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|Police Focus on Religion in Milwaukee Shootings
By JODI WILGOREN
Published: March 15, 2005
The police said Monday that they were increasingly focused on religion as the motive for a man's murderous rampage through a
church service on Saturday at a suburban Milwaukee hotel, promising a full investigation even though the killings ended in suicide.
The local pastor of the Living Church of God, Randy L. Gregory, who was killed along with his 16-year-old son, appears to have been
executed, the authorities said, while others among the seven dead and four injured were shot at random.
An earlier theory that the gunman, Terry Ratzmann, may have been upset about losing his job has been discarded after the police
found that he had long known his contract as a computer technician for GE Healthcare would end on March 25. The authorities also
said they found no evidence to support church members' reports that Mr. Ratzmann, 44, suffered from depression, and said that he
was not on medication.
So while they remain unable to explain why Mr. Ratzmann stormed out of services two weeks before - or even whether the sermon that
upset him was given via videotape by the church's international leader, Roderick C. Meredith, or by Mr. Gregory - the police see the
little-known church as the key.
"We believe that the motive has something to do with the church and the church services more so than any other possible motive,"
Capt. Phil Horter of the Brookfield, Wis., Police Department said at a news conference on Monday. "We're looking at the church totality,
whether it's members of the church, members of the hierarchy of the church, the sermons of the church," he added.
Investigators are combing through some 1,000 e-mail messages and other files, about 70 of them encrypted, on three computers
seized from the home where Mr. Ratzmann lived with his mother and sister, and one from his office. A message left on the
Ratzmanns' answering machine on Monday was not returned.
"You're looking for logic in an illogical act," the Waukesha County district attorney, Paul Bucher, told reporters on Monday.
The Living Church of God, an offshoot of a sect seen by some as a cult, the Worldwide Church of God, is a fringe group that advocates
literal adherence to the Bible, observes a Saturday Sabbath, rejects the Holy Trinity concept and frequently focuses on a coming
apocalypse. The national director of church administration, Charles Bryce, disputed reports about Mr. Ratzmann's angry departure
from the Feb. 26 service but declined to discuss that week's videotaped sermon.
"We are a peaceful church," said Mr. Bryce, who flew to Wisconsin from the church's headquarters in North Carolina on Sunday to
counsel local church members.
The police said Monday that Mr. Ratzmann purchased the 9-millimeter handgun used in Saturday's shootings last June. They said he
was seen at the hotel on Saturday morning holding a briefcase, and apparently returned home, where the briefcase - containing a
Bible - was found, before bursting into the hotel ballroom brandishing the handgun 20 minutes after the 12:30 p.m. service began.
Mr. Gregory and his family are believed to have been targets, the authorities said, while others were hit randomly. Four victims,
including the Gregorys, died of single gunshots to the chest, while the others were shot two to four times each.
Tapes of several 911 calls from church members reveal chaos, with people wailing and screaming in the background.
"Many, many, many, many fired, shot," a breathless man told the operator, struggling to get out the name of the hotel where the
shooting occurred, and mistakenly identifying it as a Marriott, rather than a Sheraton. "I don't know how many were shot, a lot of them."
One woman identified Mr. Ratzmann and even said he had been depressed.
"Oh my, oh no, oh no, oh no, Gloria is dead, oh no, oh no, oh no, there's at least - how many are on the floor? - 5 to 10," the woman
says. "Five to 10 at least, oh my, one of my friends is laying on the floor, I think she's dead. This is a massacre."
Gloria Critari, 50, was indeed among the victims identified Sunday.
"All of a sudden we heard bang like a firecracker, but it was so loud and then again and again," the woman continued. "My husband
pushed me down to the floor, my son. We all went to the floor, everybody.
"Right after this we're having a potluck and then an entertainment show this evening," she added. "I think it's all on hold."
Erik Gunn contributed reporting from Milwaukee for this article, and Maggie Jacobus from Brookfield, Wis.