BY KATIE DELONG AND JENNA SACHS
KENOSHA (WITI) - The family of Aaron Siler, shot and killed by Kenosha Police Officer Pablo Torres on March 14th is deeply offended by a new billboard that popped up in Kenosha on Monday, April 20th. They're calling for the billboard to be taken down.
Siler's family calls the billboard "disrespectful" and "very painful." The group behind it says that wasn't their intention.
The billboard is located near 30th and Roosevelt in Kenosha. It is paid for by the Kenosha Professional Police Association, and it says "Thank you for your support Kenosha." It features a photo of Officer Torres.
The billboard is drawing mixed reaction.
"We have great law enforcement. Thank you for keeping us safe," Gary Kunich said.
"Instantly started crying. I was so heartbroken," Kathy Willie said.
26-year-old Siler was shot and killed by Torres, an 18-year veteran of the Kenosha Police Department on March 14th - near 22nd Avenue and 56th Street in Kenosha.
The incident began just after 9:30 a.m. Saturday, when officers attempted to arrest Siler - wanted on an active felony probation and parole warrant. Siler initiated a vehicle pursuit with officers, and after crashing his vehicle, he took off running. Officers pursued Siler on foot, and when Siler was confronted by Officer Torres, police say Siler armed himself with a weapon.
Officer Torres then fired his handgun - striking and killing Siler.
This incident occurred on Torres' first day back on patrol after another officer-involved shooting that occurred 10 days prior.
On March 4th, police say a man advanced on officers armed with two knives. That man was shot by Officer Torres.
It happened in the 1500 block of 84th Street shortly before noon.
Kenosha police say just before 11:45 a.m., they received a 911 call from a woman reporting her husband had gone into the garage to "kill himself."
Officers arrived at the home and found the 64-year-old man armed with two knives. He was seated inside a running vehicle in the garage.
Police say the man failed to follow orders to drop the knives, and he began to advance on the officers. In order to stop the threat, Officer Torres fired one round at the man. The man was hit in his abdomen. He was taken to the hospital for treatment, and he was expected to survive.
The man's wife tells FOX6 News he is a Vietnam veteran who suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder.
"I was screaming 'my husband is a veteran. Don't hurt my husband.' They know he had a mental problem. He was not out to hurt them - only himself," the man's wife said.
Officer Torres was placed on administrative leave following this incident. After being on leave and attending annual in-service training, Torres returned to work on Saturday, March 14th.
"I have to see this billboard every time I have to come into town with his smiling face on it," Willie said.
Willie is a close friend of Aaron Siler's mom.
"I felt like they were saying thank you for killing Aaron," Willie said.
Willie says she had to call Siler's mom to tell her about the billboard.
"She just starts sobbing. You know, why are they doing this to us?" Willie said.
Gary Kunich wasn't involved with the billboard, but he says Torres once protected his wife at a Kenosha hospital.
"He saved her life and doctors, nurses and other patients there when a patient got violent. I sleep safely at night because of people like Officer Torres. The vast majority of people are grateful for that service he provides day in an day out," Kunich said.
The Wisconsin Department of Justice is investigating the shooting that killed Siler. His family expects a decision in the case in a few weeks.
"(This billboard is) up before the investigation is even done," Willie said.
The Kenosha Professional Police Association said this in a statement to FOX6 News:
"The recent incidents in the community have greatly impacted many people, including the officer, his family and the entire police department.
We have been humbled by the outpouring of support the community has given us and we wanted to simply say thank you for that support."
Torres remains on leave pending the outcome of the investigation into the shooting that killed Siler.
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