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Triple killing at spa stuns Milwaukee suburb

A gunman kills three women and injures four others at a spa in Brookfield where his estranged wife worked. Police say he then killed himself.

October 21, 2012|By Matt Pearce, Los Angeles Times
  • Officers respond to a shooting at a spa in Brookfield, Wis., where police say a gunman killed three women and wounded four others before killing himself.
Officers respond to a shooting at a spa in Brookfield, Wis., where police… (Tom Lynn, Associated Press )

The signs of trouble around Radcliffe Haughton had been mounting.

On Oct. 4, police investigated the 45-year-old from Brown Deer, Wis., on suspicion of slashing his wife's tires in the parking lot where she worked at the Azana Salon and Spa in the Milwaukee suburb of Brookfield.

Police arrested Haughton, and his wife secured a temporary restraining order against him a few days later. Then, last Thursday, a court slapped Haughton with a four-year restraining order.

Brookfield Police Chief Dan Tushaus said Haughton returned to his wife's workplace Sunday morning with a gun and opened fire.

Three women died in the attack and four other women were injured, one critically, and their identities have not been released. Haughton, who Tushaus said set a small fire as police arrived, closed himself in a room and shot himself to death, authorities said.

The attack adds to the grim history of suicidal mass killings in the Milwaukee area in recent years. There was Terry Ratzmann in 2005, who in a Brookfield hotel not far from Sunday's shooting killed seven evangelical congregation members before killing himself. On another Sunday morning, Aug. 5, Wade Michael Page walked into an Oak Creek gurdwara, or temple, and killed six Sikhs before putting the gun to his head and pulling the trigger.

On Sunday night, members of the Sikh temple in Oak Creek, some of whom had gathered at the salon after news of the shooting spread, held a candlelight vigil for the victims as Wisconsin prepared to bandage the wounds from yet another multiple killing.

"Today's action was a senseless act on the part of one person," Brookfield Mayor Steven Ponto said at a news conference. "Try as we might, these can't be avoided, but we have to be prepared, and our police and fire departments were prepared."

According to Tushaus, who was also police chief during Ratzmann's 2005 attack, Haughton arrived at the salon in a cab before opening fire and scattering salon patrons in the multi-story, 9,000-square-foot building. Many hid and called police.

The salon became a logistical nightmare for police, who had to deal with a large building with many locked rooms and a small fire that Tushaus said Haughton had set, spreading smoke and tripping the automatic sprinklers.

"It could take days, weeks, to figure this all out," Tushaus said in a televised news conference. "This is a very large crime scene, a very confused crime scene."

Police sent bomb squads into the salon and to Haughton's home in Brown Deer, where several neighbors were forced to evacuate. Brown Deer police later said they didn't find any bombs and that they had located two of Haughton's daughters; their names were not released.

The Chicago Tribune reported that Haughton had a history of domestic violence in Cook County, Ill., where he grew up in the town of Wheeling and lived until about 10 years ago, according to two neighbors. Haughton was still under court supervision after pleading guilty Jan. 5 to a disorderly conduct charge there.

national@latimes.com

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