(MCT) — MILWAUKEE—This time it wasn’t a church.
But the result of Sunday’s shooting rampage, at a prominent salon and spa in Brookfield, was all too familiar:
Three people murdered, four others injured, and a lone gunman dead by suicide.
In the Milwaukee area’s second mass shooting in less than three months, a 45-year-old Brown Deer man — a husband, father, homeowner and ex-Marine — turned the Azana Salon and Spa near Brookfield Square into a killing ground.
Dead are three women, all shot as Radcliffe F. Haughton stormed through the salon bent on killing his wife, an employee there. About a dozen people were in the building at the time.
Police wouldn’t say Sunday whether Haughton’s wife, Zina, was among the dead.
But it appears she was the target. Just two weeks ago, she got a restraining order placed on Haughton after he showed up at Azana and slashed the tires of her car.
Sunday evening, Brookfield Police Chief Daniel Tushaus said it appeared that Haughton’s shooting spree was rooted in domestic violence.
The killings occurred only a half mile from the 2005 murders of seven people by a gunman who opened fire at a church service, and 11 weeks after a mass shooting at the Sikh Temple in Oak Creek left another seven dead.
The former crime was the work of a religiously devout church member who came mentally unhinged. The latter apparently was motivated by ethnic hatred. This one seems to have been personal.
Haughton had sent signals recently of possible trouble.
About the time the restraining order was issued, he posted on his Facebook page: “Need to get out of Wisconsin, HELP *”
Not long afterward, he told his father — who warned him not to do “anything stupid” — that he had to leave the state.
And a Google Plus page linked to Haughton includes a bizarre photograph of a man who appears to be him, pointing what looks to be a weapon at the camera.
Outwardly, Haughton’s life in some respects appeared to be on solid ground. He had worked as a salesman of pricey imported cars, and he and Zina had owned their Brown Deer home — a ranch house in a middle-class neighborhood with neatly raked lawns — since 2002.
They shared the house with their 13-year-old daughter and with Zina’s 20-year-old daughter from a previous relationship.
But in suburban Chicago, where he grew up, Haughton accumulated a misdemeanor criminal record, being convicted twice of marijuana possession in the ’90s and earlier this year of disorderly conduct, The Chicago Tribune reported.
In Milwaukee County, he was charged last year with disorderly conduct, but the case was dismissed after a key witness didn’t show for the trial, online records show.
Sunday, Brown Deer Police Chief Steven Rinzel said his department has had contact with Haughton — most recently in the past few weeks — and been called to his home.
Haughton took a taxi Sunday to Azana, a two-story building at 200 N. Moorland Rd. He got there about 11 a.m., toting his weapon — police haven’t said what kind of gun or guns he used — and a black-and-white backpack.
Katie O’Rourke heard the gunshots ring out. She and another massage therapist were upstairs, with clients. They had no idea where the shooter was, but they knew they had to act.
They took the massage tables and turned them into barricades against the unlocked door, doused the lights, turned off the piped-in music and crouched in fear in the dark, windowless room for nearly 45 terrifying minutes.
Speaking in whispers on her cell phone, O’Rourke, 23, of Wauwatosa, called 911. At first, the operator told her to leave the building — a two-story, 9,000-square-foot structure carved up into many small rooms. O’Rourke didn’t like that idea.
“I didn’t know where the shooter was,” she said.
She said the 911 operator tried to keep her calm, that help was coming. O’Rourke told the operator what she could hear in the building.
She and the others heard the sprinklers go off in the hallway — Haughton had started a fire — but sat tight.
“We didn’t even know if the building was on fire,” O’Rourke said.
After nearly 45 agonizing minutes, police got to the women’s room.
“The operator was talking to the officers outside the door,” O’Rourke said.
She and the other three opened the door, then made for the exit.
“We all held hands, and got out of there as fast as possible,” she said.
As they fled, O’Rourke said she stepped over a lifeless body on the first floor. Nearby, she saw another victim, apparently dead, on the floor.
“I don’t even know how to describe it,” she said of her experience. “It was scary. It was something else.”
Others also were terrorized.
One woman fled, screaming, into traffic on Moorland Road.
“She ran right out into the street and was pounding on cars,” said David Gosh of West Allis, who had been returning from duck hunting earlier Sunday with his father, John, and a friend, Ben Luedke.
Gosh said that moments later, a man with a handgun ran out and appeared to be chasing the girl.
Just then, Gosh said, police began streaming to the scene, and the gunman, seeing them, ran back into the building.
John Gosh said he then saw two women come out of the building who had been shot. Both were bloody, he said; one appeared to be shot in the leg and the other appeared to have been shot in the back.
Another bystander, Christopher Pfeiffer, of Pewaukee, saw a young woman run barefoot and frantic through the Brookfield Square parking lot.
“She was screaming, yelling, crying hysterical. She was pleading for help,” Pfeiffer said. “She kept saying, ‘My mother was shot.’”
The four women wounded by Haughton — ages 22, 30, 32 and 40 — were taken to Froedtert Hospital in Wauwatosa.
All are expected to survive, hospital officials said Sunday evening. The women were not identified.
One of the four was undergoing surgery early Sunday night and was in critical condition. A second had already undergone surgery, and was in satisfactory condition. A third was stabilized, and scheduled for surgery later Sunday night. A fourth did not require surgery, but was admitted, hospital officials said.
Details of the injuries, including the number of times victims were shot, were not provided. Dr. Gary Seabrook, director of surgical services, said four patients were brought to the hospital “with multiple gun shot wounds to their extremities.”
Tushaus said police got the first call — “shooting in progress” — at 11:09 a.m.
When officers got to the salon they found three women dead at the scene, and helped evacuate the other victims as well as others who were inside the building — about a dozen in all, the chief said.
There was smoke in the building from a small fire in a hallway that they believe Haughton started. Also in the building was a one-pound propane tank, but Tushaus said it was unknown if Haughton had brought that to the salon, or if it had been left by contractors who were working at the site earlier.
It took police hours to make sure that the building was clear. The process was painstaking because of the many small rooms at the salon, and because officers didn’t know Haughton was dead.
“We methodically did a search of that building expecting to encounter the suspect,” Tushaus said at a news conference. “That’s what took us so long....We were expecting an armed encounter if we did come across him.”
Sympathy for the victims poured in Sunday. Many people posted comments on Azana’s Facebook page.
Owner Tami Gemmell issued a statement thanking those who had reached out.
“We are devastated by this tragedy and remain in shock over how this could have happened,” she said. “Please know that our first concern is for the victims and their families, and for our Azana family. We are grieving over the loss of our colleagues, their families and we are praying for those who are still fighting for their survival. We appreciate that you have many questions, and I will be available tomorrow to answer what I can, but tonight, we need to tend to each other.”
As Pardeep Kaleka knows too well.
His father was among those killed at the Sikh Temple in August, and the sorrow Kaleka endured led him to a new role — as a volunteer grief counselor with the Salvation Army.
He was at his church when the organization texted him: More people had been shot, and he was needed.
So on another sunny Sunday morning, not so different from the day his father died, Kaleka was in Brookfield, consoling others. Some told him they’d been in the salon and heard the gunshots.
“I told them they’d hear gunshots echoing for a long time,” he said.
(Journal Sentinel reporters Georgia Pabst, Don Walker, John Fauber, Karen Herzog, Crocker Stephenson, Meg Jones, Paul Gores, Ellen Gabler, Jim Nelson, John Diedrich and Bill Glauber contributed to this report.)