BROOKFIELD, Wis. (AP) — A Wisconsin man accused of opening fire at the salon where his wife worked, killing three women and wounding four others, had a history of domestic abuse, with allegations that he had slashed his wife’s tires a few weeks earlier, police said.
Radcliffe Franklin Haughton damaged his wife’s tires on Oct. 4, Brookfield police said. She sought court protection four days later, and a judge granted a four-year restraining order on Thursday. As part of the order, Haughton was prohibited from owning a firearm.
Brookfield Police Chief Dan Tushaus declined to elaborate on the circumstances of whether Haughton had surrendered any weapons prior to Sunday’s salon rampage. Tushaus also said he wasn’t immediately aware of a motive.
“I can tell you we’re not seeking additional suspects,” he said at a news conference Sunday evening. “The community can feel safe.”
The shootings set off a confusing, six-hour search for the gunman that locked down a nearby mall, a country club adjacent to the spa and the hospital where the survivors were taken. The search froze activity in a commercial area in Brookfield, a middle-to-upper class community west of Milwaukee, for much of the day. Ultimately, Haughton was found dead in the spa after killing himself.
Authorities said it would take time to sort out exactly what happened, and emphasized they were still interviewing witnesses and rescuers and didn’t have a firm timeline of events. At Sunday’s news conference, Brookfield Mayor Steve Ponto called the shootings “a senseless act on the part of one person.”
The chaos started around 11 a.m. at the Azana Day Spa, a two-story, 9,000-square-foot building across from a major shopping mall. The first officers on the scene found the building filled with smoke from a fire authorities believe was set by Haughton, 45, of Brown Deer, Tushaus said.
They also found a 1-pound propane tank they initially thought might be an improvised explosive device, Tushaus said. That slowed the search of the building as law enforcement agents waited for a bomb squad to clear the scene.
Tushaus said later that police didn’t know whether the gunman brought the propane tank to the spa or whether a contractor left it.
The search was also complicated by the layout of the building, with numerous small treatment rooms and several locked areas, Tushaus said. While officers initially thought the gunman had fled the building, they later found his body in one of the locked areas, he said.
The bodies of the victims were also found in the spa. Tushaus said investigators were still working to identify them. He said the four survivors were between the ages of 22 and 40. He didn’t know if they were employees at the spa or customers, and it wasn’t clear if the man’s wife was among the victims.
Haughton had recently been arrested after witnesses identified him as the person who slashed his wife’s tires, police said.
Haughton’s father, Radcliffe Haughton, Sr., spoke to The Associated Press shortly before police announced that they had found his son’s body. In telephone interviews from Florida, he said he had last spoken to his son a few days ago, but didn’t have any indication anything was wrong. He begged his son to turn himself in.
After learning of his son’s death, he said only: “This is very sad.”
A sea of ambulances and police vehicles converged on the scene shortly after the shooting. A witness, David Gosh of nearby West Allis, told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel he was returning from duck hunting with his father and a friend when he saw a woman emerge from the spa, screaming, as she ran into traffic.
“She ran right out into the street and was pounding on cars,” Gosh told the newspaper. Moments later, a man with a handgun ran out. He appeared to be chasing the woman but then went back inside, Gosh said.
At the hospital where the victims were taken, staff members were escorted inside during a temporary lockdown. Officers were stationed at entrances, and critically injured patients were admitted with a police escort.
The hospital released a statement saying two women had undergone surgery, and one was in critical condition. Another was expected to have surgery Sunday night.
The shooting investigation and manhunt paralyzed a normally bustling shopping district. Inside the mall across the street from the spa, people waited patiently for updates. Gina Kralik, a bartender at Red Robin Gourmet Burgers, said people had been allowed to leave at one point but then police had decided not to let anyone come or go from the mall.
“We’re just sitting watching the news and also trying to find out what’s going on,” she said about 3 p.m.
Austin Della, 17, was working at a department store in the mall when he heard announcements over the loudspeaker asking people to move their cars out of one parking lot. The mall was then locked down for almost three hours, he said, and customers joked about the good service they would get as the only clients in the store.
“Everyone was really calm,” Della said. “If not for all the announcements, I don’t think anyone would have known that anything was happening.”
It was the second mass shooting in Wisconsin this year. Wade Michael Page, a 40-year-old Army veteran and white supremacist, killed six people and injured three others before fatally shooting himself Aug. 5 at a Sikh temple south of Milwaukee.
Sunday’s shooting took place less than a mile from where seven people were killed and four wounded on March 12, 2005, when a gunman opened fire at a Living Church of God service held at a hotel.
Associated Press writer Steve Karnowski in Minneapolis and researcher Lynn Dombek in New York contributed to this report.
Dinesh Ramde can be reached at dramde(at)ap.org.