By M.D. Kittle
MADISON — John Tate II, Gov. Tony Evers’ soft-on-crime Parole Commission chairman has resigned after mounting public pressure.
Tate’s record of releasing brutal murderers and cop killers finally caught up with Evers, who reportedly asked the Parole Commission chair to step down. The Democrat governor, facing a tough re-election, requested Tate’s resignation on Friday.
Evers’ appointee was set to release from prison Douglas Balsewicz, who brutally murdered his wife in front of his young children in 1997. Balsewicz had served just 24 years of an 80-year prison sentence. After intense public objection, Evers finally asked Tate to reconsider his decision. The parole board chairman relented a few days before Balsewicz was scheduled to be released.
He also freed Kenneth Jordan, one of three men convicted in the 1973 slaying of Milwaukee Police Officer Ronald Patrick Reagan.
According to the Officer Down Memorial Page, Reagan, a five-year veteran of the force, was at a Milwaukee bar when three men announced they were holding up the establishment. Reagan, who was off duty at the time, drew his weapon and identified himself. At that point, one of the men shot him.
“As he lay on the ground, all three suspects shot him several more times,” the page notes.
Jordan and his accomplices were sentenced to life in prison.
According to the Milwaukee Police Department, the patrolman kissed his wife goodbye as she addressed Christmas cards at the kitchen table and headed out to the Bungalow Tap at N. 30th Street and W. Hadley Street. It was Dec. 13, 1973.
While at the bar, one by one, three men came in. One asked to use the telephone. Another sat on an open stool next to a female patron who was next to Reagan. That man pulled out a gun, put it to the woman’s head and said to Reagan, “She dies if you move.”
“Patrolman Reagan drew his revolver, announced he was a policeman and fired at the man, missing him. He did not see the third gunman at the door who opened fired along with at least one other gunman. Six bullets hit Reagan including one in the head and one in the chest. No one else was injured. He was pronounced dead at County General Hospital,” the Police Department states on its website.
The men ran off and police later arrested two men from Chicago and one from Milwaukee. All three received life sentences.
Reagan was 27.
He left behind his wife of six years, a 5-year-old son and 2-year-old daughter.
In his resignation letter, Tate wrote: “My purpose as Parole Chair was not to inflict more punishment or be the agent of vengeance, but to assess and determine if these men and women had indeed become more than the harm they committed,”
The families of Balsewicz’s victim and Officer Reagan begged Tate not to release the killers. So did Milwaukee police in the case of their fallen brother.
“I can tell you that we’ve had petitions to Mr. Tate himself. He’s actually released two cop killers in the past couple of years as well,” Andrew Wagner, president of the Milwaukee Police Association told Empower Wisconsin. “We petitioned him to not release them. The families petitioned them. And they released those cop killers anyway.”
Republican candidates for governor, Rebecca Kleefisch and Kevin Nicholson, released statements following Tate’s resignation.
“Parole Commission Chairman John Tate deserved to be fired long ago,” Kleefisch said. “His replacement needs to prioritize Wisconsin victims and families’ safety — not Tony Evers’ long-standing goals of letting criminals free. It shouldn’t take the pressure of an election year for Evers to finally make the right decision.”
Nicholson tweeted: “John Tate tried to release convicted murderer Douglas Balsewicz; we stopped him with public pressure. Since then, I’ve repeatedly called on
@GovEvers to remove Tate. Yesterday, I told Evers and Tate we’d be watching them until they were gone. One down, one to go.”