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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Impulse theft of beer crime led to fatal shooting of Hayden man

A Coeur d’Alene police officer remained in critical but stable condition Wednesday, a day after a routine follow-up to a beer theft turned into a desperate gunbattle in a garage that left another man dead and two sheriff’s deputies emotionally shaken.

“Any time you walk in and see a bloody scene where someone has died and an officer is down, it’s a sobering realization that what we do for a living is dangerous,” said Capt. Clark Rollins, an investigator with the Idaho State Police. “It’s sobering. And it’s a tragic waste of life.

“When you think about the crimes that led up to this – why did this happen? It’s crazy,” Rollins said.

ISP is conducting the investigation into the frantic shooting that left 39-year-old Michael Madonna, of Hayden, dead and Officer Michael Kralicek, 35, severely wounded.

Two Kootenai County sheriff’s deputies, who returned fire after Kralicek was shot, have been placed on administrative leave while the shooting is investigated. By department policy, Sheriff Rocky Watson said, their names will not be released.

Madonna was shot three times, Rollins said. According to autopsy information, Madonna was struck by gunfire in an arm and his face, and a third shot severed his spine as well as two major blood vessels.

Madonna, police say, had broken away from officers who were questioning him about a series of erratic actions that night, ran inside his house and grabbed a .357 Magnum revolver from a coffee table. He spun and fired twice – one bullet hitting Kralicek in the jaw from about six feet away.

Kralicek was still unconscious Wednesday at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, Coeur d’Alene city officials were told. On Tuesday, he underwent a tracheotomy and surgery to repair his carotid artery, which was nicked by the bullet.

It appears the impulse to steal something, mainly for the thrill of stealing it, set the tragic chain of events in motion.

Coeur d’Alene police believe that a little after 9 p.m. Monday Madonna swiped two kegs of beer from Odom Distributing, located not far from the police station on Schreiber Way. It wasn’t until three hours later – just after midnight Tuesday – that Kralicek and two Kootenai County sheriff’s deputies were dispatched to interview Madonna about the beer theft and a subsequent minor accident.

Police at both agencies have said it is not unusual for deputies to make such follow-up calls after midnight, even for minor crimes.

Friends said the filching of beer and the getaway drive sounded like Madonna, a vacuum cleaner salesman who made good money and had a nice house but still “acted like an overgrown kid,” as one put it.

“He had this thing of going out and stealing street signs and stuff like that,” said Chris Schell, a co-worker who became friends with Madonna over the last couple of years. “He did it just for kicks. This time somebody caught him and he was trying to get away.”

Police say two employees at Odom saw a man toss the kegs in the back of a pickup truck and drive off. The workers piled into their own pickup and gave chase. A city police officer saw the workers zooming north up Ramsey Road at an estimated 80 mph, and began to chase them, police officials said Wednesday.

The three-car chase headed across city lines into the Grouse Meadows subdivision just north of Prairie Avenue. Schell, who spoke with Madonna by phone after the incidents, said that as Madonna was turning into Grouse Meadows, his 1999 Chevy Silverado pickup truck slid on icy pavement and crunched into a low brick wall at the entrance.

Despite front-end damage, Madonna continued to drive to his nearby house, at 1332 Starling Court. Neighbors said the truck made such a horrible screeching noise that they came out of their houses to look.

Some said they saw Madonna run inside his house, but not turn on any lights. The neighbors also said Madonna’s truck was soon followed by another pickup with two angry men, and then a city police car.

Capt. Ben Wolfinger, information officer for the Kootenai County Sheriff’s Department, said Wednesday that the city officer knocked on Madonna’s door but there was no answer. The officer and the two witnesses left the scene after noting items in the back of Madonna’s truck.

Three hours later, Kralicek was dispatched to question Madonna about the alleged theft. Two county deputies were sent to talk to Madonna about the hit-and-run with the entrance sign. They arrived between 12:16 and 12:22 a.m. as Madonna and a woman left the house. Officers separated the pair and began questioning Madonna.

Wolfinger said the computers police use show an “alert code” on Madonna for resisting arrest. Such a code is not uncommon in North Idaho, Wolfinger said, and officers may not have been unduly alarmed.

It is not known if any of the three officers were aware that when Madonna was arrested Dec. 17 – apparently for the first time in his life – on suspicion of drunken driving, he was also charged with trying to grab a gun away from the arresting officer.

Madonna was described by friends as nonviolent but seriously depressed. His sometimes erratic behavior worsened after the arrest two weeks ago, Madonna’s friends have said. He appeared to believe he was facing a lengthy prison term and would lose his house and possessions, the friends said.

In recent days Madonna would call friends to say he loved them, the friends said, and promised to give certain people his possessions.

Schell said he now believes Madonna was preparing to die – wanting to be killed by police.

The woman who was at the house with Madonna – she did not wish to be identified – said Madonna seemed to be especially agitated when he returned about 9:30 p.m. He insisted she stay and spent the next three hours talking in a disjointed and “almost paranoid” manner, she said.

As police questioned Madonna about the beer, the woman said she was told to stand off to the side of the driveway. She said she heard shuffling noises, then the sound of running footfalls. Then there was shouting and then came the gunfire.

It was over in seconds, but at the time – the woman and neighbors have said – the fusillade seemed endless.

Rollins, the ISP investigator, did not have an accurate total of rounds fired, but said “it is significant” and is more than the 20 rounds already reported.

Wolfinger said he listened to the 911 dispatch tapes as the routine driveway interview became violent and deadly in an eye blink. The tapes, he said, are haunting.