Details emerge a day after shooter kills six in Wisconsin

  • Article by: LARRY OAKES , Star Tribune
  • Updated: October 8, 2007 - 9:42 PM

As details emerged about the events before and after an off-duty sheriff's deputy fatally shot six people, residents of Crandon, Wis., said the past two days felt like a bad dream.

CRANDON, WIS. -- As this small town reeled through a second day of grief, new details emerged about how and why off-duty police officer Tyler Peterson snapped Sunday, crashing a party and gunning down his former girlfriend and five of their mutual friends and acquaintances.

Authorities said Peterson, 20, a Forest County Sheriff's deputy who was also a part-time Crandon officer, fired 30 shots from what may have been his sheriff's-issued assault rifle, massacring all but one of the people at a party in a duplex near the center of town.

The lone survivor, 19-year-old Charlie Nietzel, was hospitalized in satisfactory condition and was helping police as they reconstructed the events.

Peterson was killed later Sunday after he and officers exchanged gunfire several miles outside of the town of about 1,900. Authorities, citing unfinished autopsies, declined to say whether they believe he shot himself.

"Once we knew he was our suspect, he was no longer a cop -- he was a fugitive," Crandon Police Chief John Dennee told reporters.

District Attorney Leon Stenz said he tried to persuade Peterson by telephone to turn himself in. He said Peterson made demands, which Stenz declined to specify.

"He did attempt to negotiate [his surrender]," Stenz said. "Unfortunately, that was not successful."

The failed surrender occurred outside a home in nearby Argonne.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, quoting Mike Kegley, identified as the owner of that residence and a longtime friend of Peterson's family, said that police surrounded the property and that Peterson walked toward them, into the woods, and was shot.

Kegley said that Peterson had earlier come to their home and remorsefully confessed what he had done, the newspaper reported. He said he had gone to the party hoping to patch up his relationship with ex-girlfriend Jordanne Murray, 18. But she rejected him, and when others there called him a "worthless pig," he lost control, Kegley said.

Officials identified the dead as: Murray; Lianne Thomas, 18; Katrina McCorkle, 18; Lindsey Stahl, 14; Bradley Schultz, 20, and Aaron Smith. Thomas, McCorkle and Stahl attended Crandon public schools. Murray, Schultz and Smith graduated from Crandon High School, as did Peterson. (More about the victims is available at www.startribune.com/a3458.)

Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen, whose office is overseeing the investigation at the request of local authorities, said Monday that Peterson, after going to Murray's upper duplex just before 3 a.m. Sunday and getting into a quarrel, went back to his vehicle, returned with the rifle, forced his way into the apartment and opened fire.

Dennee said the weapon was an AR-15 rifle, a type used by deputies in the county. However, officials have yet to determine whether it was a department-issued weapon.

No idea why

Van Hollen said that after Peterson gunned down the victims, he left the apartment and shot at a Crandon police officer, Greg Carter, who was responding to reports of gunshots. Gunfire didn't strike the officer, but he was slightly hurt by flying glass.

Sarah Engebretson, 22, who knew Peterson and Murray, said, "They hadn't been together for a while. They both had [dated] other people."

Both Peterson's family and the police chief said they saw no warning signs that Peterson was about to snap.

"We are in shock and disbelief that he would do such terrible things," Peterson's family said in a statement read at a news conference by the Rev. Bill Farr of Praise Chapel Community Church in Crandon, which has served as a community gathering place since the shootings.

"There is nothing that happened before or after [Sunday's] events that has given us any insight into why," the statement said. "We also feel a tremendous amount of guilt and shame for the horrible acts Tyler committed."

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