Friend Says Deputy's Shooting Rampage Stemmed From `Worthless Pig' Comment

Tuesday, October 9th 2007, 7:35 am
By: News On 6

CRANDON, Wis. (AP) _ The off-duty sheriff's deputy who shot six people at a pizza party told a friend he had gone to his ex-girlfriend's house hoping to patch up their relationship.

Tyler Peterson, 20, lost control when they got into an argument and her friends began calling him a ``worthless pig,'' Mike Kegley told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

``He was just very remorseful about what happened,'' Kegley said.

Police declined to provide details of the argument that preceded the shooting but said Peterson had stormed out of the party, retrieved an AR-15 rifle from his vehicle and burst back into the house firing 30 shots.

All but one of the people at the party were killed.

``We had no idea, obviously, that anything like this would ever occur,'' Crandon Police Chief John Dennee told reporters Monday.

Peterson, a deputy and part-time Crandon police officer, later died after what authorities said was an exchange of gunfire with law enforcement officers. It was unclear whether Peterson was shot by police, took his own life or was wounded and then shot himself.

Kegley said Peterson came to his door about five hours after the rampage early Sunday and calmly told him what happened.

``He wasn't running around crazy or anything. He was very, very sorry for what he did,'' said Kegley, adding that he gave Peterson coffee and food and later made repeated calls to 911.

Kegley wouldn't comment when reached by The Associated Press Monday.

``I ain't talking no more,'' he said when contacted again Monday evening.

District Attorney Leon Stenz said he talked with Peterson by telephone for five or 10 minutes right before Peterson was killed, as they tried unsuccessfully to find a way for Peterson to turn himself in.

Peterson seemed calm and said he had talked to an attorney, but the two didn't talk about what had happened at the house, he said.

``He didn't call to confess,'' Stenz said.

Moments later, Peterson ran toward a wooded area where he was shot, he said.

Stenz said he knew Peterson well because he handled several cases with him.

``He always seemed to be level-headed and fine during those meetings. I think he wanted to talk to me because he knows I'm fair,'' Stenz said.

The rampage raised questions in the remote northern Wisconsin community of 2,000 of whether Peterson was qualified for his law enforcement positions.

Police acknowledged Peterson received no psychological screening before being hired Sept. 11, 2006. His yearlong probation ended last month.

``No person that I've ever known at 20 years old was responsible enough to be a police officer,'' said Steve Bocek, of Oak Creek, whose 20-year-old nephew Bradley Schultz was killed. ``It's unbelievable. You don't have the mind to be a police officer. It takes a lot.''

But Crandon City Attorney Lindsay Erickson said age doesn't matter as long as officers do their jobs well. Peterson testified for her in several cases, wrote good reports and was ``true to his job,'' she said.

``From what I saw of him, I didn't see any warning signs or red flags,'' Erickson said.

Dr. Phil Trompetter, a police psychologist in Modesto, Calif., estimated at least 40 states require psychological testing of prospective officers.

``Wisconsin must be in a very small minority,'' he said.

The Wisconsin Department of Justice Law Enforcement Standards Board requires only that applicants be free of emotional or mental conditions that might hinder them in their duties. It does not say how that is determined.

No formal national standards exist for hiring police, although individual states are adopting requirements such as mandatory psychological tests, said Craig Zendzian, author of several guidebooks for police applicants.

In Minnesota, police officers must be licensed by the state Board of Peace Officer Standards and Training, which includes an evaluation by a licensed psychologist.

The six young people who died were either students or graduates of Crandon High School, where Peterson also had graduated.

They were at the house to share pizza and watch movies during the school's homecoming weekend.

Classes were canceled Monday, and many teens went to a church to meet with counselors. School was not scheduled to resume until Wednesday.

The other victims were identified as Jordanne Murray, 18, Peterson's ex-girlfriend; Katrina McCorkle, 18; Leanna Thomas, 18; Aaron Smith, 20; and Lindsey Stahl, 14.

The lone survivor, Charlie Neitzel, 21, of Pickerel, was still in serious condition but recovering at a hospital. His mother, Carole Neitzel, told the Journal Sentinel he was scheduled for surgery Tuesday to remove internal debris from his wounds.

``There's no way to know,'' she said. ``But he's young and determined and he says he's going to be fine.''

Pastor Bill Farr read a statement from Peterson's family in which relatives expressed their shock and sorrow.

``Our hearts go out to the victims, their families and their friends. We are grieving for your losses. We feel a tremendous amount of guilt and shame for the acts Tyler committed,'' it said.

``We may never receive the answers we all seek. Like those close to Tyler we are in shock and disbelief that he would do such terrible things. This was not the Tyler we knew and loved.''