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Statement by acquaintance of Brookfield gunman shows shootings were premeditated
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Statement by acquaintance of Brookfield
gunman shows shootings were premeditated

By Dixon Cartwright

An acquaintance of 44-year-old Terry Ratzmann of New Berlin, Wis., who killed seven worshipers at a Living Church of God Sabbath service March 12, says he warned her that the Brookfield, Wis., Sheraton hotel would soon be in the news.

Mr. Ratzmann shot 12 people during the service, killing eight, including himself.

Terry Ratzmann
Terry Ratzmann

An employee of a hardware store in nearby Elm Grove, Wis., says she talked with Mr. Ratzmann weeks before the shootings, at which time he told her he was angry and depressed "about the church."

She said Mr. Ratzmann made his remarks while visiting with her in the store's checkout line. She said he was a regular customer and she was fairly well acquainted with him.

She said he mentioned to her he was "very angry" with "his church" because of a "sermon." She said he did not mention any specific person he was upset with. But she stated that he mentioned the Sheraton hotel in Brookfield to her and said, "It's going to be on the news."

The uncle of 15-year-old Bart Oliver, the youngest church member who lost his life in the shootings, talked with the hardware-store employee on July 20.

"She was very pleasant and expressed concern over our loss," said Tom Geiger of Sullivan, Wis.

The store employee was not "sure of the date of her last encounter with Terry," Mr. Geiger said, but did say it could have been two, three or four weeks before the shooting.

She told Mr. Geiger she knew Mr. Ratzmann fairly well as a result of his frequent visits to the store. He was normally "upbeat" during his visits, Mr. Geiger told The Journal, and would sometimes joke with store employees.

"She confirmed that Terry looked very angry and upset that day, which was out of the norm for him," Mr. Geiger said.

Mr. Ratzmann initiated the conversation with the woman about the church, Mr. Geiger said.

Mr. Ratzmann "was not specific as to which sermon bothered him," reported Mr. Geiger. "She said that there was no way that she could have gauged the depth of his anger and thus become alarmed at what he might do."

Only after the shootings made news headlines around the world did the employee realize the extent of Mr. Ratzmann's anger, Mr. Geiger said.

"I asked her if she in any way could have been aware of what he was capable of, and of course she said no," Mr. Geiger said.

Mr. Geiger's conversations with the store employee have prompted him to change his mind about the March 12 behavior of his friend and fellow LCG member Terry Ratzmann.

"I have been forced to conclude that Terry's actions on March 12 were premeditated, at least to some extent. It would seem that Terry had at least mentally broached the idea of the shooting for some time, even though the fateful decision to actually consummate this horrible act must have occurred early that afternoon of March 12, 2005."

As a result, Mr. Geiger is changing some of the analysis he offers in a book he is writing about the shootings called Martyrdom in Milwaukee.

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