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Wisconsin workplace shooting suspect had revoked gun permit

UPDATED: Fri., Sept. 21, 2018

A woman is escorted from the scene of a shooting at a software company in Middleton, Wis., Wednesday, Sept. 19, 2018. Four people were shot and wounded during the shooting in the suburb of Madison, according to a city administrator. (Steve Apps / Wisconsin State Journal)
A woman is escorted from the scene of a shooting at a software company in Middleton, Wis., Wednesday, Sept. 19, 2018. Four people were shot and wounded during the shooting in the suburb of Madison, according to a city administrator. (Steve Apps / Wisconsin State Journal)
By Todd Richmond and James Nord Associated Press

MIDDLETON, Wis. – The gunman in a Wisconsin workplace shooting was taken to a mental health hospital and barred from purchasing firearms in 2004 after telling South Dakota police that he thought co-workers were “talking bad about him,” according to court records and police.

Anthony Tong also said he believed his neighbors were spying on him after officers were called to his Sioux Falls apartment to investigate a disabled fire alarm. Officers handcuffed Tong for their own safety because he was acting delusional and paranoid, and seized a pistol and an AR-15 rifle from his home, according to South Dakota court documents.

Tong, who was fatally shot by police after opening fire on his co-workers Wednesday at a software company in Middleton, had lived in South Dakota until moving to the Wisconsin city early last year.

Middleton Police Chief Chuck Foulke said during a news conference Friday that Tong had no criminal history but did have “contact” with police in South Dakota in 2004 that involved a mental health issue. Foulke cautioned against concluding that mental health was an issue in the Wednesday shooting at WTS Paradigm’s Middleton headquarters. The attack seriously injured three people, and a fourth person suffered a graze wound.

Foulke said police still don’t know what motivated the attack.

“He came to work that day on a normal basis and was working when this happened,” Foulke said. “I just don’t know. Motive is the huge thing that everybody wants to know.”

In the South Dakota case, a detective said in an affidavit that Tong initially wouldn’t let officers inside his home but acknowledged he had disconnected the fire alarm. He eventually let officers inside his apartment, where they found ceiling fans, lights and smoke detectors dismantled. Tong told police he disabled the electronics because he thought residents in the apartment below him were eavesdropping on him.

Officers then handcuffed Tong and seized the pistol, which was in his belt, as well as an AR-15 rifle and ammunition in a bedroom. Tong also told police that people at work were “talking bad about him” but refused to explain.

He was taken to a mental hospital for 24 hours. A state judge revoked his concealed-carry permit that November.

On Friday, Foulke said Tong moved from South Dakota to Wisconsin in March 2017, a month before he started his job at WTS Paradigm. The chief said he didn’t know how Tong was making a living in South Dakota but assumed he came to Wisconsin for the WTS Paradigm job.

The police chief said the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives was trying to track down the origin of the 9mm semiautomatic pistol used in the Wednesday attack at the company – but was running into problems with the trace.

“There’s something unique about that weapon that they’re having trouble finding out where it came from and what hands it passed through,” Foulke said.

He declined to elaborate. But he said Tong shouldn’t have been able to legally buy a gun.

Authorities also said Friday that the conditions of the three seriously wounded workers had improved. The woman and two men have been upgraded from serious to fair condition at University Hospital in Madison, according to UW Health.

Police don’t know if the victims were targeted or shot at random. Their names haven’t been released.

Officers were called to WTS Paradigm in Middleton, a Madison suburb of about 17,440 people, just before 10:30 a.m. on Wednesday. Foulke said officers arrived within 8 minutes of receiving emergency calls and found a man wielding a semiautomatic pistol. Foulke said the man was also carrying extra magazines.

Two Middleton officers and two Dane County sheriff’s deputies exchanged gunfire with Tong, killing him. The officers and deputies were not hurt, according to police.

WTS Paradigm makes software for the building products industry. A Wisconsin State Journal profile from 2014 listed company employment at about 145 workers and noted the company was looking to move to a larger location at the time.

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