911 calls tell horror of Wisconsin church slaying
Greg Zamis of Aurora, Ill., puts up crosses for the victims of a shooting outside the hotel in Brookfield where a gunman opened fire during a church service being held at the hotel, killing at seven people before killing himself.
Jeffrey Phelps / The Associated Press

BROOKFIELD -- Tapes of calls to 911 released Monday reveal the pandemonium that swept through a weekend church service as a gunman killed seven people, with victims frantically using their cell phones to describe the carnage and call for help.

The wounded screamed, survivors cried, and many invoked the Lord's name.

"He was putting in another magazine when I ran out the door," said one man, who fled the Sheraton hotel in this Milwaukee suburb to a nearby Sears department store.

"He was getting ready to open fire again."

"One, two, three, four, five," said one woman, counting the wounded lying on the bloody floor.

Another woman called when it was all over.

"Oh my God."

"Oh my, one of my friends is laying on the floor. I think she's dead. Oh this is awful."

Churchgoers knew the killer, who fired 21 bullets on the congregation, before shooting himself in the head.

One even named him in the frantic call for help.

"Terry Ratzmann. He's one of the members."

"He's dead. He shot himself."

In the end, seven victims were killed, four were injured and the killer was slumped against the back wall.

Police said Ratzmann, 44, had gone to church services for many years. On Saturday, people saw him prior to the service with his briefcase before he left for a while.

They didn't see him again until about 20 minutes after the service began, when he walked into the back of the room and opened fire without warning.

Police said Monday they found the briefcase, with his Bible in it, at his home two miles away.

Now police are focusing on his connection to the Living Church of God for the reason behind the shooting, which occurred on the church's Sabbath.

"We believe that the motive has something to do with the church and the church services more so than any other possible motive," Brookfield police Capt. Phil Horter said.

Police say Ratzmann, a computer technician, may have targeted his pastor's family during the shooting. The pastor and his teenage son were killed, and his wife was one of four wounded.

Investigators are now focusing on a Feb. 26 service that Ratzmann walked out of before he was scheduled to give the closing prayer, Horter said.

One witness said he left in a huff.

Charles Bryce, the church's national administration director, who arrived in Milwaukee to console the victims, said he was told the sermon was about "basic Christian living" and did not see what specifically upset Ratzmann.

"That's something we just don't know. I don't know whether we'll ever know," Bryce said.

A friend who used to drive Ratzmann to services in the 1980s said it wasn't uncommon for Ratzmann to storm out of services.

"When he was angry he wouldn't talk. If there was something he disagreed with, he would walk out of services," said Janet Brantzeg, 64. "I've seen him do it."

Relatives of the victims and other church members gathered Monday night at an American Red Cross office in Pewaukee for consolation and to discuss a possible joint memorial service.

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Church member Tom Geiger, 56, who lost his nephew Bart Oliver in the shooting, said he knew Ratzmann more than 20 years and was aware he had problems, but he doubted a particular sermon could have sent him into such a rage.

"There was no way you could have predicted this could have happened," he said.

He said Ratzmann struggled off and on with an internal battle. "He lost a spiritual battle. He went over to the dark side," he said.

Roger Schultz, 66, of Greenfield, a member of a related church in Milwaukee, said more than 100 people attended the gathering, which included readings from the Scriptures and discussion about plans to hold services next Saturday, but not at the hotel where the shooting happened. He said there was no decision on where the services would be held.

Investigators ruled out Ratzmann's impending loss of a job as a probable motive.

A project Ratzmann was working on for GE Healthcare that began in June was to run out March 25. Ratzmann was informed in an e-mail in February that the contract would end, but his contracting agency, Adecco, said it would look for other work for him, Waukesha County District Attorney Paul Bucher said.

"There was nothing sinister. He wasn't being terminated," Bucher said.

Fifty to 60 people were at Saturday's weekly meeting.

The church's minister, Randy L. Gregory, 51, and his son, James Gregory, 16, of Gurnee, Ill., died, along with Harold Diekmeier, 74, of Delafield; Richard Reeves, 58, of Cudahy; Bart Oliver, 15, of Waukesha; Gloria Critari, 55, of Cudahy; and Jerry Miller, 44, of Erin.

Marjean Gregory, 52, of Gurnee, was hospitalized in critical condition. Matthew P. Kaulbach, 21, of Pewaukee, and Angel M. Varichak, 19, of Helenville, were hospitalized in satisfactory condition Monday morning, according to Froedtert Memorial Lutheran Hospital. Dr. Karen Brasel said they were all expected to recover.

A 10-year-old girl police identified as Lindsay was released Sunday from the hospital.

Horter said Ratzmann appeared to have fired randomly at some victims but may have targeted the Gregorys. He said Ratzmann bought the 9 mm handgun at Waukesha gun store last June and had gone shooting with a member of the congregation on at least one occasion.

Associated Press writer Ryan Nakashima contributed to this report from Milwaukee.


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