Three injured in Janesville shots-fired incident - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

Daughter's texts credited with saving mother's life

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James McNeal James McNeal
Matt Behrens/WKOW photo Matt Behrens/WKOW photo

JANESVILLE (WKOW) -- A teen texting with a Janesville police officer is credited with saving the life of her mother following a domestic incident in Janesville Tuesday that injured three.

Dennis James McNeal, 57, faces charges of first-degree reckless injury, first-degree endangering safety and two counts of aggravated battery.

During a Wednesday morning news conference, Janesville Police Chief David Moore credited a text message dialogue between a police officer and the granddaughter of one of the victims with possibly saving the woman's life.

Police were called at 4:37 p.m. Tuesday, April 3, 2018 to a home in the 1800 block of S. Osborne St. following a report of shots fired. Shortly after police arrived, police discovered a man and a woman who came out of the house and were seriously injured. 

According to police, McNeal struck the first victim, the man, in the head with the butt end of a shotgun inside the home.

The second victim was shot in the legs and was in need of immediate medical attention. Moore says six officers put themselves in harm's way to reach this victim, and apply a tourniquet to her wounds. Had they not done so, she likely would have had only 10 minutes to live, according to police.

As police were investigating, a neighbor told police they should try to contact one of the victim's daughters. Investigators found a cell phone number for the daughter and placed a call that went unanswered.

Shortly after, police received a text from the phone asking, "who's this?" The message began a dialogue between the texter and police. Officers soon learned that the texter was actually the 15-year-old granddaughter of the original victims. 

Police later learned the girl had a disability that would have made it difficult for her to communicate with officers in a phone call.

Through a series of text messages, the girl directed officers to a nearby home where they discovered a third victim, the texter's mother, with a serious wound to her head.  Police say McNeal used a metal candle holder to hit the woman.

Neighbor Beverly Troemner says McNeal and the gun shot victim were what appeared to be a happy couple.

"Good people,"  Troemner says.  "They took care of her mother."

But Troemner says the couple appeared agitated Wednesday, and when she returned from shopping, police officers were surrounding the couple's home and taking tactical positions elsewhere in the neighborhood.

"You see it on TV, but not in your front yard," Troemner says.

Neighbor Paul Arthur also came upon the couple before their argument escalated to a shooting.

"She was crying and he was behind her and you could see they were real distraught,"  Arthur says.

"I said, 'Here's your can goods'...and they went back in the house.  But something told me I should have took Dennis, and took him for a walk (to calm him down),"  Arthur says.

Police officials says there's no record of the woman reaching out in the past to report any possible, domestic violence.  But YWCA Rock County crisis worker Jessi Luepnitz says statistics indicate the woman was a likely victim before, unknown to authorities or advocates.

"It might be the third time, it might be the thirtieth time for that person to finally reach out, you just never know,"  Luepnitz says.  "Each person has their own individual point."

The third victim, the teen's mother, had been struck in the back of the head by McNeal and sustained a severe injury as a result, according to police. She was also transported to Mercy Hospital by ambulance and transferred to UW Hospital in Madison.

She currently is in critical condition but is expected to survive. The gunshot victim also is hospitalized, and the first victim police encountered on the scene has been treated and release.

McNeal was arrested nearby in the area of the 1700 block of Patton Place. He is currently being held at the Rock County Jail.  A representative of the Rock County District Attorney's office says McNeal will appear in court Thursday.

Watch the full police news conference HERE or below:

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