Rhinelander Officer foils cell phone store burglary attempt
It isn’t often a suspect is caught red handed, but thanks to the diligence of Rhinelander Police Officer, Elisha Williams, a one man sits in jail after he broke into the Verizon store Tuesday, Nov. 26.
“I was at the right place at the right time,” Elisha said. “I was patrolling on Lincoln Street when I heard an audible alarm go off.”
It was 2:30 a.m. when Elisha heard the noise and noticed blinking lights, but she didn’t think much about it.
“These alarms go off pretty regularly,” she said. “I thought maybe it was another false alarm.”
Nonetheless, putting her training to work, she made a U-turn on Lincoln Street and cautiously pulled into the parking lot, thinking maybe Maurice’s, the clothing store next to Verizon, was where the noise was coming from. Once she realized it was coming from the Verizon store, she radioed dispatch to notify them of her whereabouts, asked for back up and exited her squad car.
As she carefully approached the store, she peeked in, and was somewhat surprised to see a man standing in the front show room with a hood over his head. It was then that Elisha saw broken glass scattered across the sidewalk in front of the store where the burglar had broken a front window to gain entry.
Elisha called out, “Police!” but the man’s response was to bolt out the back door and run off into the night. A light snow had fallen and when Elisha ran behind the store the man had already bolted down the street. By then Rhinelander Police Officer Jacob Simkins arrived and the two tracked him into a parking lot.
“We could see his tracks pretty clearly for a while but once we got into the parking lot we lost him,” Elisha said.
Officer Simkins continued to search for the man while Elisha went back to the Verizon store to make sure no one else was inside. By then some Oneida County deputies were on the scene and they noticed a car parked behind the former Country Kitchen. They ran the license number and it came back to a man in Oak Creek, a town south of Milwaukee.
The police officers called a tow truck to take the car away.
“We were pretty certain the car was involved in the incident,” Elisha said. “We wanted to process it for more evidence.”
As the police stood around the car, they noticed a man coming down the street. Elisha started walking toward him and he took off running, crossing Lincoln Street into the cemetery next to Office Max.
“He tried to hide behind some of the gravestones but the snow was pure there so we could track better,” Elisha said.
The man didn’t put up a fight after Elisha approached him. Gun drawn, she told him to lay flat on the ground with his hands spread out.
“He knew he was caught,” Elisha said. “He didn’t put up a fight after that.”
As a result of Elisha’s diligence along with other officers, Siphanh Phongsavath is in the Oneida County jail on a $125,000 cash bond. Police are also investigating other incidences where he may have been involved.
Capturing a burglary in progress is a fairly rare event for any officer, but Elisha has only been on the Rhinelander force for a year.
“It isn’t often it happens,” Elisha said. “Usually we are called after the suspect is already gone.”
While Elisha admits catching this burglar was the result of teamwork from other officers, she had no fear whatsoever chasing after this man herself. She attributes that to the 10 years she spent in the military as an intelligence analyst. She has served all over the world including Iraq, Kuwait and many other war torn areas of the globe. She continues to serve in the National Guard.
Raised in Weyauwega, Elisha knew she wanted to serve in the military, but she also had a love of law enforcement.
“I always thought it would be interesting being a police officer,” she said. “I completed the police academy course in Wausau and then was hired here about a year ago.”
Elisha has settled in Rhinelander for now, finding the small town atmosphere a different change from her world travels. But, she also admits, her new career is keeping her pretty busy, and challenged.
“Most people probably think being a police officer in a small town is pretty quiet,” she said. “It’s a pretty challenging job though because you never know what is going to happen.”