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Wife in Wisconsin spa shooting saved others' lives, witness says

Beautician Zina Haughton, wife of the shooting suspect, didn't shield herself — she approached the gunman and tried to de-escalate the situation, her client says. 'She was a hero.'

October 23, 2012|By Carlos Sadovi, Ryan Haggerty and Matt Pearce
  • Police officers examine items from the scene of Sunday’s shooting rampage at the Azana Salon and Spa in Brookfield, Wis. Among the three women killed was Zina Haughton; police say the gunman was her husband.
Police officers examine items from the scene of Sunday’s shooting… (Darren Hauck, Getty Images )

BROOKFIELD, Wis. — Zina Haughton wasn't supposed to see or hear from her husband for four years. But when he walked into her workplace with a weapon, she gave her life trying to save others, a witness says.

Radcliffe Haughton, a 45-year-old former Marine, had slashed his wife's tires and fought with her in their Brown Deer, Wis., home, court records say. According to a petition for a restraining order she filed in Milwaukee County on Oct. 8, he had threatened to throw acid in her face, douse her with gasoline and set her on fire.

"His threats terrorize my every waking moment," Zina Haughton, 42, said in court papers. "He said he would kill me if I left him or ever contacted the police."

Which is what happened less than two weeks later, police say, when Radcliffe Haughton walked into the Azana Salon and Spa in Brookfield on Sunday and shot seven women, killing three, before fatally shooting himself.

In response to his wife's petition, Haughton was prohibited from owning a firearm and ordered to stay away from her for four years.

No guns were found in his home after the rampage, Brookfield police said. But according to Brown Deer police, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives said Haughton had bought a .40-caliber handgun from a private citizen Saturday. It was unclear whether he used this weapon.

Betty Brunner, 65, said she had an 11 a.m. appointment Sunday with Zina Haughton, a beautician. They were chatting about Haughton's two daughters, 13 and 20, she said.

Haughton was getting Brunner a cup of coffee when a tall man entered the shop with a revolver. "He spun, and when he spun, he pointed the gun directly at the reception desk and he yelled, 'Everybody down, everybody down!'" Brunner said.

Instead, Haughton approached the man, Brunner said.

"Zina walked up to the reception desk, kind of shielding the young receptionist and said, 'What do you want?'" Brunner told the Chicago Tribune in an interview.

Haughton spoke to the man as though he was a stranger, calling him "sir," she said.

Brunner recalled her saying, "Anything we can give you, anything you want? These are good people, they're just here. This is a peaceful place."

Then the man grabbed Haughton's arm and pulled her away from the reception area, yelling again, "Everybody down, everybody down!"

He took Haughton around a wall, where other women were, Brunner said. "That is when all the shooting took place."

As the man came back to the reception area, Brunner lay very still and watched him get what she thought was additional ammunition from a backpack.

There was a woman in front of the reception desk who was bleeding from her knees, Brunner said. He asked her to show him the way to the second floor of the spa.

"She said, 'I am so sorry, sir, I can't; I'm shot. I can't stand up.'"

Brunner watched him go up the stairs alone.

Soon, fire alarms and sprinkler systems were activated when, police say, Radcliffe Haughton set a fire as they arrived, then shot himself to death.

As SWAT teams arrived, Brunner ran out to a parking lot in bare feet.

"I want to emphasize how very brave Zina was, because she was a hero," said Brunner of Jackson, Wis. "I'm sure she saved a lot of lives by trying to de-escalate the situation. She was just brave and courageous throughout the whole thing."

On Monday, the Waukesha County medical examiner identified the other two women slain in the attack as Cary L. Robuck, 35, of Racine, Wis., and Maelyn M. Lind, 38, of Oconomowoc, Wis., both beauticians. The Froedtert Memorial Lutheran Hospital in Milwaukee said one of the wounded had been released and the other three were in satisfactory condition.

Brown Deer police said they had responded to the Haughtons' home several times since 2001, including for domestic violence. The most serious incident, police said, was January 2011, when Zina Haughton called 911. But when officers arrived, she said her husband didn't have any guns and refused to allow police to enter.

Officers said they thought they saw Radcliffe Haughton pointing what looked like a gun barrel at her from inside the house. After a 90-minute standoff, they left without arresting him but referred the case to prosecutors. It was later dropped.

Radcliffe Haughton was arrested Oct. 4 on suspicion of harassing his wife at the salon. Days later, she sought the restraining order.

Haggerty reported from Brookfield, Sadovi from Chicago and Pearce from Kansas City.

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