Tiny Wis. town mourns after deadly rampage

October 09, 2007|By New York Times News Service

Residents of a tiny town in the Northwoods of Wisconsin were reeling yesterday, struggling to understand how six people wound up dead at a pizza party at the hands, police said, of a local law enforcement officer.

In Crandon, a town in Wisconsin's lake-filled northern region, schools were closed yesterday. Ballgames were canceled. Ministers held quiet prayers. And the entanglements of a truly small town - 2,000 people live in Crandon - felt especially painful.

The family of Tyler Peterson, the off-duty sheriff's deputy who police said shot and killed six people Sunday and wounded a seventh before dying, apparently of a gunshot wound, issued an apology yesterday.

"We also feel a tremendous amount of guilt and shame for the horrible acts Tyler committed," the family said in a statement read at a news briefing by Bill Farr, a local pastor. "We are struggling to respond, like most of you. We don't know what we should do."

Before 3 a.m. Sunday, Peterson, 20, who also served as a part-time police officer in Crandon, arrived at the home of his former girlfriend, Jordanne Murray, state authorities said. Murray, 18, and others were watching movies and eating pizza.

Peterson, who many people said had a tumultuous relationship with Murray and had not been invited, argued with the group and then left, state authorities said. But he returned with a weapon - a rifle similar to the type and model carried by local sheriff's deputies, although officials said they had not yet determined whether Peterson's work rifle was used.

He sprayed the apartment with at least 30 rounds of gunfire and then fled. Murray died. So did five others, ages 14 to 20. A seventh, Charlie Neitzel, 21, was wounded and remained hospitalized.

State authorities, who took over the investigation given Peterson's ties to local law enforcement agencies, did not speculate on a motive.

As Peterson left the house, he confronted a fellow Crandon officer, the authorities said. He opened fire on the officer, who was injured by shattered glass, and fled.

His next hours, they said, were spent driving and talking on a telephone. At one point, he spoke to Police Chief John Denne, his boss. He spoke to the local prosecutor, who said the pair calmly discussed an arrangement in which Peterson would emerge peacefully. He called others. He went to a friend's home in a neighboring town, Argonne.

Authorities would not say how precisely Peterson died, though they said another confrontation occurred between him and law enforcement in which shots were fired by both sides.

The law enforcement authorities in Crandon said they had no hints of a problem. Peterson had undergone a background investigation and training, and met all needed requirements, they said. No psychological evaluation was required, they said.

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