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Chicago Daily Herald
January 12, 2007 Friday
Lake Edition; Cook Edition; F1 Edition; F2 Edition; McHenry Edition
'He's got a gun!' A dispute over 'dirty beer' and a bar manager's efforts lead ultimately to a fatal exchange
BYLINE: Tony Gordon and Lee Filas, Daily Herald Staff Writers
SECTION: NEWS; Pg. 1
LENGTH: 833 words
Robert W. Norden had been at the bar about 3 1/2 hours and was drunk when he started to get testy, officials said Thursday.
What began as an argument with a bartender at The Bridgeport Inn, 42411 N. Converse Road, ended as a shooting with police.
Lake County Sheriff Mark Curran said the 56-year-old Trevor, Wis., man shot at deputies from the doorway area of the tavern and died from two fatal gunshot wounds to the chest when police returned fire.
Norden, who was divorced and unemployed, had prior brushes with the law in Wisconsin - two drunken-driving convictions since 2002 and a third pending case - but friends and neighbors said he was quiet and never violent.
Sheriff's deputies were called to the scene after Norden had been told to leave the tavern because of his behavior, went to his pickup truck, grabbed a gun and walked back inside.
Curran said Norden had complained a draft beer he had been served was "dirty," but refused the bartender's offer of a bottle of the same brand.
When Norden, who had been in the bar since about 1 p.m., made a similar complaint to one of the two other patrons around 4:30 p.m., he was again offered a bottle.
"At that point he became agitated, shouted some profanities and threw his beer on the bartender," Undersheriff Charles Fagan said. "It was at that point he was told to leave."
One of the two other patrons in the bar - a man and a woman - watched Norden walk to his truck and remove an eight-shot, .22- caliber revolver.
"At that point, the man shouted, 'He's got a gun,' and ran out of the establishment with another man who was behind the bar," Fagan said. "Two women - one patron and one bartender - were still inside when the offender came in."
One woman ran to a walk-in cooler behind the bar, Fagan said, while the other retreated to a bathroom.
The sheriff's dispatch center received the first call for help at 4:36 p.m., followed shortly by a call police believe was placed by Norden.
"He said something to the effect that there is a nutcase in a bar with a gun," Fagan said. "He said he had six people in a cooler and did not want to hurt anyone."
Charlie Stenseth, manager and son of owner Linda Stenseth, said he placed the first call to the dispatch center shortly before confronting Norden in the parking lot.
Stenseth said Norden, a semi-regular at the tavern who answered to the name of "Trapper Bob," was leaving his truck with the gun in hand when the manager caught up with him.
"I told him to leave before the cops came," Stenseth said. "He said the cops were already called and he isn't leaving."
Stenseth said he continued to ask the clearly intoxicated Norden to "just leave."
"He told me to get away from him," Stenseth said. "So I told him I was going into the bar, and he said, 'If you go in that bar, I'll shoot you.' "
Stenseth said Norden ran into the bar moments before police arrived.
Three deputies, two of them off duty but in the area, responded and were joined by four others, Fagan said.
Through a window, they saw Norden pacing, Curran said. The deputies used a loudspeaker on a squad car to repeatedly tell him to put down the gun and come out with his hands up.
Instead, Norden came to the door and opened fire, prompting three deputies to fire a total of 12 rounds in response.
Curran said it is unknown how many shots Norden fired at officers.
There were eight bullet holes in the building's brick wall near where Norden was standing when he was shot.
Stenseth, who viewed the exchange between police and Norden, said the gunman fired one shot at officers before deputies opened fire.
"(Officers) told him to drop the gun, but he raised it and fired at them," he said. "Then, they opened up and took him down."
One deputy suffered a bruise to his leg that police do not believe was caused by a bullet. Another was treated briefly at Condell Medical Center in Libertyville for blood pressure-related problems.
Curran said the three deputies who fired on Norden "are taking a few days off," while the other four at the scene declined any leave.
Coroner Richard Keller said the two fatal wounds Norden suffered were his only injuries. He had a blood-alcohol level of .21, nearly three times the legal threshold of .08.
Curran praised the conduct of the deputies who confronted Norden.
"I have talked with members of the major crimes task force (which is investigating the shooting), and they told me all the witnesses said the offender opened fire first," Curran said.
"There is no doubt in my mind our deputies acted heroically and that there will be no problem with the investigation."
Deputy State's Attorney Jeff Pavletic said it is standard procedure for the task force, made up of officers from several departments, to investigate police shootings.
He said detectives are still interviewing witnesses and will report to him on their findings, at which point a ruling will be made on the justification for the shooting.