Empower Wisconsin | Jan. 21, 2021
By M.D. Kittle
MADISON — Elroy “Roy” Stern was erroneously suspected of planning to “cause problems” on Inauguration Day by an “anonymous” informant. The unnamed tipster’s proof, it seems, is that Stern was at the spring protests against Gov. Tony Evers’ statewide lockdowns, according to an incident report.
As Wisconsin Spotlight reported, the 73-year-old Vietnam War veteran from Hustisford was working at his home Saturday when he was approached by three deputies from the Dodge County Sheriff’s Department. He said he got the sense he was being questioned as some kind of suspected domestic terrorist or insurrectionist, descriptors used by liberal politicians and news outlets in the wake of the Jan. 6 riots at the U.S. Capitol.
It appears he was, according a copy of the incident report obtained by Empower Wisconsin under the state’s Open Records law.
Lt. Robbie Weinfurter on Saturday afternoon was informed by an individual who “wanted to remain anonymous” that “Stern was trying to encrypt his phone and was planning on attending the Presidential Inauguration at the Wisconsin State Capitol with two other people.”
“The caller felt this was very disturbing and thought Elroy Stern was wanting to cause problems,” the lieutenant reported. He noted the information was provided to the anonymous caller by another anonymous source.
But the caller could not provide specifics. So what was so disturbing? The informant said Stern was at the spring protests against overreaching government health orders. Of course, so were thousands of other conservatives and opponents of the restrictions. Stern also was “open carrying a sidearm at that time.” Wisconsin is an open carry state. But Stern told Empower Wisconsin he was not carrying a sidearm at the rally.
“The caller also was not aware of Elroy Stern getting involved with anything illegal during his time in Madison in the spring,” Weinfurter wrote in his report.
The informant named two other people Stern “was trying to communicate with” — his cousin and a friend from the West Bend area.
That was all deputies had to go on.
Yet, Weinfurter and two deputies stopped by Stern’s house that same day and asked him a lot of questions.
The Dodge County retiree told authorities he had been to Madison on Jan. 6 for a demonstration against what protesters believe to be widespread election law violations in the November presidential election. Stern had also attended previous marches led by David Clarke, former sheriff of Milwaukee County and full-throated supporter of Donald Trump. Unlike the events that unfolded during the violent protests at the U.S. Capitol, Stern told the lieutenant the demonstration on Jan. 6 in Madison was peaceful.
“I asked Elroy Stern if he was planning anything violent and he said he was not,” Weinfurter said.
He was asked about his friend and his cousin, whether they planned anything “violent.” He said he didn’t believe they had any such plans. The lieutenant noted in the report that he passed along “the information I had” on the two men to the Washington County Sheriff’s Department and the West Bend Police Department for “possible follow up.”
Stern told the investigator he has spoken to a man online known only as “Captain Hook” and wanted to talk to him in person. He was unable to do so. He mentioned encrypting phones. That’s not illegal. Stern told Empower Wisconsin that he owns an older “flip phone.” He said nothing discussed in any conversation was violent. He showed the investigator a copy of a letter of redress of grievances he wanted to send to the governor.
“The letter voiced concerns about the Presidential election and the legalities surrounding it. There was not anything threatening in the letter,” Weinfurter wrote.
Stern told the investigator that if the people’s representatives did not take action, “it was up to the people.”
“He followed that up by saying we need to have a civil society and is not anti-government,” the report stated.
The 73-year-old Vietnam War vet was not a threat, the lieutenant determined.
“I was unable to identify any kind of credible threat regarding this complaint,” Weinfurter wrote.
Yet Stern was subject to questioning on his property in the presence of three sheriff’s deputies, questions that touched the core of the man’s integrity, patriotism and his beliefs about the America he fought for so many years ago.
He told Empower Wisconsin that the officers were very professional, and that they were just doing their jobs. But, as he told the lieutenant, he can’t help but feeling like he was the victim of a “false flag operation.”
“It’s very disconcerting,” he said.