Statement of Attorney General Van Hollen on Crandon Multiple Homicides (Dated Oct. 9, 2007)
CRANDON - Today, I had the opportunity to meet with the families of those slain on Sunday. Nothing can adequately describe their loss. Please keep them in your prayers. I know that they appreciate your thoughts, prayers, and condolences.
As our investigation has continued, we have been able to develop a more definitive timeline of events that occurred on that tragic morning.
It started with an argument. At approximately 2:30 am, an off-duty Tyler Peterson entered the apartment building at 203 North Hazeldell, Apt. B. An argument ensued between Peterson and Jordanne Murray, in which he accused her of having a relationship with another person. The argument got heated, and Murray demanded he leave.
Peterson left, and returned minutes later. He was armed with an AR-15 rifle, the kind of rifle Peterson was issued by the Forest County Sherriff’s Department for his duties as a member of the Forest County Special Emergency Response Team.
The precise chain of events in the apartment is still unclear. But we know that Peterson forcibly entered the apartment, breaking down the door. He didn’t speak. He simply opened fired, killing 6 young people about to enter the prime of their lives and wounding another. Three bodies were found on or right next to the couch; Aaron Smith, Bradley Schultz, and Lindsey Stahl. Jordanne Murray was found in the kitchen. Lianna Thomas was found in the bedroom closet, and Katrina McCorkle was found just outside the closet, both apparently attempting to hide from Peterson.
After shooting the six victims, Peterson turned his sights on Charlie Neitzel, who was in the kitchen. Peterson shot him in the leg. Neitzel got up, reached out to Peterson, and continued to plead for Peterson to stop. Peterson then shot him again, causing Neitzel to fall. While on the ground, Neitzel was shot again, playing dead until Peterson left. Neitzel survived.
By 2:47 a.m., patrolling Crandon police officer Greg Carter had heard the gunfire, reported it to dispatch, and approached the apartment building in his squad car to investigate the source. At approximately 2:48, Carter saw Peterson emerge from the apartment building. He saw that Peterson was going towards Peterson’s truck, armed with an AR-15 rifle. Officer Carter lost visual contact for a moment with Peterson, and moments later his squad car windshield burst and Carter heard multiple rounds of gunfire. Carter put his car in reverse, backed away from the direction of the gunfire, and took cover behind a nearby building, gunfire ringing out the whole time. Carter immediately called the incident into dispatch.
Officer Carter displayed a tremendous amount of bravery and intelligence during this time. He performed exactly as trained under these harrowing circumstances, saving his life.
Having just turned 21 in July, Carter started with the Crandon Police Department in a part-time capacity in June, 2006, just shy of his 20th birthday. He started with the Crandon PD at the exact same time Tyler Peterson started with the Department, and became a full-time Crandon officer in January 2007. Carter is also a part-time Forest County Sherriff’s deputy.
And we need officers like Greg Carter, to serve and protect, to place their lives at risk for the safety of others.
Officer Carter’s squad car is going to be pulled out of the south end of the Forest County Sherriff’s Department, so that the public can see the damage done to his vehicle, and have a better understanding of the risks Officer Carter took responding to the incident.
After the shooting, a manhunt began. Peterson was armed, and he was mobile. It was a very dangerous situation.
Law enforcement repeatedly attempted to contact Peterson. Chief of Police Dennee requested assistance from the Department of Justice Division of Criminal Investigation, and DCI responded immediately, dispatching agents to the area. Numerous law enforcement entities were requested and provided assistance.
Current information indicates that Peterson drove aimlessly around the northern portion of the state, through Lincoln, Forest, and Langlade Counties. While driving through the Northwoods, we know that Peterson made multiple attempts to throw police of his trail, by calling in false reports to area law enforcement. At approximately 7:50 a.m., Peterson wound up at a residence in the Town of Argonne. Some of his friends were present.
What occurred at the Town of Argonne, at the cabin, is still a matter very much under investigation. We know that when he arrived, Peterson confessed to his crimes. We know that at some point he turned over his AR-15 and two other long guns. We know that Peterson left the Town of Argonne cabin at about 8:30 am and met with some of his family members. We know that Peterson returned to the cabin at approximately 9:15 a.m.
By 9:27 a.m., the Langlade County Special Emergency Response Team was at the scene, responding to the situation. Other law enforcement agencies quickly arrived at the scene.
We are not discussing the details of the time between the arrival of law enforcement at the Town of Argonne cabin and Peterson’s death. The precise chain of events is under investigation. Interviews continue, and information continues to be analyzed. We can not release information that may taint the integrity of that ongoing investigation.
We can, however, disclose certain facts relating to Tyler Peterson’s death. Peterson was shot four times, once in the left bicep, and three times in the head. Evidence indicates that the shot in the bicep came from a rifle, from some distance.
The three gunshot wounds to the head included two nonfatal rounds with entry points below the chin, and one fatal shot that entered Peterson through the right side of the head. Each of the three head shots were fired while the gun was in contact with his skin, or extremely close to the skin. These shots were fired by a handgun. These three head wounds are consistent with self-inflicted wounds, and not consistent with long range rifle fire. Early forensic analysis indicates that the bullets were 40 caliber. Peterson was found with his own personal 40 caliber Glock pistol when his body was recovered. A final conclusion as to the cause of Peterson’s death, however, must await complete forensic examination, a process that could take several weeks.
Peterson sustained all gunshot wounds while on the Argonne property.
Many questions have been raised about whether Tyler Peterson was qualified to be a law enforcement officer. He met the State’s minimum standards, as reported by his employing departments. Background investigations were conducted, as certified by both Crandon and Forest County. The Wisconsin Law Enforcement Standards Board certified Peterson to be qualified as a law enforcement officer in this state.
I know that the public wants additional information on this tragic incident. The families want answers. The community wants answers. I want answers. And we are doing everything that we can to get those answers. At the Department of Justice, we have had over 25 special agents in Forest County and surrounding areas working this case. We have combed through two scenes. We have taken dozens of interviews – and we have many more to go.
More Department of Justice personnel will work on this case as we move forward. Evidence will be transported to the Department of Justice’s Crime Laboratories for forensic analysis. The Division of Criminal Investigation will be analyzing all of the evidence collected and reporting the results of this analysis to me. We will share that analysis with local law enforcement. And we will share what we can with you.
But this is not going to happen overnight. It may take several weeks, if not months before we complete this investigation.
As I indicated, I’ve spoken with the families. They expressed to me that they wish for space to grieve, and asked that the press leave them alone. They wish to be left to mourn in peace, honoring the burial of their loved ones. They have also requested that the community know that they have met with the Peterson family. They hold no animosity towards them, and ask that you don’t either.
They have also asked me to ask the community at large to stop talking to the press. As such, we in the law enforcement community will do our part by having no further comments to the press from Forest County.
I have also met with the Peterson family. They wanted the community to know that they believe that local police did all that they could. They wish for wounds to start healing in Crandon. And they ask that blame for these happenings not be improperly placed on local law enforcement authorities.
I want to thank every person in law enforcement, in the Division of Criminal Investigation and other agencies, that has participated in this investigation; from those making the immediate response, to those tracking down Tyler Peterson, to those now putting together the pieces of this tragedy. And I thank every person that will participate in this investigation in the future.
Thank you, and God bless.