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Wis. lawmakers criticize cops in spa shooter case

Thursday - 11/1/2012, 9:13am  ET

By CARRIE ANTLFINGER
Associated Press

MILWAUKEE (AP) - Wisconsin legislators sent a letter to a suburban Milwaukee police chief accusing his department of allowing a man who fatally shot his wife and two others at a spa to elude accountability in his past run-ins with the agency.

The letter asks for an independent and transparent investigation of the Brown Deer Police Department's interactions with Radcliffe Haughton and the department's domestic violence policies and practices. Haughton opened fire on Oct. 21 at the Brookfield spa where his wife, Zina Haughton, worked before killing himself.

The letter, signed by 10 Democrats and two Republicans, accuses the department of not upholding Wisconsin's mandatory arrest law in domestic violence cases on two occasions they think Radcliffe Haughton should have been arrested. The letter also criticizes Chief Steven Rinzel for blaming the victim, Haughton's wife, for not cooperating with police.

"Your department's duty to uphold the law should not, and does not, hinge on the actions of the victim," the letter reads. "You must stop implying that the victim was to blame for the failure of your department to make an arrest, and for the sake of other victims in Brown Deer and throughout Wisconsin you must correct your inaccurate and damaging statements," the letter read.

Lawmakers say the investigation is necessary due to the "lack of appropriate oversight" of the department by the village's police commission.

Messages left for Rinzel, Village Manager Russell Van Gompel and Village President Carl Krueger were not immediately returned Wednesday.

Court records show Haughton, 45, had terrorized his wife for years, including threatening to throw acid on her face, dousing her car with tomato juice and slashing her vehicle's tires.

Officers went to the Haughton's Brown Deer home 20 times over the past decade, including at least seven visits to investigate possible domestic violence, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel has reported.

During a January 2011 standoff mentioned in the letter, officers thought they saw Haughton with a rifle and set up a perimeter around the house. They ordered Haughton to surrender, but he refused, and the officers left after 90 minutes without arresting him.

Rinzel has said officers left because they weren't sure Haughton had a gun, thought he was alone and didn't think he posed a danger. Rinzel also said Zina Haughton refused to cooperate, said she wasn't afraid and hadn't been injured.

The letter says that more recently, Haughton bruised his wife's face but still wasn't arrested.

Rep. Terese Berceau, D-Madison, was the lead author of the letter, with signatures also from Rep. Penny Bernard Schaber, D-Milwaukee, Sen. Spencer Coggs, D-Milwaukee, Rep. Tom Larson, R-Colfax, Rep. Chris Taylor, D-Madison, Rep. Andre Jacque, R-Bellevue, Rep. Jon Richards, D-Milwaukee, Rep. Sondy Pope-Roberts, D-Verona, Rep. Kelda Roys, D-Madison, Rep. Sandy Pasch, D-Whitefish Bay, Rep. Christine Sinicki, D-Milwaukee and Rep. Tamara Grigsby, D-Milwaukee.

Schaber and Sen. Lena Taylor, D-Milwaukee, have said they plan to re-introduce a bill designed to ensure that perpetrators of domestic violence comply with judges' orders to surrender their weapons.


(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)