Spa Shooting Draws National Condolences, Support
From calls from the president to mayors of Aurora, CO, Tuscon, AZ and more, Brookfield Mayor Steve Ponto said the support has been humbling. He commended Azana staff and city police for their "heroic" acts Sunday.
After dispatchers got the first report of a gunman at Azana Salon & Spa, three police squads were there in a minute.
"Actually, I believe it was within 40 seconds," Brookfield Mayor Steve Ponto said.
That quick response — coupled with the bravery of those first responders — likely saved more lives in Sunday's tragedy in which three spa employees died, three more employees and a client were wounded, and perhaps a dozen more escaped or were rescued.
"There were police officers who went in and got the injured out when they didn't know the situation with the shooter," Ponto told Patch. "One was critical and they got her out and into an ambulance. Obviously time was of the essence."
Spa staff, clients were "heroic," mayor says
There were reports that the gunman, Radcliffe Haughton, exited the building, and police at one point were asking the public for any information about his 2003 black Mazda Protege. One witness said he saw the shooter come outside but then run back. Haughton was found hours later, holed in a locked room inside the spa, dead from a self-inflicted gunshot to the head
"Obviously, our hearts go out to the people who were killed and wounded," Ponto said Thursday. "Some of them were really heroic in their last minutes.
"It really brings home what a terrible thing that is the whole issue of domestic violence," he said. "And showed some of the gaps in the system in terms of what happens when people get restraining orders."
No matter what systems are in place, Ponto said, there are no guarantees that tragedies won't take place. But he said authorities can be prepared when they do happen "and our police department and our fire department were really prepared."
SWAT training just days earlier
Less than two weeks before the shooting, eight Brookfield city police officers were in New Mexico at a SWAT training conference. Some of those same officers were involved in Sunday's tactical unit response, Ponto said.
"It's important that we have that kind of really sophisticated training," he added.
Not only did Brookfield likely have every available officer on scene, the city called its second police shift in early to double its force. Plus, Brookfield was assisted by a mall parking lot full of ambulances, fire trucks and police squads from over the area.
The Waukesha County Sheriff's Department large, white command center was on scene. The Milwaukee County bomb squad, FBI and ATF also assisted.
On the fire side, there were 15 ambulances, seven fire engines and three trucks, plus the Salvation Army, Flight for Life and Waukesha County Rehab. Equipment and manpower came from these fire departments: Butler, Town of Brookfield, Elm Grove, Hales Corners, Lisbon, Menomonee Falls, New Berlin, North Shore, Sussex, Waukesha, Wauwatosa and West Allis. A list of assisting police agencies was not yet available, Brookfield police said.
Support comes from Aurora, Tuscon, Obama
For Ponto, he was humbled to be contacted not only by the White House and governor's office Sunday, but by mayors across the nation who have withstood their own mass shooting.
Calling from the Camp David area code, President Barack Obama called Ponto shortly before 6 p.m. The White House had unsuccessfully tried to reach Ponto between 3:30 and 4 p.m.
"He said, 'This is Barack Obama, and Michelle and I want to express our deep sorrow to you and your city over this tragic event,'" the mayor recalled.
Ponto said Obama offered whatever assistance the federal government could provide and was pleased to learn the FBI had been on scene. "I thanked him and said our police and fire departments had done a terrific job.... and he just said, 'God bless,' and I said, 'God bless.'"
Just as touching, Ponto said, were email messages from other mayors.
In Aurora, Colorado where 12 died and 58 were injured in a July 20 mass shooting at a movie screening of The Dark Knight Rises, Mayor Stephen Hogan wrote to Ponto:
"Mayor, my thoughts and prayers are with you and your community.... Be assured there are those outside your community and the state of Wisconsin who care."
In Tuscon, Arizona, where U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords was among 18 people shot, six fatally, at an event outside a supermarket in Janary 2011, Mayor Jonathan Rothschild wrote he was "saddened" to hear about Brookfield's tragedy.
"This just seems to happen all too often," he wrote. "I want you to know that our city came together in ways never seen before as a result of this tragedy. I know you are overwhelmed but I wanted to reach out to you."
And in Minneapolis, where on Sept. 27 a recently fired employee at Accent Signage Systems returned to kill himself and six others, Mayor R.T. Rybak wrote:
"I'm thinking a lot about you and your city, Mayor. I write this as I am about to walk into an event for famliies of victims of a workplace shooting (here). I know a bit about how hard this is and want to be there in any way that is helpful."
Brookfield's sister city mayor in Seligenstadt, Germany, also responded as did others, including Oak Creek Mayor Steve Scaffidi, where Wade Michael Page opened fire at the Sikh Temple, killing six people and injuring four more, including police Lt. Brian Murphy. Scaffidi wrote:
"My thoughts and prayers go out to the victims and their families.... Events like these are happening too frequently in our state and in society in general. I hope that we can begin to understand and effect a change, so that individuals don't choose the most violent and extreme method to resolve their conflicts."
Why in Brookfield — again?
Visible from Azana is the Sheraton Milwaukee Brookfield Hotel across busy Moorland Road and just south of Brookfield Square mall, where in 2005 Brookfield police and fire responded to another mass shooting.
In that case, a New Berlin man, Terry Ratzmann, opened fire on fellow congregants of the Living Church of God during a Saturday morning church service in the hotel. He killed seven before turning the gun on himself.
Ponto noted that in 2005 and on Sunday, the gunmen were not Brookfield residents, but were "people from other places commiting crimes in our city."
"Obviously, Brookfield is a very safe community," Ponto said. "A shock is that something like this happens at all."