Gunman started firing without warning
Brookfield police describe shootings at Saturday church service
By MIKE JOHNSON
Posted: March 13, 2005
Church member Chandra Frazier, clutching a Bible, is escorted from the hotel Saturday evening. She later described some of the events for reporters. Go to audio or video
Audio: Sunday morning news conference
Video: Witness describes shootings
More audio/video: News conferences, TV and radio reports
Shooting: 8 dead, 4 wounded at Brookfield hotel
Gunman: Quiet man gave no hint of violence
Church: Tragedy puts spotlight on obscure church
The New Berlin man who shot and killed seven people - including himself - and wounded four others during a Saturday church service at a Brookfield hotel fired 22 bullets, authorities said during a news conference this morning.
The man, Terry Ratzmann, 44, stopped once to reload his 9-millimeter handgun, police said. When police found Ratzmann dead at the Sheraton Hotel, four live rounds remained in the gun.
The carnage lasted about 1 minute.
The Living Church of God had rented a room at the hotel, 375 S. Moorland Road, for a church service and fashion show from 12:30 to 3:30 p.m. Saturday.
Ratzmann - who a churchgoer said was suffering from depression and upset about a taped sermon he had heard a couple weeks earlier - burst in through the back of the room about 20 minutes into the service and began shooting, witnesses told police.
Ratzmann apparently also apparently walked out of a church service two weeks ago, police said.
On Saturday, "he did not give any warning or provide any verbiage before firing a handgun," Brookfield Police Chief Daniel Tushaus said.
Someone, believed to be a friend of Ratzmann, shouted "Stop. Stop. Why?"
Shortly after, the gunman shot himself in the head.
Some of those attending the service called 911 with cell phones. The shooting was reported at 12:51 p.m., with callers telling police there were multiple victims.
The callers described an "active, rapid shooter," Tushaus said.
A team of three officers entered the room and determined the suspect was dead, the chief said.
Tushaus said there was no "clear motive" for the shootings and police found no suicide note or other documentation to explain the deadly incident.
At this time, Tushaus said there is no evidence that any other suspect was involved. "We have no evidence of a conspiracy or any other organized plan to carry out what happened yesterday," he said.
He said that 50 to 60 witnesses were present during this "tragic crime," and "we have interviewed every single one of them to some degree."
Hospitalized victims who were able to speak also have been questioned, officials said.
Victims and witnesses were from "all over the states of Wisconsin and Illinois," Tushaus said.
Shortly after police determined the identity of the gunman, authorities obtained a search warrant and scoured Ratzmann's home.
Many items were taken from the home, including a box of ammunition, which has been linked to the handgun used in the shootings, three computers and a .22 caliber rifle.
Waukesha County District Attorney Paul Bucher said many of the files in the computers were encrypted.
He said it would be "speculative" and "guesswork" as to what was going through Ratzmann's mind to prompt the killings.
But Bucher said he hoped the information stored in the computers would shed some light on Ratzmann's actions.
The Living Church of God had rented a room at the hotel for sometime for church services.
Ratzmann, who was affiliated with the church, had nothing significant "to his background from a criminal aspect or any other aspect," Brookfield Police Capt. Phil Horter said.
At Ratzmann's residence, no other handguns were found, Horter said.
He said police located a box of bullets, believed to be the remaining bullets for the handgun. The number of rounds fired at the hotel, the number of rounds left in the weapon's magazine and the number of rounds remaining in the box total 50. That is the number of bullets that would have been in the original box, Horter said.
Authorities, including the federal Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms bureau, are trying to determine when the weapon and ammunition was purchased.
Horter said at this point, police have been unable to determine if "he had specific targets, or he just shot at random."
There is no information on who the intended targets were or how many intended targets there were, Horter said.
"He did shoot some victims at random. Whether some of the victims shot were specifically identified, we don't know," Horter said.
Authorities said they have talked to a number of people, and Ratzmann had some "ongoing issues with his employment."
"But that has not been made a clear motive or perhaps even part of a motive at this point," Horter said.
Police were following up on that today, he said.
Officials declined to release the name of Ratzmann's employer.
Horter said authorities are trying to determine Ratzmann's whereabouts earlier in the day.
There is no information at this time that Ratzmann made any "prior threats," he said.
Ratzmann lived with his mother and adult sister in New Berlin. Police questioned them and they provided some information. Horter did not elaborate.
His family members are not believed to have been present at the church service.
When the shooting began, a number of individuals tried to protect other churchgoers or their family members, Horter said.
He said there is no evidence at this point that any churchgoer physically confronted Ratzmann during the shootings. They just engaged him in "verbal communication," Horter said.
"He had two magazines for his weapon. He fired from the first magazine. Dropped that magazine. Reloaded a second magazine, and obviously at the end of the second magazine or near the end of the magazine, he took his life," Horter said.
The majority of the people shot were in the same area, the back of the room, he said.
Autopsies were being conducted today.
Continuing coverage of this story will appear online during the day.
What makes someone do something like this? In a general sense, most of these shootings seem like they are perpetrated by people with prior criminal or mental illness history, and in the cases of youth perps, there is either gang/drug activity, or use of prescription anti-depressants resulting in documented homicidal/suicidal behavior. But this one, so far none of this is indicated. The only thing I find strange is an adult of +/- 40 years of age still living with his mom.
This sucks for the concealed carry fight in wisconsin.
A logical person would see this as evidence FOR concealed carry, but sadly the idiots standing in our way are not logical.
This article didn't seem to describe the specific church and what they "believe". An article I read said
Anytime a group of people focuses so intently on "the end times" and "prophecies" they bring out the nut cases. Maybe this guy was thinking if he killed the people in the church the "end times" would be slowed down or maybe sped up.
The church was an offshoot of the Worldwide Church of God, a cult founded originally by Garner Ted Armstrong -- though that has nothing really to do with this tragedy, one way or the other.
The math would seem to indicate a 13 round magazine. Sig P229 or 228?
An extremist cult group that deals with the "end times" has nothing to do with this tragedy? The guy had attended a service a couple weeks prior and left in the middle of it visibly disturbed. How can you say that it has nothing to do with it?
Thats what I was thinking
Sad story. I wish it would have ended earlier due to a CCW'er stopping the threat.
Bit more info: He had been depressed, and seems to have had a history of depression, was losing his job in a week or two. Even though it sucks to say it, at least they did not find an arsenal in his moms house. The press would eat it up.
Sounds kind of like the Jehova's Witnesses..........I have been studying them and it seems they believe that in every case where the bible speaks of "the Kingdom of God", or the "Kingdom of Heaven", they are talking about some new uber government where they are the "new world order" and heaven, after Armageddon, respectively. Jesus will be the ruler of the New World Order, and the 144,000 "elect" will be "assistant rulers" of some sort. The rest of the people who are saved will be normal servants of God.
This doctrine misses a lot of things, specifically, the "Kingdom of Heaven" that exists right now, and the spiritual warfare that is going on between that "world" and the world that we live in currently.
I got this speech from a JW the other day. My reply: "don't care!". "Why not?". "Because, what is to come is secondary to Jesus and the message of salvation, and I have a hard enough time following the way I should, without devoting all my energy thinking and preaching the end times almost exclusively......Jesus told us 'no one will know the day, nor the hour' for a reason. I don't think we need to worry about it. I would rather worry about God's will for my life today".
That didn't go over very well.