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“It was scary.” Athletes, parents call for firing of Baraboo athletic director, criminal charges for others in vigilante incident


Update: the story below has been updated to include cell phone video of the incident.

Several Baraboo High School athletes and their families are calling for the firing of athletic director Jim Langkamp, and for him and two other men to be charged criminally, after the men attempted an illegal “citizen’s arrest” and threatened the boys with a flamethrower in an act of vigilante justice against teen TPers Wednesday night.

The three men – Langkamp, John Kolar and William Bowden – were arrested early Thursday, and police recommended charges of second-degree recklessly endangering safety, disorderly conduct and false imprisonment. Sauk County District Attorney Michael Albrecht declined to file charges against Langkamp and Bowden, only charging Kolar with disorderly conduct.

The court granted a temporary restraining order against Langkamp on behalf of one of the boys, with more families requesting restraining orders against him and the other men Friday.

Four of the five boys involved in the incident are students of color, and they told Madison365 that there may have been a racial element in how the incident played out.

Four of the five boys spoke exclusively with Madison365.

What happened

The following narrative is based on multiple reports from the boys involved, the 21-page police report and cell phone video captured by a neighbor. (Read the redacted police report here.) The four boys who spoke with Madison365 agreed to be identified; we will not identify the fifth.

It was Homecoming week in Baraboo, a time when teens typically play pranks, most commonly “TPing” the homes of their friends – draping toilet paper on a house and its surrounding trees and shrubbery. 

On the evening of Wednesday, October 5, Baraboo High School junior John Beaudin was driving a Jeep with the windows down, and turned onto Tandem Trail toward a dead end. The boys told Madison365 they intended to TP the home of John Kolar, whose daughter is their friend, but had not yet done any TPing. The boys then saw Kolar standing on his lawn, dressed in military-style clothing, with a flashlight in one hand and a flamethrower in the other, shooting “enough (flame) to light up the night sky,” Beaudin said. 

Bowden, one of the neighbors, later told police the flames shot as far as two feet from the nozzle of the device three different times.

Beaudin, the teenaged driver, quickly did a “y-turn” at the end of the block and intended to leave the area, but Langkamp and Bowden, who also live on the block, stepped in front of the car to prevent the car from leaving. Kolar then approached the car and ordered the boys out. Travon Lawyer, who was sitting in the front passenger seat, and another teen in the back passenger side seat, opened their doors and fled. Langkamp briefly chased Lawyer, Lawyer said.

“What if he caught me?” Lawyer said. “What was he going to do?”

The boys say all three men were shining flashlights into their eyes, making it difficult for the boys to see. Kolar shouted at the boys to “shut the (expletive) engine off now,” “put the keys where he (expletive) told you to, mother (expletive),” “get out of the (expletive) car” and “get on the (expletive) ground.” Beaudin was “panicking” and struggled to put the car in park, turn it off and remove the keys. Ultimately he and Teflon Lee, who had been sitting on the passenger side rear seat, got out of the car and onto their knees with their hands up.

“I heard he’d been in the military so I wasn’t sure what kind of authority he had over us,” Lee said.

Caution: the video below contains profane and abusive language.

Zach Burgess, who is white, got out of the car but was not ordered to the ground, and remained standing.

“They were yelling at them to ‘get on the ground, get on the ground.’ And no one ordered me to get on the ground. So I stood there,” Burgess said. “It felt really racially motivated.”

“I didn’t think (there was racial motivation) at the time but looking back at it now, the more I hear about it, and the more I’m looking back on the story, if I were to look at it from an outside view, I’d be like, oh, yeah, that’s definitely racist,” Lee said.

Langkamp addressed Beaudin and Lee by name, telling them they’re “in big trouble” and that they “smelled like weed.” 

The boys deny smoking marijuana and said there was no such aroma about them at the time.

“He just wanted to get us on something,” Lee said.

The boys say Kolar and Bowden both told them they were being “lawfully detained” in a “citizens arrest” until police arrived. Another neighbor claimed she had already called police; police say no such call had been made.

Citizen’s arrests are not legal in Wisconsin, unless the citizen directly witnesses a felony.

Neighbor Jane Getshmann captured video of the incident beginning only after the Jeep was stopped. According to that video, the confrontation lasted about three minutes. The video is too dark to identify individuals, but Getschmann told police that she could distinguish the voices and could tell Langkamp in particular was calm.

Kolar’s daughter emerged and implored her father to stop yelling and let the boys go. Ultimately, Langkamp told the boys to leave and not come back.

Lawyer and the other boy who’d fled were able to walk to a friend’s house nearby. Word spread quickly among the boys’ friends. A teammate on the football team is the son of a police officer, and advised the boys to call the police. Lee made the initial call, and police interviewed all of the boys and returned to the neighborhood at about 1 am Thursday.

Kolar told police it was Langkamp who stopped the car, and Kolar initially denied using a flamethrower and denied ordering the boys to their knees. Kolar declined to give police permission to search his garage for the flamethrower.

Langkamp told police it was he who calmed the situation down and ended it. The boys dispute this.

“I don’t really believe that he de-escalated it. He wasn’t screaming in an aggressive tone, but he didn’t try to de-escalate it. He was just calm himself,” Burgess said.

“No, he definitely didn’t” de-escalate the situation, Lee said. “It was Kolar’s daughter that calmed everything down.”

Police and Fire Commission member Brian Gettschmann, another neighbor, was present but not arrested. He told police that the boys “100 percent” deserved how they were treated and that his neighbors were justified in their actions.

Several witnesses said the boys were driving recklessly, but the boys say Beaudin, the driver, only accelerated quickly to try to leave the area after Kolar had deployed the flamethrower.

Ultimately, Kolar, Langkamp and Bowden were all arrested and subsequently released without charges, other than the disorderly conduct citation for Kolar, with a court date scheduled next month.

The fallout

The boys say they were traumatized by the event.

“It feels like a dream, like you hear about stuff on the news,” Beaudin said. “You never expect it to happen to you.”

“I was scared that they were going to hurt John or me,” Lee said. “It was scary.” 

It “doesn’t feel right at all” that neither Langkamp nor Bowden have been charged.

They all feel Langkamp should resign or be fired as athletic director. All of the boys in the Jeep are football players and participate in other sports as well.

“I don’t want Mr. Langkamp to be my athletic director anymore,” Beaudin said.

“Oh, yeah. No doubt about it,” Langkamp should be fired, Lee said. Lee said he felt that Kolar was on his own lawn with the flamethrower to scare the boys off, but was going to let them pass by, until Langkamp and Bowden stopped the car.

“As somebody who works for the school, you should want to protect the students. “How do you allow one of the neighbors to shoot a flamethrower twice, and then still stop the Jeep? With the guy with the flamethrower not even half a block down from you? How do you stop the Jeep while a dude has a flame thrower right next to the students? I don’t understand how they’d let somebody who would put kids in danger like that come back to the school … Stopping the car is what escalated our lives being in danger, because now we can’t run from the dude that has the weapon.”

“I want Jim Langkamp held accountable for not protecting (the students),” said Anne Burgess, the mother of Zach Burgess. “One of the things that we always teach our kids is guilt by association. We hold our kids and our athletes to the same code, and Jim, by associating with Mr. Kolar, and then not stopping and preventing this from happening, is critical to why he should not be allowed to be around these kids anymore.”

Anne Burgess said the community has rallied around the boys, and several other parents have asked what they can do. Burgess said she’s asked them to call the school board and the district office to request Langkamp’s dismissal.

The restraining order granted to Beaudin’s mother on his behalf allows Langkamp to be on school grounds in performance of his official duties, but restricts him from Beaudin’s residence or any other harassment of Beaudin. Other parents say they have requested similar restraining orders against all three men; online records do not indicate whether those have been granted as of Sunday.

Langkamp was apparently not present at any of the Homecoming activities Friday or Saturday. Superintendent Dr. Rainey Briggs told Madison365 that Langkamp is on “non-disciplinary administrative leave” pending the outcome of an internal school district investigation.

A representative of the District Attorney’s office declined to comment.