His name is Radcliffe Haughton
Let's remember who the bad guy is.
His name is Radcliffe Haughton. A man who abused and threatened his wife to the point where she felt compelled to go to court to seek protection. A man who, despite a restraining order, bought a gun and hunted her down at her place of work Sunday in Brookfield. In the course of killing her, her murdered two others who had the misfortune of being in his homicidal path. He wounded others, and might've taken out more had the rest in the building not had the presence of mind to flee. He set a fire.
And then, in the all too predictable way of the coward of his ilk, he killed himself before he could face society's wrath and the system's justice.
As should be the case, our watchdogs are looking for ways in which the tragedy could've been prevented. Warning signs. Brushes with the law that could've led to an incarceration that might've taken Radcliffe off the street before he gunned up. Was he "in the system" in terms of psychiatric care, and could a counselor somewhere have put him away before he acted out? Such investigators are becoming part of a process we are sadly getting all too accustomed to.
Did someone screw up? Was Radcliffe given a pass by the Brown Deer police who admit to having had several encounters with he and his wife at their home including one that included a standoff that ended only when officers decided, for whatever reason, to simply go away even thought he might have some sort of a weapon? Most of us haven't worn a badge, haven't had to weigh into a fight between a man and woman in their place of residence. Ask any cop, though, and they'll tell you such situations are among the most dangerous, fraught with the most peril as we saw again Tuesday night in Waukesha with an incident involving an elderly couple. It's easy to second guess, even more so when the Brown Deer police chain of command chooses, at least at this point, to address questions via news release instead of face to face. It is said that sunshine is the best disinfectant, and a few rays couldn't hurt in this case. Perhaps Wednesday morning's Journal/Sentinel analysis of the BDPD's handling of Radcliffe, a story in which experts rip the agency's tactics, will prompt some sort of a direct explanations.
Restraining orders aren't bulletproof, and gun laws aren't flawless. Radcliffe turned in his weapons, authorities say, then violated the court's orders and bought a gun from a private party, a person who broke no law and who I can't imagine is feeling very good about Sunday's turn of events. Would an earlier domestic violence arrest and conviction done anything to thwart Radcliffe who showed, time and again, little regard for law? If he ignored a restraining order, what makes us think he would've obeyed a probation officer?
It's Radcliffe who didn't heed the law. It's Radcliffe who thought the best way to handle his situation was to torment, threaten, and in the end, resort to the trigger. His crime is heinous, and an aggrieved public demands explanations, if not a "villain" other than the obvious one. How could something so awful and so random happen again, just 77 days after another angry ball of rage exploded at the Sikh Temple in Oak Creek, and seven years after an angry churchgoer turned on fellow parishioners at a hotel just down the street from the scene of this weekend's carnage? It couldn't be as simple as an unhinged man with twisted motives and murderous intent, unimpeded in a quest to do as much harm as he could before he himself couldn't stand being in his own skin? I'm no psychiatrist, but I've seen it too often, where great crimes defy simple explanations, even when that's all we're sadly left with.
Fingers may and probably will be pointed in the days and weeks ahead. Discipline could be handed out in hindsight. Courts may get involved. Judges may have to decide if someone or something failed the victims on another Sunday that started so beautifully and ended so saturated in innocent blood.
No matter what happens in the time ahead, don't forget who the ultimate bad guy is.
His name is Radcliffe Haughton.