Ho-Chunk Nation Legislature Denounces Reckless Endangerment of Youth by Vigilante Baraboo High School Staff and Citizens

By Ardith Van Riper

     On Wednesday, Oct. 5, three adult males were taken into police custody after the men attempted an illegal ‘citizen’s arrest’ while threatening youth with a flamethrower in the act of vigilante justice in Baraboo.  Police recommended charges of disorderly conduct, second-degree recklessly endangering safety, and false imprisonment.  However, Sauk County District Attorney Michael Albrecht declined to file charges against two men and only charged one man with disorderly conduct.  During a Special Legislative Meeting on Oct. 12, the Ho-Chunk Nation Legislature passed a resolution, “Denouncing Reckless Endangerment of Youth by Vigilante Baraboo High School Staff and Citizens.”

     It was Homecoming week at Baraboo High School, and three men forced five students out of a vehicle.  It was reported to the Baraboo Police Department that one of the adults had a flamethrower-like device.  Four of the five children were of color, and one was a Ho-Chunk Nation Tribal Member.  The events occurred in the 1100 block of Tandom Trail in the City of Baraboo.

Three adult males were taken into custody:

1.          John A. Kolar of Baraboo, 57 years old

2.          William D. Bowden of Baraboo, 52 years old

3.         James J. Langkamp of Baraboo, 53 years old

     James Langkamp is listed as the director of activity programs in the staff directory for the Baraboo School District.  Kolar was the only one charged with disorderly conduct and is scheduled to make his initial court appearance on Nov. 2.  Langkamp wasn’t charged.  Still, the Sauk County Circuit Court granted a temporary restraining order on behalf of two boys.

     Homecoming week is typically a time when teenagers play pranks and commonly toilet paper (TP) houses and surrounding trees and shrubbery.  The five boys had yet to do any toilet papering but were looking to TP the home of John Kolar, whose daughter is their friend.  The boys reported seeing Kolar standing on his lawn, dressed in military-style clothing, holding a flashlight in one hand and a flamethrower in the other.  He shot the flames up into the air.

     The driver did a y-turn because they were on a dead-end street.  The driver intended to leave the area, but Bowden and Langkamp stepped in front of the car, preventing the children’s departure.  Kolar approached the vehicle and ordered the boys out.  Two boys fled as soon as their doors opened.  Langkamp briefly chased them.

     The three adults had flashlights shining the boys’ eyes, making it difficult to see.  A 4:06 minute video captures what was shouted at the boys to “shut the (expletive) engine off now,” “put the keys were he (expletive) told you to, mother (expletive),” “get out of the (expletive) car,” and “get on the (expletive) ground.”

     One of the three remaining boys is white.  He got out of the car but was not ordered to the ground.  He remained standing while the two boys knelt on their knees.

     The boys were told they were being “lawfully detained” in a “citizen’s arrest.”  Citizen’s arrests are not legal in Wisconsin unless that citizen directly witnesses a felony.

     Kolar’s daughter appeared and told her father to stop and let the boys go.

     Word quickly spread among the boys’ friends.  One of those friends is the son of a police officer and advised the boys to call the police.  The police were contacted around 10:30 pm.

     The police interviewed all the boys and went to the neighborhood around 1:00 am.  They made contact and arrested the three men.

     Kolar told police the athletic director stopped the car and denied using a flamethrower.  He also refuted ordering the boys to their knees.  Kolar declined permission for the police to search his garage for the flamethrower.

     Langkamp told police he had been taking photographs of vehicle license plates.  He claimed it was William Bowden who stepped in front of the vehicle.  He said he observed John Kolar and saw “this flame coming out.”  Langkamp said Kolar ordered the kids out of the car and lay on the ground.  He admitted that kids “really weren’t doing anything.”  James Langkamp claimed to be the one to calm things down and end it.

     All five of the boys are football players and participate in other sports.  They all told the police they were scared and feared for their lives.

     The Ho-Chunk Nation is calling on federal officials to investigate as a potential bias case.