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Man found guilty of shooting Wauwatosa officer

He's also convicted in robbery of Happy Wok

June 14, 2010

Prosecutors introduced ballistics evidence, cell phone records, DNA, uniquely folded currency, and even a precocious 8-year-old witness in the case of a Wauwatosa restaurant robbery, home burglary and attempted homicide of a police officer.

But it was the simple footprints in the snow that led to Michael Dengsavang and helped a jury convict him of all three crimes Monday.

Officer Abby Pavlik was shot in the abdomen as she drove up to investigate a burglary at the Normandy Village apartments the night of Dec. 13, a burglary prosecutors say was done by the same men who robbed the Happy Wok restaurant moments earlier.

Someone fired five shots from 15 or 20 feet away into the hood and driver's door of Pavlik's squad car.

"No question whoever's shooting at her at this point is trying to kill her," Milwaukee County Assistant District Attorney Mark Williams said in closing arguments Monday, the sixth day of trial.

Footprints in the snow led officers to Dengsavang, hiding under a tree across N. 124th St. His trial began last week, after two co-defendants pleaded guilty to robbery and burglary charges.

All three men are set for sentencing July 23 before Circuit Judge Rebecca Dallet. Dengsavang, 28, faces up to 60 years for the attempted first-degree intentional homicide conviction.

In his closing argument, Williams recounted how the same footprints were found at the restaurant, at the owners' apartment, and leading to Dengsavang; how distinctive, folded currency taken from the restaurant was found in the getaway car, along with duct tape similar to the kind used to bind and blindfold the restaurant owners; how cell phone records show all three defendants in constant contact with each other up until the time of the robbery and burglary; and how Dengsavang's DNA was found on a mask and gloves discovered along the trail of his footprints.

A gun found nearby could have fired the bullets recovered from Pavlik and her car.

Williams referred to the restaurant owners' 8-year-old son, who was home alone at their apartment when the robbers arrived, as "one of the stars of the show."

Calvin Dong testified last week that one of the men who ransacked his home was wearing red shoes. Dengsavang was wearing red and black Nikes when he was arrested.

Dengsavang did not testify. His attorney, Robert D'Arruda, argued in his closing argument Monday that a "rush to judgment" missed the real shooter. He asked why nearly four critical minutes are missing from Pavlik's dash cam video.

Pavlik had testified that she had turned off the video when she first parked at the apartments, and that subsequent events happened so fast that she didn't turn it on until after she had been shot.

She had jumped back in her car to pursue a car that had suddenly peeled out of the parking lot, but broke off the chase as soon as it hit N. 124th St., when she heard another officer say a shot had been fired.

She was attacked as she drove back into Normandy Village's lot.

Her dash cam video came on automatically when she activated her lights and siren to help other officers find her.

D'Arruda also went back to the state's own evidence about the cell phone calls to suggest that Dengsavang could not be the shooter if he was talking on his phone during much of the critical five minutes when Pavlik was shot.

He advanced dramatically toward the jury shouting, "boom, boom, boom," while aiming a pointer like a gun with one hand and holding the other up to his ear in an effort to demonstrate how unlikely it would be.

In rebuttal, Williams called the suggestion of a conspiracy and police coverup ridiculous, "an almost offensive argument."

After the verdict, Wauwatosa Police Lt. Dennis Davidson said Pavlik's fellow officers, dozens of whom sat in on parts of the trial, were happy with the conviction, which he called very important to the department and the city.

"It's the biggest case our department has worked on, ever," Davidson said, noting that in his 23 years with the force no Wauwatosa officer had ever been shot until Pavlik.

Pavlik, 28, recovered from her injury and is back on full duty.

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