Giovannoni, Michael Reuss and William Walzer. Assistant Chief Reuss was still at the hospital recovered from injuries he suffered rescuing the family so the department mascot stood in.

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