‘Extraordinary measures to escape law enforcement’: Dane County Sheriff called shooting, chase dangerous to community

COTTAGE GROVE, Wis. — A spike strip helped stop a car, but not the man and woman police wanted to catch in Dane County. That took a roughly nine-hour search, but they’re in jail Tuesday night and could face charges for running from police.

Michael Parks, 38, is being held on an active parole warrant while attempting to break into a home. Police also arrested 30-year-old Amber Virnig for resisting arrest. She was found in a marsh, according to the Dane County Sheriff’s Office.

A deputy first pulled Parks and Virnig over for a traffic stop in Pleasant Springs because of a broken headlight and unregistered plates. After the deputy returned to his squad car, the two took off, causing a chase up Highway N. One of the suspects fired shots and pointed lasers at the responding deputies during the chase, according to Sheriff Dave Mahoney.

Spike strips in Cottage Grove stopped the car, but Parks and Virnig got out and ran. They didn’t give up easily. Police searched the woods in and around Cottage Grove Tuesday morning.

Police found a gun and airsoft gun in the car after Parks and Virnig ran away.

Mahoney called the chase dangerous and was another example of the risks gunshots create in the area.

“It’s one more example of an individual who has no regard for law enforcement, and took what I believe, what I interpreted to be extraordinary measures to escape law enforcement,” Mahoney said.

No police or neighbors were hurt and none of the squads were damaged during the chase, according to Mahoney.

Sleep wasn’t an option for some people in Cottage Grove last night as the situation unfolded in a residential area.

“Maybe I just want to stay up and look out the windows for awhile,” Nick said.

Nick, a Cottage Grove resident who asked us not to use his last name, lives right across the street from where the spike strips stopped the car. He watched as police searched on foot and by air to find Parks and Virnig.

“They were all congregating in this driveway over here, and up and down the street, and pushing their way into the woods this way,” Nick said.

Mahoney said tips from people like Nick helped them find the suspects.

“Community members, citizens in Cottage Grove called to say, ‘I just saw these two people run through my backyard and was on my security camera,'” Mahoney said.

Early on, police told people to stay in their homes because the suspects shot at police during the chase, but once the gun and airsoft gun were recovered from the stopped car, the sheriff considered the search less of a risk.

“They realized the magnitude of danger if they were to let them remain out in the community,” Mahoney said as he commended responding officials for their response and judgement calls.

Nearly eight hours after the original chase, police arrested Parks. Shortly after, police arrested Virnig. Nick said he watched the whole thing from his porch.

“Finally, I turn around again. This is like the third time it happens, and a woman, I swear to God, in last night’s attire, disheveled, unkempt, black pants, gray tank top, purse, hair kind of [straggly],” Nick said as he described Virnig come out of the marsh behind his home.

Knowing the situation is handled, Nick and the rest of Cottage Grove can rest easy Tuesday night.