One year ago, on March 22, 2017, the unimaginable happened in Rothschild, Wisconsin, just outside of Wausau.
Four people were murdered by a man who went on a rampage.
After looking for his wife at her workplace, he murdered two of her coworkers, apparently believing they were hiding her location from him. He then went to the office of his wife’s divorce attorney and murdered the attorney, before fleeing to a residence where he barricaded himself. When Everest Metro Police Department Detective Jason Weiland arrived at the residence, he was shot and killed by the murderer.
The tight-knit Wausau community was devastated and is still focusing on healing, grieving, and honoring the deceased victims of this unthinkable tragedy.
There were many heroes who helped the community heal in the days and months that followed. Earlier this month, the Wausau Police Department held its annual awards banquet and recognized and thanked many who stepped up to help the community heal, and I am so proud that many DOJ team members were honored.
The day of the tragedy, and in the weeks and months that followed, DOJ carried out an extensive and complex role. All told, DOJ had 118 staff, including attorneys, agents, and victim specialists, responding on the ground, with countless others at headquarters assisting those on the scene.
Over 70 DOJ Division of Criminal Investigation (DCI) special agents and supervisors from across the state responded to secure the multiple crime scenes and conduct a thorough investigation to determine the truth about the events.
DOJ’s Wisconsin State Crime Laboratory (WSCL) sent well over a dozen members from around the state to coordinate the collection of the mountain of evidence from the multiple crime scenes.
Two members of DOJ’s Division of Legal Services happened to be in Wausau trying an unrelated homicide case at the time, and provided coordinated legal support and obtained the numerous search warrants and subpoenas necessary to complete the investigation, along with help from other attorneys and support staff at headquarters.
DOJ’s Office of Crime Victim Services (OCVS) put victim service specialists on the ground in Wausau, and others assisted from headquarters, to help the families and coworkers of the victims and an entire community that was suffering.
The DOJ communications team helped local agencies communicate effectively to a community, state, and nation that had a desire and right to know information about what had happened.
DOJ’s Division of Law Enforcement Services (DLES) stepped in to help coordinate the law enforcement funeral and assisted the local law enforcement agencies to grapple with the psychological and emotional impacts of such a traumatic event. The DLES team had wellness resources already in place, so they could be easily utilized in the healing process.
The DOJ Bureau of Computing Services made sure everyone had the tools to efficiently communicate, share, and document the enormous amounts of information gathered.
The DOJ Division of Budget and Finance and Human Resources ensured those on the ground had the equipment they needed, and compensation and reimbursements were managed.
And when the investigations were complete, the DOJ Office of Open Government team made sure information was available to the public according to the law and in ways that were respectful to the privacy and dignity of the many people who were suffering.
DOJ is the only agency in Wisconsin that can provide ALL of these resources when a tragedy strikes. In this tragedy, DOJ demonstrated our preparation and capabilities as a team, from top to bottom, and I could not be prouder of how well our team distinguished itself.
In the hours, weeks, and months after the tragedy, there were hundreds of others who came together to support this community, including chaplains, pastors, local businesses, and community organizations. And federal and local law enforcement agencies, including the FBI, Everest Metropolitan Police Department, Kronenwetter Police Department, the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Department (SWAT), Marathon County Sheriff’s Department, Merrill Police Department, Mosinee Police Department, Oneida Sheriff’s Department (SWAT), Rothschild Police Department, Wausau Police Department, and the Wisconsin State Patrol.
I am thankful to live in a state where so many people gave their talent, time, and energy to lift up the affected communities and people, and I am honored to be leading the talented team at Wisconsin’s Department of Justice.