UPDATE: Merrill officer punched in face at Tomahawk Fall Ride - WFXS, MyFoxWausau - News and Weather for Wausau, WI

UPDATE: Merrill officer punched in face at Tomahawk Fall Ride


A Merrill Police officer is recovering after getting punched several times in the face. It happened during the Fall Ride weekend activities in Tomahawk.

A Rhinelander man faces multiple charges. Another man was arrested.

Officials said this situation came as a surprise.

Tomahawk's Police Chief said it's the first time anyone can remember an officer being assaulted at the Fall Ride.

Fall Ride flags still line the streets of downtown Tomahawk. The annual event brought thousands of people. But this year, some unexpected violence.

"He had a broken nose and chipped some teeth," said Al Elvins, Tomahawk Police Chief.

Tomahawk's Police Chief said Merrill officer Mark Heckendorf was helping the department during the event on Friday.

He was responding to a fight near a concert stage.

"Tried to walk him away from the crowd and he became combative with the officers," said Elvins.

Near the stage, Tomahawk Police said Heckendorf and his partner tried to arrest Martin Strandberg, 46, for disorderly conduct.

In the middle of it all, police said Brian Johnson, 21, of Rhinelander, punched Heckendorf repeatedly.

"The second gentleman clearly knew it was a police officer," said Elvins.

Officials said bystanders helped the two officers arrest the men and also helped Heckendorf.

Johnson now faces several charges, including two felonies.

"There's always the possibility something like that is going to happen, so when it does happen, it's frightening, it's concerning," said Ken Neff, Merrill Police Chief.

Tomahawk's Police Chief said this year also brought a bigger crowd. He said his department needs help during this big event.

"We are an eight-man department, when you have 40,000 people come to town, we need more police officers," said Elvins.

Now, the crowds have subsided. But police said they're looking at changes they can make, to keep people and themselves safer next year.

Merrill's police chief said Officer Heckendorf is recovering at home. He should return to the department in the next few days.

Meanwhile, Johnson remains in the Lincoln County Jail.


The Tomahawk Police Department says a Merrill officer was hurt during the Tomahawk Fall Ride activities.

Authorities says the officer was on foot patrol with another officer around 11:30 p.m. Friday when a fight happened in front of the stage.

Police say that while one of the officers was trying to make an arrest, the officer was punched several times in the face.

Officials say bystanders helped the injured officer and helped control the situation.

Tomahawk Police say a 46-year-old Gleason man was arrested along with a 21-year-old Rhinelander man.

The Merrill officer who was hurt was taken to Sacred Heart Hospital. According to police, that officer was treated and released.

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