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Sunday, February 10, 2008

[WI] Report on Deputy Peterson killing ex-girlfriend, 5 others, and self - incomplete

...[Justice Department Records Agency spokesman Kevin] St. John called the amount of information the department released Thursday "unprecedented"... But Wisconsin Newspaper Association executive director Peter Fox said the lack of autopsies, transcripts and names reflect even more delays in getting to the bottom of the case... Peterson got his SWAT assault rifle out of his truck, walked back to the apartment and broke down the door. He sprayed the apartment with bullets, killing [girlfriend] Murray, 18, and five of her friends...

Previous entries:

Questions remain in Crandon shootings
Some basic details withheld in report

Appleton Post Crescent, Associated Press
Todd Richmond
February 9, 2008
[Excerpts] The state Justice Department's final report on last fall's mass murder in Crandon is 1,265 pages long, with witness interviews galore, photos, diagrams, even evidence transfer receipts. But even now, four months after the slayings, the report still is missing some basic information. It doesn't contain any autopsy reports, transcripts of cell phone messages to and from the victims and the killer, Tyler Peterson. And it doesn't name the sniper who shot Peterson seconds before the young sheriff's deputy took his own life. It does have a three-page explanation for the missing material. Justice Department Records Custodian Dean Stensberg said he chose not to include the autopsies in the report because they were "personal and graphic." He said the agency by law must wait to see if anyone challenges the release of the message transcripts... Agency spokesman Kevin St. John said requests for those specific records would be considered under Wisconsin's Open Records Law, which says government records are generally open to the public. Bill Lueders, president of the Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council, questioned why the agency couldn't have put out everything at once. "Withholding information breeds distrust and suspicion," Lueders said. "Why not release this information? They know they're going to get requests for it anyway"... Peterson, a Forest County sheriff's deputy and part-time police officer, showed up at his ex-girlfriend Jordanne Murray's Crandon apartment where she was throwing a party during the early morning hours of Oct. 7. He found Murray snuggling with another man, the Justice Department report said, and partygoers kicked him out. Peterson got his SWAT assault rifle out of his truck, walked back to the apartment and broke down the door. He sprayed the apartment with bullets, killing Murray, 18, and five of her friends. A seventh partygoer was wounded but survived by playing dead... St. John called the amount of information the department released Thursday "unprecedented... We made an enormous amount of material available without a request so we could provide all members of the media, and thus the public, with as much information as soon as possible," St. John said. But Wisconsin Newspaper Association executive director Peter Fox said the lack of autopsies, transcripts and names reflects even more delays in getting to the bottom of the case.


  1. Attorney General Van Hollen's Statement on Crandon Shootings
    Updated: Feb 7, 2008 11:57 AM


    No person should ever have to endure what Charlie Neitzel and the families of the Crandon victims have had to endure -- and must continue to endure -- since Tyler Peterson committed his heinous crimes on October 7, 2007. No community should have to go through what Crandon has gone through and will continue to go through. My thoughts and prayers have been with these families and this community since that day, and they will continue to be with them.

    Today, we bring some closure to that terrible incident. Our investigation has concluded. Forest County District Attorney Leon Stenz, who is with us today, has determined that no criminal charges will be brought. Consequently, we are in a position to shed more light on what occurred that day, which should bring no surprises.

    Before doing so, I'd like to thank Representative Jeffrey Mursau for securing the Assembly Parlor for today's briefing. It was important to both of us to have a room that would hopefully accommodate the media while having the capability of live transmission over Wisconsin Eye so that the family members of the victims and the rest of the Forest County community we both represent could have access to this press conference.

    I also want to thank those in the media attending today. I recognize the hard work that many of you have put into reporting this case. And I know that it can be difficult to work in this modern and sometimes relentless 24-hour news cycle. That's why I appreciate that so many of you are understanding of the reality that law enforcement cannot release certain information during the course of an investigation. The premature release of information may impair our ability to gather facts and improper publicity may jeopardize the fair trial of any charged defendants. That's also why I appreciate that so many of you respect the fact that we should not release certain materials that may re-traumatize victims or their families.

    But we will be able to release considerable information today.

    In the two days following the shootings, the Department of Justice released substantial information. At that time, all known evidence indicated that in the early hours of Sunday, October 7, a single gunman--Tyler Peterson--entered a Crandon apartment with an AR-15 and took the lives of Jordanne Murray, Lianna Thomas, Katrina McCorkle, Lindsey Stahl, Bradley Schultz, and Aaron Smith. He also shot Charlie Neitzel and wounded responding Crandon Police Officer Greg Carter. Later that morning, law enforcement became aware of Peterson's location at what I referred to then as the Town of Argonne property, and will refer to now as the Kegley property. Ultimately, Peterson refused to turn himself in and apparently shot himself three times. Peterson died at approximately 12:30 p.m. that Sunday. The completed investigation determined all of these things to still be true.

    We disclosed this information at that time for a number of reasons. One was to let the community know that law enforcement had no reason to believe another gunman was on the loose. Another was to provide official information about that dark day's events to clear up as much speculation as we could. At the time, many people were speaking to the media, and many were doing so without good information. Another reason was because I felt it was very important that the public understood that an outside law enforcement agency, unconnected to Peterson's employers, was leading the investigation of these terrible crimes involving an off-duty police officer. And finally, as an elected official responsible for the Office of Crime Victim Services, I felt it was important that I communicate, to as large an audience as possible, the victims' families' desire to be allowed to grieve in peace.

    But releasing what we could release at that time for those purposes did not alleviate our responsibility to conduct a thorough investigation.

    What were the basic parameters of that criminal investigation?

    First, did Peterson act alone? To be sure, all known information in October pointed to a lone gunman. But we had to thoroughly process the scene to confirm this. It is now confirmed. We also could not discount the possibility that this event was planned, so our criminal investigation inquired into Peterson's motives and the time period preceding the killings. Our investigation did not indicate any accomplices.

    We also had to investigate the time period between Peterson's fleeing of the murder scene and his death to determine whether he may have had any accomplices who unlawfully aided and abetted his escape or unlawfully interfered with his capture. The District Attorney has determined that no one should be charged for any activity relating to their interactions with Peterson between his killing spree and his death.

    Finally, we had to investigate the shootings of Tyler Peterson. As I disclosed in October, a gunshot was fired by law enforcement. We know that law enforcement is all too frequently placed in a position where weapons must be discharged to protect their lives or the lives of others. But it is irresponsible to assume that every shot taken is a shot that should have been taken. So we had to investigate and provide information to the District Attorney so that he could determine whether there was anything about the shot from law enforcement that warranted action from his office. No charges will be filed. Second, all of the information available to us at that time indicated Peterson's death was caused by a self-inflicted wound. But we could not rest on that initial evidence, and we could not discount the possibility of foul play without first looking at the objective evidence. We had to conduct ballistics, firearms identification, and interview those at the scene. Today we can confirm that all evidence indicates Tyler Peterson ended his own life.

    From beginning to end, the Crandon investigation was a comprehensive and thorough process comprised of multiple law enforcement agencies.

    Almost twenty law enforcement and public safety agencies responded, taking some part in investigating the crime, controlling the scenes, assisting victims, providing medical aid, processing the scenes, or participating in the manhunt. I have asked my office to prepare a timeline of the day and three handouts that graphically depict law enforcement response and the investigation. They will be made available after this briefing on our web site.

    It was the professionals at the Division of Criminal Investigation who led this comprehensive investigation, and I am going to let their statements describe the details of what the investigation revealed.

    I want to take a brief moment to thank all of the employees at the Department of Justice, particularly, our agents at the Division of Criminal Investigation who worked on this case; staff at the Office of Crime Victim Services who have aided family members and met with the families yesterday and today; and employees at the State Crime Lab, who were involved in processing the scene and conducting forensic tests. I also want to thank the staff at DCI and Legal Services who put in extra time to prepare documents for release and this presentation on the demanding schedule I gave them.

    They have all worked very hard. I am proud to lead a Department filled with such dedicated professionals.

    I also want to thank all of the men and women in law enforcement who were involved in this case, many of whom put their lives at risk on October 7, and all of whose work enhances our safety every day. To all of them, the moment Tyler Peterson committed these unspeakable crimes was the moment he stopped being a cop and started being a fugitive criminal.

    By December, our investigative work in terms of generating original reports and conducting forensics was accomplished. In January, DCI completed its analysis, we finalized the summary reports, and we supplied the documents to the District Attorney for his review. I wanted to be absolutely sure that if he did not request us to undertake further investigation, if he made a no-charge decision, then we would have documents available for release when we made today's announcement. I asked my staff to not wait for requests, but to prepare the investigative file for release while paying appropriate heed to the rights of crime victims and other valid interests.

    I also asked my staff to gather for release more information than is typically retained in a DCI file. Just as I requested with the emergency 911 tapes in October, I took the unusual step of requesting for our custody, documents that DCI determined to be material that were prepared or maintained by other law enforcement agencies. Typically, when multiple agencies are involved and where those agencies create reports, DCI will review the report and document the review, but that original report is not kept in the file. That standard practice is the right one in most cases - for us, our law enforcement partners, and the public. But in this case, in the interest of the public and what I believe to be in the interest of the multiple agencies, I wanted to be in a position to release as much information as efficiently as possible. Many of the responding agencies that provided assistance in this case are small, some understaffed in terms of officers, to say nothing of administrative staff. If I could easily get to you the information generated by other agencies that you seek, then I hope this saves my law enforcement partners personnel time that would have otherwise been spent responding to public records requests.

    My office also signed a waiver with the District Attorney that would allow us to release certain crime lab reports in this case that would otherwise be privileged under the law.

    Thank you for attending.

    Statement of the Lead Investigator on the Crandon Shootings
    Feb 7, 2008


    Law Enforcement was under a standing order to not allow Peterson to leave containment. We knew that Peterson was armed and he was experienced with weapons. He had recently killed six people, shot another and shot at a police officer. All of these people were Peterson's friends. He refused to disarm. He told others that he could not go to prison. He was very familiar with the thick and expansive forest that surrounds the Kegley property. Multiple people - people he had sought out to speak with, friends, family and law enforcement - over the course of several hours, had encouraged Peterson to turn himself in. But he would not do so. Based on these circumstances, it was reasonable to believe that Peterson posed a serious danger to others if he were allowed to leave.

    The tactical officers in the area were not able to assault the cabin at this time for a number of reasons. The difficult and unfamiliar terrain impeded the teams' ability to deploy and completely contain the scene. Additionally, irrespective of how the people with Peterson perceived themselves, as long as Peterson was armed, law enforcement had to treat those with Peterson as hostages. Based on the entirety of the information available to law enforcement at the time, in the professional judgment of those present, there was no moment when an assault could have been risked without the high potential for further loss of life.

    At about 12:30PM, a tactical officer observed Peterson walking north towards the woods. As Peterson moved into the cover of the woods, knowing the threat that Peterson posed, the tactical officer fired a single shot at the last piece of Peterson's body he could see and, at 140 yards, struck Peterson in the left arm. The bullet passed through Peterson's left bicep.

    Witnesses then heard two quick shots, followed a second or two later by a third shot. Officers approached Peterson, moved his pistol away from his hand, and handcuffed him. They then checked for signs of life and, determining that he was dead, removed the handcuffs.

    It was determined that Peterson shot himself and caused his own death. First, powder burns were observed on his skin near the head wounds, consistent with contact or near-contact wounds. This was information that was released to the public in October. (2)After those announcements, interviews of attending law enforcement personnel and other individuals at the scene were completed. None stated that they saw another person shoot Peterson with a pistol. Third, bullet fragments were recovered from above Peterson's left eye and from the area around where Peterson fell. Metallurgy tests, returned in December, revealed that these fragments were consistent with the bullets that remained in Peterson's partially loaded pistol.

    Since this event occurred, the question has been asked, "How could Peterson shoot himself three times in the head before dying?" In my eighteen years of law enforcement I have observed many non-fatal gunshot wounds to the head. In this case, the autopsy showed that the first two shots entered Peterson's chin, one exited his left eye, and the other lodged in his temple. These two shots caused extensive damage to the front of Peterson's head, but neither entered the brain or caused cerebral damage. It took a third shot, which entered the right side of Peterson's head, traveled through the brain and exited the left side of Peterson's head, to cause death.

  2. Posted February 15, 2008

    Editorial: Crandon shooting records should be open

    Despite reams of information released last week regarding October's mass murder in Crandon, questions remain.

    Why, for instance, was the autopsy report of the six victims and the killer, Forest County sheriff's deputy Tyler Peterson, not included in the 1,265-page report from the state Justice Department? Likewise, why aren't the transcripts of cell phone messages between Peterson and his victims on that fateful night in the report? Also, the SWAT officer who shot Peterson before the 20-year-old took his own life isn't named.

    It's all public information and should be released.

    Justice Department Records Custodian Dean Stensberg said he chose not to include the autopsies because they were "personal and graphic." The case was nothing short of horrific — six young people slaughtered during a party and seventh critically injured, all due to a jealous off-duty sheriff's deputy with an assault rifle. So, yes, the autopsy would be disturbing.

    The transcripts weren't released because Stensberg said he can't release them, under the law, until someone challenges them being withheld.

    And the name of the sniper wasn't released because that would undermine the SWAT team's ability to operate in dangerous situations, according to Stensberg.

    But "withholding information breeds distrust and suspicion," as Bill Lueders, president of the Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council, told the Associated Press.

    After Atty. Gen. J.B. Van Hollen provided reporters with an outline of what happened days after the shooting, he wouldn't reveal anything else until the final report came out last week. The report contained an amount of information that was "unprecedented," according to Justice Department spokesman Kevin St. John.

    Yes, but the Crandon shootings also were unprecedented. A tragedy of this magnitude will forever alter the tight-knit community in which almost everyone's paths cross in one way or another.

    That being said, the more information that ties together the details, events and background to the shootings, the better. Already, the victims' families have begun filing claims — which could end up as civil lawsuits — against the city and county. If suits are brought, more details will have to come out, including the coroner's reports.

    All in all, the justice department needs to be as forthcoming as possible in releasing details on a tragedy that can never be completely understood.


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