The Chippewa Valley made the national news for all the wrong reasons this week.
Tragic homicides in Lake Hallie and the town of Lafayette left five people dead — including the suspected shooter, Ritchie G. German — and another two severely injured.
A neighbor in Lake Hallie reacted to sounds that should be relegated to hunting grounds and shooting ranges, not residential neighborhoods.
“As soon as I went to bed, I heard popping,” Barbara Potts, who lives across from the Lake Hallie home where one woman was killed and her parents were injured, told the Leader-Telegram’s Chris Vetter.
“I thought it was fireworks; they go off here all the time. It was right after that that police and ambulances were everywhere.”
A story at Esquire.com led with the local shooting and others the same weekend in Gilroy, Calif., and Philadelphia. The total: Nine dead and 17 injured.
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The weekend’s violence likely will bring renewed attention to guns — and, more specifically, gun control — in this country.
“So far, our answers to this epidemic — security guards, active shooter trainings for kindergarteners — are nothing but Band-Aids on bullet wounds,” reads a New York Daily News editorial. “Stop pretending otherwise. When troubled individuals can easily acquire the means to kill and maim en masse, America’s gun laws need serious surgery.”
The Los Angeles Times offered a particularly disturbing observation: “As a nation, we’ve become slowly accustomed to such senseless violence, with attacks on houses of worship, on schools, at workplaces and on family members.”
But we can’t become numb to such incidents. Mental health issues and access to guns is a combination that too often proves lethal.
Potts might have send it best.
“It’s horrible,” she said. “I don’t think people should have guns when they’re angry.”
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German, 33, is suspected of killing his mother, brother, nephew and himself. At the time of this writing, his connection to the Lake Hallie victim was still being hashed out. Aside from rekindling the gun issue, the massacre also points to a growing need in this country to address mental health problems.
At a news conference Tuesday, Chippewa County Sheriff Jim Kowalczyk said, “Prevention is the key” and “Red flags in this case were all over.” German had been convicted of disorderly conduct for an incident in 2006 and placed on probation for one year. Officials pointed out that the current case shares some similarities to the abduction last year of Jayme Closs.
“I spoke to most of his siblings and most of them did indicate he was a troubled individual,” Kowalczyk said.
And we can all play a role in lowering the odds of such tragedies transpiring. In encouraging the reporting of suspicious behavior, Kowalczyk said, “One of my major concerns is that we don’t get the call until after it happens.”
“A lot of times people say, ‘Well, you know, I should have called you but I didn’t want to bother you,’” he added. “No, you call us. We would rather address an issue before it takes place than after it when we have to pick up the pieces and put it back together.”
— Liam Marlaire, assistant editor