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Five dead are identified but reasons behind shootings are still unknown

CHIPPEWA FALLS — Chippewa County Sheriff Jim Kowalczyk said 33-year-old Ritchie G. German shot six people, killing four of them, before fatally shooting himself.

However, Kowalczyk is still looking for answers as to why the shootings happened at two separate locations in the town of Lafayette and in the village of Lake Hallie over the weekend.

“Why did this happen? What was the motive? I don’t have that answer,” Kowalczyk said at a press conference Tuesday in the Chippewa County Courthouse. “We’re still looking for that answer.”

German lived, at least part of the time, with his mother at a town home at 16964 54th Ave. in the town of Lafayette.

Kowalczyk identified the three people who died at that home as German’s mother, Bridget German, German’s 32-year-old brother, Douglas A. German, and Douglas German’s son, eight-year-old Calvin German. It is still unclear when they were killed. Kowalczyk suspects they were likely dead on Saturday morning, when Bridget German failed to show up for work at the Family Fare grocery store less than a mile away.

At 10:22 p.m. Sunday, German showed up at a home at 13578 45th Ave., where he fired 10 shots with a shot gun. He struck 51-year-old Teng Vang and 39-year-old Mai Chang Vang in the arms as they were trying to defend themselves. Both are expected to recover, but their injuries were so severe that the arm on each person that was shot needed to be amputated.

Their daughter, 24-year-old Laile Vang, was shot and killed.

Kowalczyk said that text messages between Ritchie German and Laile Vang indicate they had communicated in the past, and those texts were sexual in nature. However, neither Teng nor Mai Chang Vang had ever heard their daughter talk about German.

“Why is he going to a residence, where he’s armed, and probably never been before?” Kowalczyk said.

Law enforcement are still trying to learn more about the relationship between Ritchie German and Laile Vang.

“We have his phone; we have the phones of all the victims,” Kowalczyk said.

Kowalczyk said he is looking for information from anyone who has seen German, and if they know where he may have been between Saturday morning and Sunday night.

Ritchie German had one prior contact with law enforcement, in 2006. In that case, Bridget German had called police to say Ritchie had a gun and was pointing it at one of his brothers. By the time police arrived, Bridget had gotten the gun away from Ritchie German.

German was convicted of disorderly conduct and placed on probation for one year.

“The red flags in this case were all over,” Kowalczyk said.

Kowalczyk was able to reach Ritchie German’s father, Ritchie German Sr., on the phone and tell him about the shootings.

“He told his ex-wife not to give (Ritchie German) money to buy a .357,” Kowalczyk said.

Unclear how it began

Kowalczyk said it is unclear if Ritchie German had a job. He was always considered a loner with no friends, according to German’s relatives, Kowalczyk said.

“They indicated he was a troubled individual,” Kowalczyk said.

It is possible he lived in other areas, but he lived at least some of the time with his mother. Bridget German moved into that town home, just north of Highway 29 off Highway X, in 2004. Several family members have lived there with her, including Douglas and Calvin, as well as Ritchie German.

Bridget German, 66, worked at Family Fare, and was supposed to work Saturday. When she didn’t show up for work, the grocery store called the house and left a message. Ritchie German called back later and informed store employees that his mother was hospitalized and wouldn’t make it in.

“We believe Saturday morning, Bridget, Douglas and Calvin were already dead,” Kowalczyk said.

The manager at Family Fare said the business wasn’t going to make any comments about Bridget German.

The town home has four units. Neighbors in one of the units in the building also have young children, who would frequently play with Calvin. One of the children knocked on the door over the weekend and asked to play with the boy, but Ritchie German told the child that Calvin had gone shopping with his grandmother.

The timing of the shooting is still unknown. The neighbors interviewed Monday didn’t hear any unusual noises.

When police searched the home at 12:54 a.m. Monday, they located Bridget German in the basement. She was apparently shot and killed in a basement bathroom and dragged to an adjacent room. Douglas and Calvin were shot in the kitchen, wrapped in a sleeping bag, and dragged later to a bedroom area, Kowalczyk said. A hand gun, either a .38 caliber or a 9 mm, was used in their deaths.

Shootings in Lake Hallie reminiscent of Jayme Closs case

Ritchie German drove to the Vang house in Lake Hallie in his brother’s 2016 Kia Sorento. He got out of the car, leaving it running and pulled out a shot gun. He fired once at the door of the Vang home, causing it to open.

German first shot Teng Vang, Laile’s father, then Mai Chang Vang, her mother. Both put their hands up in a defensive position, Kowalczyk said.

Kowalczyk said the situation reminded him of the Jayme Closs case in Barron County because of the way the door was shot first, then the parents.

“What were his intentions, to take this young gal?” Kowalczyk said.

However, German wound up shooting and killing her before he shot and killed himself, Kowalczyk said.

Chippewa County chief deputy Chad Holum said the weapon was a pump shot gun; he wasn’t sure how many rounds it could hold. Holum said 10 spent shot gun shells were located at the scene.

Besides Teng, Mai Chang and Laile Vang, there were four other people in the house: three minors and an adult. Those four people hid in the back of the home, Kowalczyk said.

The shooting began at 10:22 p.m. Sunday. The Chippewa County Sheriff’s Office immediately received numerous calls about the shooting. The first Lake Hallie officer arrived at 10:28. In those six minutes, the shooting was over, with the two people dead and two injured.

“The scene was secured at this point,” Kowalczyk said. “The incident was over.”

It was at this point that the officers observed the Kia on the street, still running. When officers ran the plates, they saw it belonged to Douglas German, and the decision was made to go to that home for a welfare check.

Unknowns to many questions

Kowalczyk said he doesn’t know how Ritchie German and Laile Vang met. Text messages between them had occurred recently, but none on Sunday. Police were looking into an online presence for German, and if so, to see if he was communicating with Laile Vang through social media.

An autopsy of Ritchie German’s body was being performed Tuesday. Kowalczyk said that would indicate if German had any drugs in his system.

The sheriff department’s tip line is 715-726-4563, and Kowalczyk urged people to call if they saw Ritchie German at all between Saturday and Sunday.

“Could there be another crime scene? Most certainly,” Kowalczyk said.