By Brandi Makuski
The suspect in an Oct. 25 hoax is facing steep fines after causing local emergency crews to organize a large-scale search for victims of a boating accident that never happened.
Zachary V. Linzmeier, 20 of Wisconsin Rapids, is facing a bill of at least $2,650 to pay for emergency crews and equipment after allegedly reporting a fake emergency shortly after 4 AM on Sunday. Law enforcement officials say Linzmeier called 911 to report a boat had struck the north side of the Verso Corp. dam, telling dispatchers three people needed to be rescued from the Wisconsin River.
Crews from Portage County, Stevens Point, the Village of Plover and Town of Hull all responded to the scene. Stevens Point Assistant Police Chief Tom Zenner said some first responders were already in the water searching for bodies when it was discovered Linzmeier’s claim of a boating accident was fake.
Tony Babl, interim assistant chief for SPPD, said on Wednesday the department’s cost for responding to the call had not yet been determined, but did say an entire shift responded to the riverfront for about an hour.
“So there was no protection and patrols in any other area of the city for that hour,” Babl said, adding the department was “still considering” whether it would ask for restitution from Linzmeier.
Chief Deputy Dan Kontos estimated the cost incurred to the sheriff’s office was about $250. He added the cost would have been higher if deputies had deployed their own air-boat, which it had been prepared to do.
“We also know there were two [medical] helicopters placed on standby to assist in the search,” Kontos said, “but those birds were not deployed.”
The biggest expense of the night comes from the Stevens Point Fire Department, which deployed six vehicles and one air-boat for the rescue.
“We’ve already got his bill ready,” said SPFD Chief Bob Finn. An invoice produced by the department reflects charges for the vehicles, as well as one hour of wages for 13 responding members of the department, mileage and administrative fees.
Linzmeier also allegedly broke into the Verso Corp. mill and caused damage, according to the criminal complaint, and fell into the water as a result of his breaking windows. He had emerged from the river on his own by the time crews arrived, and was later treated for hypothermia at Ministry St. Michael’s.
Police say he was intoxicated at the time with a 0.183 blood alcohol content.
Linzmeier appeared in court on Monday and was later released on a $5,000 cash bond.
Portage Co. District Attorney Louis Molepske said he plans to charge Linzmeier with reckless endangerment, burglary, criminal damage to property, disorderly conduct and resisting or obstructing an officer.
Linzmeier returns to court for an initial appearance Nov. 9.