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ATTORNEY GENERAL VAN HOLLEN ANNOUNCES CRANDON INVESTIGATION CLOSED

 

MADISON - Attorney General Van Hollen announced today that the investigation into the October 7, 2007, shootings in Crandon has closed. Information about the investigation was made available on the Department of Justice website. The following prepared remarks were delivered by Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen, DCI Acting Administrator Mike Myszewski and DCI Special Agent Bradley Kust.

 

PREPARED STATEMENTS OF ATTORNEY GENERAL J.B. VAN HOLLEN, DCI ACTING ADMINISTRATOR MIKE MYSZEWSKI, AND DCI SPECIAL AGENT BRADLEY KUST REGARDING CRANDON SHOOTINGS AND INVESTIGATION

 

February 7, 2007
State Capitol Building
Assembly Parlor

 

PREPARED STATEMENT OF ATTORNEY GENERAL VAN HOLLEN

 

No person should ever have to endure what Charlie Neitzel and the families of the Crandon victims have had to endure -- and must continue to endure -- since Tyler Peterson committed his heinous crimes on October 7, 2007. No community should have to go through what Crandon has gone through and will continue to go through. My thoughts and prayers have been with these families and this community since that day, and they will continue to be with them.

 

Today, we bring some closure to that terrible incident. Our investigation has concluded. Forest County District Attorney Leon Stenz, who is with us today, has determined that no criminal charges will be brought. Consequently, we are in a position to shed more light on what occurred that day, which should bring no surprises.

 

Before doing so, I'd like to thank Representative Jeffrey Mursau for securing the Assembly Parlor for today's briefing. It was important to both of us to have a room that would hopefully accommodate the media while having the capability of live transmission over Wisconsin Eye so that the family members of the victims and the rest of the Forest County community we both represent could have access to this press conference.

 

I also want to thank those in the media attending today. I recognize the hard work that many of you have put into reporting this case. And I know that it can be difficult to work in this modern and sometimes relentless 24-hour news cycle. That's why I appreciate that so many of you are understanding of the reality that law enforcement cannot release certain information during the course of an investigation. The premature release of information may impair our ability to gather facts and improper publicity may jeopardize the fair trial of any charged defendants. That's also why I appreciate that so many of you respect the fact that we should not release certain materials that may retraumatize victims or their families.

 

But we will be able to release considerable information today.

 

In the two days following the shootings, the Department of Justice released substantial information. At that time, all known evidence indicated that in the early hours of Sunday, October 7, a single gunman Tyler Peterson entered a Crandon apartment with an AR-15 and took the lives of Jordanne Murray, Lianna Thomas, Katrina McCorkle, Lindsey Stahl, Bradley Schultz, and Aaron Smith. He also shot Charlie Neitzel and wounded responding Crandon Police Officer Greg Carter. Later that morning, law enforcement became aware of Peterson's location at what I referred to then as the Town of Argonne property, and will refer to now as the Kegley property. Ultimately, Peterson refused to turn himself in and apparently shot himself three times. Peterson died at approximately 12:30 p.m. that Sunday. The completed investigation determined all of these things to still be true.

 

We disclosed this information at that time for a number of reasons. One was to let the community know that law enforcement had no reason to believe another gunman was on the loose. Another was to provide official information about that dark day's events to clear up as much speculation as we could. At the time, many people were speaking to the media, and many were doing so without good information. Another reason was because I felt it was very important that the public understood that an outside law enforcement agency, unconnected to Peterson's employers, was leading the investigation of these terrible crimes involving an off-duty police officer. And finally, as an elected official responsible for the Office of Crime Victim Services, I felt it was important that I communicate, to as large an audience as possible, the victims' families' desire to be allowed to grieve in peace.

 

But releasing what we could release at that time for those purposes did not alleviate our responsibility to conduct a thorough investigation.

 

What were the basic parameters of that criminal investigation?

 

First, did Peterson act alone? To be sure, all known information in October pointed to a lone gunman. But we had to thoroughly process the scene to confirm this. It is now confirmed. We also could not discount the possibility that this event was planned, so our criminal investigation inquired into Peterson's motives and the time period preceding the killings. Our investigation did not indicate any accomplices.

 

We also had to investigate the time period between Peterson's fleeing of the murder scene and his death to determine whether he may have had any accomplices who unlawfully aided and abetted his escape or unlawfully interfered with his capture. The District Attorney has determined that no one should be charged for any activity relating to their interactions with Peterson between his killing spree and his death.

 

Finally, we had to investigate the shootings of Tyler Peterson. As I disclosed in October, a gunshot was fired by law enforcement. We know that law enforcement is all too frequently placed in a position where weapons must be discharged to protect their lives or the lives of others. But it is irresponsible to assume that every shot taken is a shot that should have been taken. So we had to investigate and provide information to the District Attorney so that he could determine whether there was anything about the shot from law enforcement that warranted action from his office. No charges will be filed. Second, all of the information available to us at that time indicated Peterson's death was caused by a self-inflicted wound. But we could not rest on that initial evidence, and we could not discount the possibility of foul play without first looking at the objective evidence. We had to conduct ballistics, firearms identification, and interview those at the scene. Today we can confirm that all evidence indicates Tyler Peterson ended his own life.

 

From beginning to end, the Crandon investigation was a comprehensive and thorough process comprised of multiple law enforcement agencies.

 

Almost twenty law enforcement and public safety agencies responded, taking some part in investigating the crime, controlling the scenes, assisting victims, providing medical aid, processing the scenes, or participating in the manhunt. I have asked my office to prepare a timeline of the day and three handouts that graphically depict law enforcement response and the investigation. They will be made available after this briefing on our web site.

 

It was the professionals at the Division of Criminal Investigation who led this comprehensive investigation, and I am going to let their statements describe the details of what the investigation revealed.

 

I want to take a brief moment to thank all of the employees at the Department of Justice, particularly, our agents at the Division of Criminal Investigation who worked on this case; staff at the Office of Crime Victim Services who have aided family members and met with the families yesterday and today; and employees at the State Crime Lab, who were involved in processing the scene and conducting forensic tests. I also want to thank the staff at DCI and Legal Services who put in extra time to prepare documents for release and this presentation on the demanding schedule I gave them.

 

They have all worked very hard. I am proud to lead a Department filled with such dedicated professionals.

 

I also want to thank all of the men and women in law enforcement who were involved in this case, many of whom put their lives at risk on October 7, and all of whose work enhances our safety every day. To all of them, the moment Tyler Peterson committed these unspeakable crimes was the moment he stopped being a cop and started being a fugitive criminal.

 

By December, our investigative work in terms of generating original reports and conducting forensics was accomplished. In January, DCI completed its analysis, we finalized the summary reports, and we supplied the documents to the District Attorney for his review. I wanted to be absolutely sure that if he did not request us to undertake further investigation, if he made a no-charge decision, then we would have documents available for release when we made today's announcement. I asked my staff to not wait for requests, but to prepare the investigative file for release while paying appropriate heed to the rights of crime victims and other valid interests.

 

I also asked my staff to gather for release more information than is typically retained in a DCI file. Just as I requested with the emergency 911 tapes in October, I took the unusual step of requesting for our custody, documents that DCI determined to be material that were prepared or maintained by other law enforcement agencies. Typically, when multiple agencies are involved and where those agencies create reports, DCI will review the report and document the review, but that original report is not kept in the file. That standard practice is the right one in most cases - for us, our law enforcement partners, and the public. But in this case, in the interest of the public and what I believe to be in the interest of the multiple agencies, I wanted to be in a position to release as much information as efficiently as possible. Many of the responding agencies that provided assistance in this case are small, some understaffed in terms of officers, to say nothing of administrative staff. If I could easily get to you the information generated by other agencies that you seek, then I hope this saves my law enforcement partners personnel time that would have otherwise been spent responding to public records requests.

 

My office also signed a waiver with the District Attorney that would allow us to release certain crime lab reports in this case that would otherwise be privileged under the law.

Thank you for attending.

 

PREPARED STATEMENT OF DCI ACTING ADMINISTRATOR, MIKE MYSZEWSKI

 

The Department of Justice - Division of Criminal Investigation led the investigation into the Crandon Shootings. DCI interviewed over 100 persons, collected over thirty written statements from public safety personnel, and reviewed the forensic and medical evidence collected by DCI, the State Crime Lab, the State Patrol, EMT's, and the Medical Examiner. Ultimately, DCI produced and meticulously analyzed over a thousand pages of reports. Over 30 DCI agents and supervisors were involved in the investigation. All of this information and DCI's summary was presented to District Attorney Stenz so that he could conduct his review and make a final decision as to whether any charges should be filed.

 

Some have wondered about why it took this amount of time to complete the investigation. Investigations of this nature and scope take considerable time to complete. It is not unusual for a multiple homicide investigation with multiple scenes to take several months to complete. Our work is thorough and deliberate. We knew that the victim's families and the Crandon community had considerable interest in seeing this investigation concluded. Therefore, we dedicated appropriate resources to ensure that the investigation could be concluded as soon as possible without jeopardizing thoroughness.

At the request of local officials, DCI was the lead investigative agency. This means that we were the agency in charge of gathering information about what happened that day and were responsible for supplying the District Attorney with our file and findings.

 

The information we are presenting now is based on that investigation.

 

Tyler Peterson spent the night of Friday, October 5, 2007, at his parents' house. His parents reported that he slept in but was in touch with them the next day. Shortly after 6 p.m. on Saturday, Peterson informed his father that he had plans for the evening.

 

Peterson then visited Jordanne Murray at the Eats and Treats Restaurant in Crandon. He was there for only a minute and appeared to leave angry.

Shortly before 8 pm, Peterson called Joshua Collette to ask him if he wanted to go shining deer. Collette said he declined and told investigators that Peterson sounded fine and said nothing about Jordanne Murray.

 

Around 8:30 to 8:45, Peterson met a group of people behind an apartment on North Lake Street. Peterson was invited to a drinking party at a different location, but Peterson declined, citing the fact that he was underage and was worried about getting into trouble with his police jobs.

But Peterson would drink. Between 10 p.m. and midnight, Peterson drove around the countryside shining deer with Matt Carothers and Katie Shampo. Carothers estimated that Peterson drank four or five beers during that time but did not get intoxicated. Peterson talked about going to Laona to see a girl and dropped off Shampo and Carothers at Carothers' cabin on Gibson Lane--the Kegley property.

 

Sometime shortly before 1:30 a.m. on Sunday morning, Peterson visited Mikala Smith and Ashley Cleereman at an apartment on North Lake Street in Crandon. Peterson watched television with the two women for a while and then left. Peterson did not seem intoxicated or upset. He did not mention Jordanne Murray.

 

Though occupied by activity throughout the night, Peterson sent several text-messages to Murray expressing his feelings for her and asking about their relationship. Murray responded that she needed time.

 

Shortly before 2 in the morning, Peterson called Cleereman and told her he was home and was going to bed. Cleereman said Peterson spoke clearly and seemed to be in a good mood.

 

But Peterson did not go to bed. At about 2:30 in the morning, Peterson went to Jordanne Murray's apartment on 201 North Hazeldell Avenue. Murray was home with Katrina McCorkle, Lianna Thomas, Lindsey Stahl, Bradley Schultz, Aaron Smith, and Charles Neitzel.

 

According to Neitzel, Peterson accused Murray of having a relationship with Smith. Murray told Peterson to leave and some of the occupants tried to push Peterson out of the apartment. Peterson struck McCorkle and pushed Murray over a couch. He then left and went to his truck, which was parked outside.

 

At his truck, Peterson obtained the AR-15 rifle that was issued to him as a member of the Forest County Tactical Team and attempted to re-enter the apartment. The front door was locked. Peterson forced the door open. Then Peterson, without speaking, opened fire, killing all who were present except Charles Neitzel. Neitzel was shot three times before attempting to play "dead."

 

While on routine patrol, Crandon Police Officer Greg Carter was the first officer on the scene. He heard shots and reported them to dispatch at 2:47 in the morning. Carter approached the North Hazeldell property in his marked squad car from the east and saw Peterson leaving, armed with the assault rifle. As Peterson moved from the apartment toward his truck, he saw Officer Carter's squad. Carter lost visual contact for a moment and suddenly Peterson sprayed Carter's car with multiple rounds. Officer Carter's windshield burst from the gunfire and windshield fragments struck the young officer in the face. Fortunately, the bullets missed Carter by a matter of centimeters. In a matter of seconds that must have felt like an eternity, Carter put his car in reverse, backed away from the gunfire, exited his squad car, moved to cover, and called into dispatch. As many of you may have heard, his call was picked up as background on an emergency 911 tape released days after the shooting.

 

I've been told that some have wondered why Carter didn't engage Peterson at that time. As a law enforcement officer with over thirty years of law enforcement experience, I can tell you real life isn't TV. Carter responded just as he was trained to respond. Carter was wounded. His vision was impaired. Peterson was more heavily armed and in a superior tactical position. Any of these factors obligated Carter to disengage. By doing so, Carter was able to radio into dispatch, giving authorities a positive identification. Peterson, too, knew that he had been identified and fled. By taking the actions he did, Officer Carter not only probably saved his own life, but he may have saved the lives of others. On the darkest of nights, Officer Carter was the brightest of stars.

 

During the subsequent processing of the crime scene, investigators recovered over dozens of fired .223 cartridges--the ammunition used in AR-15's--and no other caliber or fired cartridges. Bullets and bullet fragments recovered at autopsies were also .223's. This evidence, combined with Charlie Neitzel's statement, Officer Carter's observations, and admissions Tyler Peterson would make to his friends and family later Sunday morning, confirms Tyler Peterson acted alone.

 

During our investigation, we interviewed fourteen people who spoke to Peterson prior to the shooting. None of those people even suggested that Peterson gave any indication that he was planning to commit an act of violence.

 

After shooting at Carter, Peterson got in his truck and began to drive. Before arriving at the Kegley property at approximately 7:50 a.m., his precise whereabouts are not known. What we were able to gather during our investigation was that Peterson had multiple cell phone contacts with individuals in which he confessed to his crimes. For example, at about 3:45 a.m, Peterson left a message on his mother's cell phone, stating that he had done something very bad. At 4:40 a.m., Peterson called back, telling his parents that he would not be able to handle life in prison dealing with six life sentences. He refused to disclose his location, asking instead for his brother's contact information. He then called his brother twice, telling him that he had done something really bad, could no longer be a police officer, and that he could not go to prison. On the second call, he asked his brother for the best route to Stevens Point. His brother advised him to turn himself in - a message also repeated by his parents. He didn't drive to Stevens Point. Information that we've gathered indicates that he stayed in the Northwoods.

 

As a result of the multiple conversations they had with their son, Peterson's parents feared that Peterson would facilitate his own death. Though he did not tell them that he would kill himself, he did state that he would not shoot anyone else, even if they were shooting at him.

 

While driving, Peterson also spoke with Joshua Collette, who called him shortly after 6:30 in the morning. According to Collette, Peterson was emotional and admitted to killing six people. He told Collette that those at the Hazeldell apartment called him a "worthless pig," and he "snapped."

I understand that there has been some question as to why Peterson was not apprehended during this time period.

 

During the time period between the shootings in Crandon and his arrival at the Kegley property, law enforcement did not receive any reports confirming Peterson's whereabouts. Make no mistake, law enforcement was trying to locate him, and many law enforcement agencies, including DCI, were contacted by local officials requesting help. Throughout the early morning, law enforcement agencies from throughout the state were contacted, were en route, and were fanning out to protect communities and locate Peterson. Law enforcement faced uphill odds in locating Peterson.

 

Forest County alone is over a thousand square miles, with over 1,300 miles of road. Add in nearby counties of Oneida, Langlade, Vilas, and Lincoln, and law enforcement was faced with over 4,700 square miles of terrain and over 7,000 miles of road. This was ground not only to cover, but for out-of-county law enforcement to get to. Putting these numbers in perspective, Milwaukee County covers less than 250 miles, and the responding agencies were much smaller in personnel than in urban areas.

 

Further straining resources, numerous law enforcement personnel were securing the scene at the Hazeldell property and maintaining order. Further complicating matters was that Tyler Peterson knew law enforcement tactics. He knew the area very well and had access to law enforcement communications through the radio he kept in his truck. If police talked over the radio, Peterson would hear. Moreover, Peterson was actively giving misinformation to those he spoke with, proactively trying to throw law enforcement off of his trail. He told one contact that he was in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan when he wasn't. At approximately quarter to six, Peterson called the Vilas County dispatch and provided more misinformation.

Law enforcement wasn't able to get to Peterson while he was on the run. Instead, he stopped running - temporarily.

 

At approximately 7:50 a.m., Peterson returned to the Kegley property, where he had been eight hours earlier, before he was a killer, when he was just dropping off his companions after an evening of drinking beer and shining deer. Katie Shampo, Matt Carothers and Mary Kegley were there when Peterson arrived. Peterson told them "I did something real bad" and that he "just cracked." Peterson was urged to turn himself in. He told those present that he would. While there, Peterson turned the murder weapon over to Carothers and Kegley, but kept his pistol. While Peterson was at the house, David Houle and Stacy Shampo arrived, followed later by Ken Carothers.

 

Peterson did not turn himself in. At approximately 8:30 a.m., Tyler Peterson left to meet with his mother and grandmother on a country road. At the meeting, Peterson was shaking and stated he wanted to speak with the District Attorney but had to leave the area.

 

It was only shortly after Peterson left the Kegley house at 8:30 a.m. that law enforcement had contact with persons at the house, who told them Peterson had been there. Law enforcement had also received information that Peterson was at a property on Gibson Lane, but were given a different address than the Kegley's. Based on the latter information, Special Response Teams were deployed initially to Gibson Lane, but not directly to the Kegley house.

After his meeting with his mother and grandmother, Peterson returned to the Kegley house. At approximately 9:15 a.m., Mike Kegley made a 911 call informing law enforcement that Peterson was there. Because Special Response Teams had gathered or were en route to a nearby location, they were able to quickly get to the Kegley house, and by 9:27 a.m., tactical officers from Vilas, Oneida, and Langlade Counties began staging in the area. At about 9:30 a.m., Mary Kegley called 911 and confirmed Peterson was still armed. Shortly after that call, Mike Kegley called 911 and told the Crandon Police Chief that Peterson was aware law enforcement was there.

 

The next three hours were a stand off. Peterson ate, drank coffee and soda, and spoke to those at the house of his crime and other matters. Joining Peterson at the Kegley house were seven people. Though many were able to leave, Matt Carothers, David Houle, and Vincent Shubbe, Jr. remained at the house. Those leaving were questioned by law enforcement, who controlled the road leading to the Kegley house. Intermittently, throughout this time, Peterson continued to contact law enforcement personnel and also spoke with his father, who was at the command post. He wanted to speak to District Attorney Stenz, who was out of town.

 

At 12:04 p.m, District Attorney Stenz was able to call the command center on a taped telephone line from the Washington County Sherriff's Office. Over the course of about a twenty minute conversation, Stenz repeatedly attempted to persuade Peterson to make a "good decision" and to turn himself in. Peterson refused. Though he stated the people with him were in no danger, he referred to them as "collateral." He demanded that he be allowed to drive himself to Oneida County to turn himself in, while still armed, and with the people who were with him. Though Stenz made multiple attempts to persuade Peterson to disarm and let the people at the cabin go free, Peterson still refused. By this time, tactical officers had visual contact with Peterson.

Shortly after the phone call with Stenz ended, at approximately 12:25 p.m., Peterson spoke to Forest County Chief Deputy Ken Van Cleve on the telephone. Chief Deputy Van Cleve advised Peterson that tactical team members were deployed and that Peterson was not going to be allowed to leave.

 

PREPARED STATEMENT OF DCI SPECIAL AGENT AND LEAD AGENT ON CRANDON INVESTIGATION, BRADLEY KUST

 

Law Enforcement was under a standing order to not allow Peterson to leave containment. We knew that Peterson was armed and he was experienced with weapons. He had recently killed six people, shot another and shot at a police officer. All of these people were Peterson's friends. He refused to disarm. He told others that he could not go to prison. He was very familiar with the thick and expansive forest that surrounds the Kegley property. Multiple people - people he had sought out to speak with, friends, family and law enforcement - over the course of several hours, had encouraged Peterson to turn himself in. But he would not do so. Based on these circumstances, it was reasonable to believe that Peterson posed a serious danger to others if he were allowed to leave.

 

The tactical officers in the area were not able to assault the cabin at this time for a number of reasons. The difficult and unfamiliar terrain impeded the teams' ability to deploy and completely contain the scene. Additionally, irrespective of how the people with Peterson perceived themselves, as long as Peterson was armed, law enforcement had to treat those with Peterson as hostages. Based on the entirety of the information available to law enforcement at the time, in the professional judgment of those present, there was no moment when an assault could have been risked without the high potential for further loss of life.

 

At about 12:30PM, a tactical officer observed Peterson walking north towards the woods. As Peterson moved into the cover of the woods, knowing the threat that Peterson posed, the tactical officer fired a single shot at the last piece of Peterson's body he could see and, at 140 yards, struck Peterson in the left arm. The bullet passed through Peterson's left bicep.

 

Witnesses then heard two quick shots, followed a second or two later by a third shot. Officers approached Peterson, moved his pistol away from his hand, and handcuffed him. They then checked for signs of life and, determining that he was dead, removed the handcuffs.

 

It was determined that Peterson shot himself and caused his own death. First, powder burns were observed on his skin near the head wounds, consistent with contact or near-contact wounds. This was information that was released to the public in October. (2)After those announcements, interviews of attending law enforcement personnel and other individuals at the scene were completed. None stated that they saw another person shoot Peterson with a pistol. Third, bullet fragments were recovered from above Peterson's left eye and from the area around where Peterson fell. Metallurgy tests, returned in December, revealed that these fragments were consistent with the bullets that remained in Peterson's partially loaded pistol.

 

Since this event occurred, the question has been asked, "How could Peterson shoot himself three times in the head before dying?". In my eighteen years of law enforcement I have observed many non-fatal gunshot wounds to the head. In this case, the autopsy showed that the first two shots entered Peterson's chin, one exited his left eye, and the other lodged in his temple. These two shots caused extensive damage to the front of Peterson's head, but neither entered the brain or caused cerebral damage. It took a third shot, which entered the right side of Peterson's head, traveled through the brain and exited the left side of Peterson's head, to cause death.