Surveillance cameras play critical role in recent attack, shootings

Surveillance video has been critical to helping police find suspects, most recently in an attack at Rudy’s Drive-In. Using footage from a camera at the restaurant, authorities have identified the person who allegedly punched an employee. Now, the department is encouraging other businesses to get similar systems.

The Police Department has used video from cameras on private property and the SafeCam system to make multiple recent arrests. It stresses that while the cameras are not always monitored, when needed, they can help authorities understand what led to a crime or find who committed them.

A picture says a thousand words. In this case, the video of a Rudy’s employee being punched in the face is no different.

“That video is pretty clear,” said Sgt. Tom Walsh, of the Police Department.

About three or four years ago, Rudy’s Drive-In installed surveillance cameras around its property on La Crosse Street.

“It’s a sign of the times. It’s protection for our employees, which as we can see on the video, worked out ,hopefully in the end, very well,” said Gary Rudy, owner of Rudy’s Drive-In.

The Police Department said the video played a critical role in getting additional information in the case.

“We were able to get the suspect identified with the help from our community,” Walsh said.

Officials named Gerald P. Pemberton, 21, of Onalaska, as the suspect in the video after receiving many tips about the incident.

“Using Crime Stoppers, our social media platforms, any of those platforms are really beneficial when trying to get these crimes solved,” Walsh said.

A number of cases have generated leads through similar means. Using a private camera system, authorities arrested three people in connection with a shooting on Caledonia Street in mid-July.

Days later, police released images from a SafeCam and asked the public for help to identify the person who allegedly fired a pistol in the downtown area. Through public and private video footage, investigators were able to identify a suspect.

“When you start talking about surveillance video, pretty much everything we’re doing now is being recorded,” Walsh said.

The La Crosse Police Department has Project Blue Light, which is a partnership between the private businesses or homeowners and the department. People can place cameras at locations that allow the department to view live video if need be. If people are interested in placing a camera on their property, they should contact the Police Department.

Just like with the SafeCam system downtown, most of the time you forget they’re even there. But when needed, the cameras are there for authorities.

“Whether we want to argue if they’re good or they’re bad, you can see what’s going on. And if they’re used for the right purpose, I think they’re a big plus,” Rudy said.

Authorities are still trying to locate Pemberton, whose last known address was in Onalaska. If you believe you have seen him or know where he is. you are asked to contact the Police Department or report it anonymously to La Crosse Area Crime Stoppers at (608) 784-TIPS.

Get your weather forecast from people that actually live in your community. We update with short, easy-to-use video forecasts you can watch on your phone every day. Download the iOS or Android app here.