Jennifer Sebena is state's 263rd police officer to die on duty

Jennifer Lynn Sebena
Published on: 12/26/2012

Law enforcement officers said Wednesday morning they are following multiple leads as they try to put together the facts about what happened to Wauwatosa police officer Jennifer Lynn Sebena in the moments before her death on Christmas Eve.

Sebena, 30, was found dead near Fire Station 1, 1601 Underwood Ave., about 5 a.m. Monday. She had been shot multiple times, Wauwatosa Police Lt. Gerald Witkowski said.

When a dispatcher attempted to send Sebena out on a call and didn't get a response, another officer was sent to investigate.

The officer found Sebena's body near Harmonee and Underwood avenues, Witkowski said. The area was searched, but no suspects were found. The Wauwatosa Police Department would not confirm whether she was found in her squad car.

The Wisconsin Department of Justice Division of Criminal Investigation is leading the case.

"Our entire Wauwatosa Police Department family has been shaken by the loss of Officer Jen Sebena," Witkowski said in a news release Tuesday. "This is the first time in the 96-year history of our organization that we have lost an officer on duty. Our flag in front of our department flies at half-staff in honor of our fallen officer."

Mayor Kathy Ehly called this a "very sad time" for her family and the Tosa community.

"We do not yet know what happened that night," she said Wednesday morning. "The investigation is ongoing and we sincerely appreciate the response and support of surrounding municipalities. We can't thank enough our police, fire and emergency responders who make Wauwatosa a safe and wonderful place to live every day. Officer Sebena will be greatly missed."

Dangerous job

Sebena, a second-year officer, is the 263rd Wisconsin officer to die on duty - and the 117th killed by gunfire, according to the Officer Down Memorial Page, a website that honors every law enforcement officer in the country who dies on duty. Sebena's name was added Monday.

She died on one of the three most dangerous days of the year for law enforcement officers: Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and New Year's Eve, according to the website.

Harold Weinke, police officer and board member of the Wisconsin branch of Concerns of Police Survivors, lost his son in the line of duty in 1998.

Wisconsin C.O.P.S. specializes in helping families, police departments and communities cope after an officer dies. The group is made up of family members and friends of those who have died on duty.

Peer support is the best way for the department members to alleviate the pain of their loss, he said.

"Law enforcement is one big family. We're all brothers and sisters. Just be there for your co-workers and don't be afraid to let your feelings be known. You've got to be there for one another. Law enforcement is a dangerous line of work, and this is a reminder."

Public's support appreciated

Sebena was relatively new to the force having joined in January of 2011. She began conducting solo patrols in July. She ended her probationary period in November.

Witkowski trained Sebena and was there for her graduation. He described her in one word: great. His email has been swamped by concerned residents.

"Thoughts and prayers are much appreciated. A lot of you have already sent emails to the department and my office, and that's appreciated. It really is," he said.

Wauwatosa police are setting up a memorial fund and planning funeral arrangements for Sebena. They did not have the details as of NOW's Wednesday morning press deadline, but were expected to issue them later in the day.


Got a tip?

Anyone who has information that may be related to Sebena's death is asked to call the Wauwatosa Police Department at (414) 771- 8672.