|The suspected gunman, Radcliffe Franklin Haughton, 45, of Brown Deer, Wisconsin, is pictured in this undated handout|
A gunman opened fire at the suburban Milwaukee beauty salon where his spouse worked on Sunday, killing three people and wounding four others before taking his own life, police said, two weeks after he was accused of slashing his wife’s car tires.
The suspect was identified as 45-year-old Radcliffe Haughton, a resident of Brown Deer, Wisconsin, who had been placed under a restraining order and directed to surrender his firearms to local authorities this month in connection with a domestic abuse case involving his wife.
“We believe this incident was domestic violence-related,” Brookfield Police Chief Daniel Tushaus said at a news conference.
All three of those shot to death at the Azana Salon & Spa were female, Tushaus said. Their ages and identities were not immediately provided, and the police chief would not say whether Haughton’s wife, who was a spa employee, was among the victims.
Haughton was found dead of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound at the crime scene, police said.
The Wisconsin shooting followed an October 4 incident in which Haughton slashed the tires on his wife’s car, leading to his arrest on suspicion of vandalism, Tushaus said.
Four days later, his wife was granted a temporary restraining order against Haughton related to domestic abuse in Milwaukee County, Tushaus said. On October 18, a court injunction was issued barring Haughton from possessing firearms, and he was ordered to hand over any weapons he had to the county sheriff.
Milwaukee County authorities were not immediately available for comment.
Haughton also was cited for misdemeanour disorderly conduct, described as domestic abuse, stemming from an incident on January 8, 2011. That charge was dismissed on June 15, 2011.
Sunday’s shooting erupted at about 11 a.m. local time, according to police.
Joe Brent, a 26-year-old Milwaukee man, said he was leaving a fast-food restaurant near the salon when he heard a gunshot. Within about 2 minutes, a policeman entered the restaurant and told everyone to leave, he said.
He added that as he was getting into his car he saw a woman who appeared to be in her 20s with a bloodied paper towel on her neck being rushed from the salon and onto a stretcher. “She was screaming. She was hurt real badly,” Brent said.
Four female gunshot victims ranging in age from 22 to 40 were rushed to Milwaukee’s Froedtert hospital. Their conditions were not immediately known, though the hospital said two of the victims had surgery.
The suspect’s father, also named Radcliffe Haughton, spoke to Milwaukee television station TMJ-4 before the suspect was found dead. The elder Haughton expressed his family’s apologizes for whatever “misdeeds” his son had committed.
“This is not the way we live. This is not the way I raise my son up,” Haughton said. “He has been a good member of society. I don’t know what happened.”
The first police officers to arrive on the scene found smoke in the building and a small fire in the hallway, which they believe was started by the suspect. Police also found a one-pound propane tank, but do not know if the suspect left it there. A nearby shopping mall was placed under a security lockdown immediately after the shooting as a precaution.
President Barack Obama was informed of the shooting at 1:30 p.m. EDT, according to a statement from the White House. The statement said that the president and first lady Michelle Obama’s “thoughts and prayers” were with the victims.
Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker issued a statement calling the shooting another example of the “senseless acts of violence” that occur across the country.
The last few months have been marked by a string of mass shootings in the United States. On September 27, a disgruntled former employee killed six people and took his own life in a shooting rampage at a Minneapolis sign company from which he had been fired.
In August, two people were killed and nine wounded in a work-related shooting near the Empire State Building in New York City. The Manhattan incident followed mass shootings in a Colorado movie theatre that killed 12 and wounded 58 and a Sikh temple in Wisconsin that claimed seven lives, including that of the gunman.
Nationally, there were 458 workplace homicides in 2011 and 518 in 2010, according to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data.