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Bart Oliver's family says God must have His reasons
 
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Bart Oliver's family says God
must have His reasons

By Dixon Cartwright

HELENVILLE, Wis.--Tom Geiger, a 56-year-old member of the Living Church of God congregation that suffered the March 12 shooting that killed eight church members during a Sabbath service, speculated that "something"--maybe the devil or a demon--got a deadly hold on shooter and fellow LCG member Terry Ratzmann.

Mr. Ratzmann--in his right mind and as known by his fellow church members, family and neighbors--would never have done such a thing, Mr. Geiger said. Therefore the devil may have literally made him do it.

Mr. Geiger's comments were part of an interview here on Saturday evening, March 19, one week after the tragedy and just a day after the funeral of teenager Bart Oliver, one of the seven people Mr. Ratzmann killed.

Bart was the 15-year-old nephew of Mr. Geiger.

Also present during the interview were Tom's 53-year-old brother Hal (in whose house the interview took place), Hal's wife, Scarlet, Hal's and Scarlet's daughter, Ammy, 9, and, for much of the interview, Bart's parents, Ron and Loni Oliver. Loni is the former Loni Geiger, Tom's and Hal's sister.

Tom and Marla Geiger (Marla was not present for the interview) are members of the Living Church of God, as are Ron and Loni Oliver. Hal and Scarlet Geiger are part of the Church of God Berean Fellowship, which meets weekly in their home.

The need for mourning

"One of the things that I think our society tends to neglect is proper mourning," commented Tom Geiger. "It's not customary in our culture to give it enough time. Anciently, from what I've read, people would mourn a week for the loss of a major figure in the family."

Hal Geiger, sitting with others around a dining-room table, agreed.

"Think about the symbol of throwing dirt or dust upon yourself [as recounted in Scripture]," Hal said. "What was that about? It was obviously a way of debasing yourself and maybe a reminder: from dust to dust."

Tom said his family had been mourning the loss of nephew Bart Oliver all week.

"Not a day went by that I didn't spend some time crying, and it usually came at a trigger point," he said. "Someone said about our dad, Al Geiger [Tom's, Hal's and Loni's father]: 'He's been the patriarch, the big oak tree in our family, and I don't remember ever seeing him cry.' But for Bart he cried. I didn't realize how this would affect him."

Tom, who is self-employed in construction and owns rental properties, said the Olivers and Geigers are trying to deal with the aftermath of the massacre "in a healthy manner and a way that's going to allow us to heal and not carry baggage in our family.

"I don't want to just spiritualize this away and say we'll let the ministers handle it. Obviously that's a partial solution, and praying is also helpful."

Offer of counseling

Tom said a friend who is a professional counselor and a former member of the Worldwide Church of God has offered his counseling services to all of the surviving victims free of charge.

"He's retired," Tom said. "He's dealt with grief counseling. It's my intent in the next day or two or three to contact him."

Tom commented on news reports that quoted other LCG members as saying church leaders discouraged church members from seeking help from psychologists and other outside professionals.

"For one thing," Tom said, "they [the church] would be opening themselves up to massive liabilities if they taught that you can't go to a doctor or psychologist. If the church had taken a position that Terry Ratzmann could not get help and then he did this, they could be found to some extent to be liable. It would be foolish for the church to take that position."

He said the church "is feeling its way along in dealing with brand-new, unplowed ground for the LCG in the way they're handling this. Some of it has been rather slow in coming, and some of it is probably somewhat clumsy, but we're all learning. We're all in the process, and sometimes when you're a conservative-thinking group you move slower and more carefully and cautiously. That tends to be the way Living operates."

God's embrace

On the previous day, March 18, Tom had delivered a eulogy at Bart's funeral (in a large ballroom in a hotel in Waukesha, Wis.) in which he drew the analogy of a butterfly to illustrate Bart's essence, or "spirit in man," returning to the loving embrace of the Almighty God.

"I had been thinking about Bart, of course, all week. I was thinking about his personality and his effect on people, and I was trying to come up with an analogy that would properly reflect and help cement in our mind what he was.

"Then, for some reason, the butterfly came to me.

"In times past I've been sitting, maybe fishing along the river, and had a butterfly land on or near me. There's something about it. Just look at that beautiful creation of God. You can't help but smile and receive some joy when you see one.

"Bart was just that kind of kid.

"Then I did a little bit of research to try to find something that would substantiate the spirit in man that Mr. [Herbert] Armstrong was talking about in the '70s."

Mr. Armstrong taught, beginning in the 1950s, that each human being receives such a spirit at conception that goes back to God at the person's death. It is different from the concept of an immortal soul in that it does not impart consciousness to a person immediately after his death. But it becomes a part of the person again at the person's resurrection.

"I found a number of scriptures that substantiated the spirit in man," Tom continued. "Then I thought: If I'm going to use a butterfly, I'm going to need the theme of flying away.

"Somewhere I remembered a scripture that says we die and fly away, a scripture in Ecclesiastes.

"This all came together so that I recognized [in the eulogy] that we know that God puts the spirit in man at conception. At death the spirit returns to its Maker."

Hal then reminded brother Tom of some spirit-in-man and flying-away scriptures from Tom's eulogy: 1 Corinthians 2:9, 11; Ecclesiastes 12:7; and Psalm 90:10.

Tom continued: "I thought about that butterfly returning into God's hand in the third heaven, and every time I broached it in my mind I'd start to cry because I'm picturing my nephew. So I practiced [delivering the eulogy] over and over, attempting to do it without crying.

"When I did it for real I barely made it through, but I made it."

Comforting the bereaved

Tom said Church of God brethren from many fellowships have comforted the bereaved in the LCG in their loss.

"We appreciate the spirit of all of the empathetic brethren from whatever their fellowship is," he said. "This tragic event may serve as a tool to help draw us together as a people. I think there probably will remain divisions between the leadership; I don't know that that can be resolved. But I think this has at least served to draw together many of the various Churches of God."

In the week after the shooting, news media, locally, nationally and internationally, sought out sources of information: people who were in some way connected with the Churches of God, especially the Living Church of God.

In Tom Geiger the news media found an articulate, if unofficial, close-up observer willing to talk on camera and on the record, a church member closely connected to the tragedies, one who lost a close relative, his sister's son.

Tom said he had lost count of how many interviews he had given to newspapers and TV and radio stations. On his way to Hal's house for The Journal's interview, for example, a television reporter interviewed him by cell phone while he traveled in this Journal writer's rented car.

"I have been asked over and over and over again by the mainstream media: Why, why, why, why, why?" he said. "Their thrust, of course, is based on finding a reason without including God or the spirit world in the picture. They dig and dig and dig and dig to find out what they can."

Trigger points

Tom cooperated with reporters and explored with them possible human and physical reasons for the tragedy. But, because those reasons leave God and the spirit world out of the picture, none of those answers is satisfactory.

"So, after we have exhausted all of the reasonable possibilities on a physical level, I was always left with the spiritual," he said. "Of course, the newspeople aren't comfortable with that, but there was no other choice."

Tom would describe to reporters his relationship with and his observations about his friend Terry Ratzmann.

He explained to them that he had known 44-year-old Mr. Ratzmann for 20 years and had seen him interact with the brethren as a brother and almost always in a "very loving way."

Mr. Ratzmann's relationship with his fellow church members was "symbiotic," he said. "And this was as it should be between brethren. But, then, to have him turn and brutally murder people he knew and loved, men and women and children, without an apparent cause is not a natural human action.

"Even Hitler and his henchmen, with their deep, profound hatred for other nationalities, by and large did not commit wholesale slaughter of their own.

"We went through all of the possible trigger points. There was no one for him to date. Was he lonely? Was it the church's fault? Why was he depressed? Was it because he was out of a job? Did he have a problem with a sermon? What triggered it, etc., etc., etc.?"

After exhausting the discussion on these points with reporters, Tom said he would usually mention possible reasons for the shooting that take into account God and the spirit world.

"God corrects the sons He loves," he would tell them. "Why? To make them better, to steel their character."

In the midst of a trial, people find it difficult to retain in their minds God's perspective on the reason for trials and tribulations, Tom said.

"We as human beings look at things in terms of seconds, minutes, days, hours, weeks, maybe months and years. But it's very difficult to see things in terms of eternity, and God has lived forever in the past and will live forever in the future."

God's way is far above the ways of human beings, he said, "so that we can't even begin to grasp it. It's like the ant on the orange. So when we look at bad things happening to us, and considering the very little wisp of time in which we live, it's hard to have a proper perspective.

"As Paul said, and I'm paraphrasing this badly, the sufferings that we endure today aren't even worth considering in comparison with the way of rewards that lies ahead."

Therefore, Mr. Geiger said, the hard times humans go through--no matter how painful--are nothing compared with the happiness in store for God's people through eternity.

Hands off or on?

Tom said that, even though God can choose to intervene in human affairs, many times He chooses not to. If free moral agency dictates that He does not usually intervene, then why does He intervene sometimes?

"Because God knows our limits," he said. "And God artfully is able to blend rewards and blessings."

However, he said, "the times of trial are also necessary, because those are the times in which we are corrected. Those dark hours in our lives are life-changing and hopefully life-improving. God is able to artfully mix those two in the lives of each person who is in the process of being called and in the process of overcoming."

The very concept of people learning to overcome and thus build character, Mr. Geiger said, implies the need for severe trials.

Bart's mom and dad

A few minutes earlier Loni Oliver, Bart's mother, and Ron Oliver, Bart's father, entered the Hal Geiger residence. Mrs. Oliver sat at the table with the others participating in the interview.

Scarlet Geiger, Hal's wife, had just mentioned the severe personal trial described in the book of Job.

Mrs. Oliver instantly agreed that the lessons of Job apply in trying to make sense of the present distress.

"It's in the book," she said.

Hal Geiger commented on the concept of bad things happening to good people for building character's sake.

"Of course, the bad that happens is from the perspective of the human being," he said. "It hurts them; it shortens their lives; it stifles or destroys them; it wipes out their physical dreams. But of course God's looking at it from a much larger perspective.

"But God is not a monster. He does things that work out ultimately. Loni here said she saw good things coming out of the horrible disaster within 24 hours."

"I saw it that very day," Mrs. Oliver said. "I saw people coming together. I said good things are going to come from this. That's why God did it--or God allowed it--so good things could come from it."

Hal agreed. "Though this is a difficult thing to deal with, and it's a terrible loss, God looks at the overall, the long, range and it's wonderful, it's beautiful and excellent."

"We've just got to keep looking at the big picture way down the road, way, way, way down the road," said Mrs. Oliver.

"That's what faith is," said Hal. "It's trusting. It doesn't look good now, but we have the faith that it really will work for the best."

Bullets in coats

The conversation continued, with Mrs. Oliver mentioning a talk she had had earlier in the day with fellow LCG member Ella Frazier.

"I talked to Ella today," she said. "She found a bullet hole in her coat. She had been sitting just a couple of rows behind us [at the time of the shooting]. Her husband's coat was full of holes. We were sitting in the front row [the farthest away from Mr. Ratzmann, who began shooting from the back of the meeting room; neither Ella nor Earnest Frazier was wounded in the gunfire]."

"Didn't he shoot several times in the air?" asked Hal, who is not an LCG member and was not at the LCG Sabbath service during the shooting.

Tom and Marla Geiger were also not present during the shooting. They were running late that Sabbath because of their last-minute preparations for the potluck planned for after church. Tom and Marla arrived at services just as the police arrived.

"I wasn't there" during the shooting, he said. "So this is hearsay. But the best I can piece together, Terry Ratzmann had three clips [of bullets for his 9-mm handgun]. The original police report said he had three. I've heard both two and three.

"He came into the room and with deadly accuracy, and very rapidly, killed numerous people in a matter of a very few seconds. Terry was a practiced marksman, and when he came in the room, according to my son [Robert, 12, who was sitting next to his cousin Bart Oliver when Bart died at the scene] and a number of others, he had a look of rage. His eyes looked very dark. Robert said he didn't even look like Terry.

"So the first clip was absolutely deadly, and most of the killing was done when those rounds were fired. It was also during that burst of gunfire when he shot at Robert."

Tom said the Gregory family--Pastor Randy Gregory and his wife, Marjean, and their son James, 18--was seated in the left three chairs of the five-chair right-hand section of the back row.

Mr. Gregory was sitting next to the aisle. Next to him was James, then Mrs. Gregory.

Mr. Geiger also mentioned that the seating chart posted at www.jsonline.com is incorrect. He said a graphic artist--for The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel--apparently based the chart on incorrect information.

Gerald "Jerry" Miller was in the aisle seat directly in front of Mr. Gregory (that is, the next row up from the back). An empty chair sat on Mr. Miller's right, then Bart, then another empty chair and then Robert, along the wall.

Robert's play-by-play

"We gave this information on a live TV interview on Monday night [two days after the shooting]," Tom said. "Ron and Loni were sitting in front of the hall, and Robert and Bart sat [toward the back] in the row right ahead of the Gregorys because they expected Marla [Tom's wife and Robert's mother] and I to come and we would have sat with the boys.

"When they went to sit down, Robert had a new GameBoy [electronic game] he'd just gotten the day before while shopping with Bart. Bart had a new cell phone. Both of them needed electric power. The outlet was on the wall on the right-hand side. They both wanted to sit there.

"So they played rock-paper-scissors for seating places.

"Robert won."

And Bart lost.

Rapid fire

Tom talked about the short duration of the attack.

"When Terry opened up on the congregation, apparently he fired so rapidly that numerous people were dead before people had time to react."

"But," said Mrs. Oliver, "there was a pause after the first shot. I know there was. It seemed like a lot transpired after that first shot. But I heard the pop. I don't know who [took the first bullet].

"Robert said he saw the Gregorys fall," Tom said. "Then he saw Jerry [Miller] get shot, then he saw Bart fall forward. Robert moved toward Bart because he was going to try to take cover with him. Then he got a look at Bart and his facial color had already changed. Robert was Terry's first moving target. Everybody else was like a shooting gallery."

Mr. Ratzmann took deliberate aim at Robert, Tom said.

"Terry was aiming down at Robert, and Robert made eye contact with Terry, and Robert dropped at the instant before Terry pulled the trigger, and the bullet went by his face. Robert said he felt the bullet go by. The bullet proceeded on and hit Angel Varichak. [Miss Varichak, 19, was wounded, but not fatally.]"

"But we don't know that," said Mrs. Oliver.

"But that's what Robert thinks happened," said Tom. "Then he [Robert] stayed down, petrified, because he was afraid Terry was going to start hunting up and down the aisles."

Casings raining down

Tom continued: "He [Robert] was able to see through the chair legs because Terry was only a very few feet behind the back row. He could see Terry's legs and feet and the casings raining down on the floor as Terry continued to fire. There was a pause, and a new clip was slapped in, and during that pause was when Dave and Richard Mohr hollered at Terry."

Tom mentioned that news reports were inaccurate when they said only one man yelled at Mr. Ratzmann to stop shooting.

After the Mohrs (Dave and his father Richard) shouted at Mr. Ratzmann, "Terry seemed to be less focused," Tom said. "Most of the kill shots came before, [although] he may have killed Mr. [Harold] Diekmeier with the second clip."

Tom mentioned that Mr. Diekmeier stood up, stunned. At that point he may have taken a hit in his arm from Mr. Ratzmann's first clip. That, along with the sound of the shooting, may have startled him.

"When he stood up," Tom said, "Terry took a couple of steps in his direction and shot him three times at point-blank range. This was probably from the second clip."

Mrs. Oliver commented: "Eva [Diekmeier, daughter-in-law of Harold] thinks after he was hit he got up because he was surprised. He was also hard of hearing. My husband [Ron Oliver] said he saw Terry take several steps toward Mr. Diekmeier, actually go up the aisle."

But "I understood he was back more behind the right-hand section," said Tom, "and that he actually walked toward Mr. Diekmeier and shot him at point-blank range" in his back.

Tom continued with the account, as related to him by his son Robert.

"In that pause where the clips were changed, the Mohrs hollered at Terry, and Terry's expression seemed to change somewhat," Tom said.

Internal struggle

"I think at that point there was an internal struggle," Mrs. Oliver said. "When he came to himself, he shot into the ceiling."

"Or the demon was letting go," Tom said. "I heard he was shooting but no longer picking his targets with the deadly manner [he had displayed during] the first clip.

"I believe Mr. Diekmeier was probably hit with the second clip, and apparently about that time the demon let go. Ron [Oliver] was watching him from the front of the room, and he said Terry's face turned blank and serene, and that was right before he used the gun on himself. Right before he killed himself, his whole countenance was changed."

Something took control

Tom recounted some more details and possible reasons for the shooting that he had discussed with reporters.

"I've discussed this with the media," he said. "We've gone through this time and time again. The way I expressed it to them, I said Terry, through a series of difficulties in his life, became so acutely lonely, not being married, and frustrated, and there was the potential loss of his job, and other problems in his life weighing him down, backed up with a difficult childhood--all of this baggage got to the point where he became so depressed, and possibly so angry, that the door was opened and something evil entered in and took over. It took control of his life."

Tom noted that police officers had found Mr. Ratzmann's briefcase at his home, in New Berlin, a suburb of Milwaukee.

"That means he came into services, put the briefcase in the chair, left services for a little while, and just as services began he went back in and got his briefcase. Apparently he then drove home, probably five minutes from services where he lived, seven minutes maybe, then he changed clothes and exchanged--"

"I remember he had his blue jeans on" during the shooting, Mrs. Oliver interjected.

Mr. Ratzmann had been at services but left, then went home and exchanged his coat, tie and trousers for a shirt and blue jeans--and swapped his briefcase and Bible for a gun. Then he went back to services.

Parallels with Judas

Tom Geiger said he had talked with reporters about parallels he draws between Mr. Ratzmann's life and that of Judas, who betrayed Jesus.

"There are some newspapers and more-conservative formats [of various news outlets] that will listen to scriptures and spiritual principles," he said.

"There's a very close parallel in the New Testament with the life of Judas, who obviously was a very trusted member of Christ's disciples. He carried the money.

"As has been speculated, Judas's intent was probably good, because most of the disciples believed that Christ was going to set His kingdom up right then in their lifetimes.

"They didn't foresee Him being killed. They thought of Him as God in the flesh and the Kingdom would be here now."

But Judas was impatient.

"He knew He [Jesus] had incredible power. He saw miracle after miracle. Obviously Judas got in the wrong mind-set because to try to force God to do your will is not the proper way to operate; that's not godly.

"But that was the direction Judas took, and I think Satan was there, not in him but about him, particularly in the later times."

Tom recounted the events of that fateful Passover as reported in Scripture.

"Christ announced to the disciples that one of you is going to betray Me. He dipped the bread in the gravy and at that instant Satan entered in [to Judas]. And Satan stayed with him until he had done the betrayal."

"He [Jesus] said whomever I give the sop to," commented Mrs. Oliver.

"Satan was, I believe, in him until he betrayed Him," continued Tom. "Then when Satan left, because he had accepted blood money, he was so despondent that he took his own life. I think we see the same pattern here."

"Oh, yeah," agreed Mrs. Oliver.

Repeating himself

"It's interesting," Tom continued. "Satan the devil is indeed very crafty but not very imaginative. He keeps doing the same thing over and over again."

Tom said he sees a "crescendo" in "satanic patterns" lately in world events.

"Humanly, we want to be able to look at something and identify it," he said. "Obviously we can't do that with spirit beings. All we can do is see their fingerprints. You look at the principle, the sequence of events, with the 911 occurrence on the attack on this nation, then you look at the attack on the church. Very, very similar incidents. Defenseless people simply going about their jobs.

"In America [the victims on Sept. 11, 2001, were doing] physical jobs basically making money. In the case of the church, we were doing something spiritual: worship of God. In both instances, the attacks were really terrorist attacks. Terry Ratzmann acted very much like a suicide terrorist. He went after as many as he could, as many as God allowed, then took his own life."

Tom said he perceives that in Iraq among the suicide bombers in that country resides a "real concentration of those demon spirits."

"But God is allowing more and more invasions into this country. I suspect that we're looking at a crescendo until we get to the point where Satan is indeed cast down. I think Mr. Armstrong speculated on it at various times during his ministry: whether Satan had been cast down or had he not. I think when that really happens things will really heat up. He may be here already."

"I'm thinking he may be," said Mrs. Oliver.

"Just look at the [Dec. 26, 2004] tsunami [in South Asia]," said Scarlet Geiger.

"I'm very concerned we may be at the very threshold of escalating demonic and satanic activity," Tom said. "We've had numerous deaths and accidents and so on in the greater Churches of God in this area in the last year and a half or two years. I believe the church is under attack."

"But, for Satan to do this, he is obviously missing something," said Hal Geiger. "He doesn't have the whole picture."

"To a certain extent he is restricted to the physical," agreed brother Tom. "If God gives him permission, he can kill physically."

"Satan apparently doesn't understand that if he takes us out he's failing," said Hal. "Have you ever read The Screwtape Letters, by C.S. Lewis? It is supposedly a revelation of the mind of the demon world, where an older demon coaches the younger demons."

"But when Satan causes too many problems," commented Scarlet Geiger, he fails because "he just brings the group closer together."

Where to from here?

The conversation shifted to: Where do we go from here? What's in store for the brethren in the Churches of God? How does the Brookfield tragedy affect the LCG and the other churches in the long run, if at all? What about security guards at Sabbath services?

"I don't know that [security guards are] even feasible for every church service in the country," said Tom. "Years ago we used to have security details at the Feast, and I suspect that we may start implementing something of that sort."

"I couldn't help but think of how this is going to affect evangelizing," Hal said. Will the general public be wary of attending lectures sponsored by Churches of God?"

"My conclusion is that God allows Satan the power of death," said Tom. "But it's limited by God. Otherwise we'd all be dead right now. And God uses [Satan] as a rod of correction, so to speak, for mankind. God has the safety net, because God has the power of life, both physical and eternal, so He can fix whatever Satan breaks."

"When you look at how God has foiled Satan," commented Hal, "you see that Satan doesn't understand who he is dealing with."

"It's hard to say what Satan understands," said Tom. "Maybe he understands a whole lot more than we think he does, but--"

"But how perceptive was he with Job?" asked Hal. "He misread the situation entirely."

Mrs. Oliver commented again on Mr. Ratzmann's state of mind.

"That wasn't our Terry," she said.

Saintly attitudes

This reporter commented on the amazing fact that he had not heard any LCG members say anything bad about Terry Ratzmann, other than the observation that he had stepped out of character when he killed seven fellow church members.

"The media can't believe it," said Tom. "You [this writer for The Journal] heard me explain to her [a television reporter during a phone call] what has happened, and you heard me in my eulogy for Terry [at Mr. Ratzmann's funeral].

"The attitude [of LCG members] toward Terry is linked to the understanding of who is behind the crime. It's like the concept of who is really guilty when a man with money hires an assassin who kills someone."

Tom said it is God's job, not anyone else's, to judge his friend Terry Ratzmann.

Stray tomcat

Hal commented that Mr. Ratzmann had helped build Hal's house, the one in which this interview was taking place.

Hal related an incident during the building of the structure that he said typified Terry Ratzmann.

A mangy and otherwise unhealthy stray tomcat was frequenting the building site that would later be the Hal Geiger family's residence. Mr. Ratzmann, who was helping with the construction, happened to have his .22 rifle with him one day, so Hal suggested that Mr. Ratzmann shoot the cat to put it out of its obvious misery.

"Terry shot it, and we could tell that Terry was sick," Hal said. "Terry told me he had never killed anything before. Shooting the cat really bothered him."

No time for repentance

Tom talked about Mr. Ratzmann's bad timing, which left him little opportunity to repent of his awful deed.

"As [LCG elder] Glen [Gilchrist] put it [while conducting Mr. Ratzmann's funeral], there was no time for repentance because of the sequence of events, although there may have actually been repentance at the end. But the reason that there isn't any animosity for Terry in the Church of God is that most people are mature enough Christians to realize where God will place the blame for sin: at the feet of our archenemy, Satan the devil."

But doesn't saying that God allowed, for a higher purpose, the evil to happen mean that God in some way wanted it to happen?

"Satan, either directly or indirectly, was behind what happened," Tom continued. Mature Christians "realize that Terry was used as a tool, just as Judas was, to fulfill God's will. You're right. It's God's will in the sense that God allowed it.

"He may not have desired it to happen that way, but the pain and suffering that result from sin quite often teach us some really significant and poignant lessons in life. Quite often the more severe the sin the more significant and deep the lesson."

The effect on children

The conversation turned to dealing with fears after such a fearsome incident. For example, how do children deal with such a frightening episode in their lives.

Hal's and Scarlet's 9-year-old daughter, Ammy, was present for much of the interview. She played, she fidgeted, she sat on people's laps, she looked over the shoulder at this reporter's laptop to see what he was typing as he took notes. She looked the epitome of a happy and well-behaved and energetic little girl.

But Ammy, whose cousin Bart died during Sabbath services only seven days before this interview, didn't attend Sabbath services earlier on the day of the interview because she refused to leave her house.

In fact, said her mother, Scarlet, Ammy--although appearing cheerfully normal during the interview--had announced that she doesn't want to go anywhere again.

"So how do you deal with someone's fears?" asked Scarlet.

Avoiding depression and anger

Tom talked about the need for "keeping ourselves under control" and not falling into the depths of depression or anger. He said that the actions of Terry Ratzmann profoundly illustrate the dangers of depression and anger.

"I've explained to reporters 1 Peter 5:8," he said.

(1 Peter 5:8: "Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.")

"I said to them: You need to think about how a lion functions. The Church of God is quite often presented in analogy as a flock. You can take sheep or any kind of game animal and they tend to clump together by their very nature. Satan tends to feed like a lion on the weak, the sick, the young, the old.

"Terry apparently was handicapped spiritually and emotionally for most of his existence in the church. I think there were various times when he dropped back a few steps behind the herd, and generally I think someone would notice and drop back and help him along to be a part of the flock.

"But ultimately I think he fell far enough behind that he became vulnerable.

"Then when Satan attacked he didn't just kill Terry; he took him over. Then Terry was able to destroy part of the flock."

"This would not have happened if Terry were not well known and trusted," said Hal. "If you had a seedy-looking character with a bulge in his pocket, there would have been cautions taken."

"When people looked back at Terry and saw him firing, they thought it was a joke," said Tom. "But when Jerry Miller took the hit, he hollered, 'This is real!'

"The problem is the concept of being shot at in church. There is no time for the mind to digest what is happening and to think of some kind of precautionary action that would intercept and stop what was happening. This all happened in a minute or a little more--everything."

"The people who were there said it was surreal," Tom concluded. "Every morning I wake up, and I wake up earlier than I should, and it's like reawakening in the nightmare. It's still there.

"I drove back from this funeral [Jerry Miller's] today, and I felt like I was coming in and out of consciousness."


In the weeks since the shooting, Tom Geiger has written the first draft of a book with the working title The Ratzmann Effect: A Treatise of the Brookfield, Wisconsin, Shootings, in which he tracks the effect of Terry Ratzmann's life and death on (1) people who were close to him, (2) the Churches of God and (3) other people, in what Mr. Geiger calls the "ripple effect outward."



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