Wisconsin victims' families press for screening changes
Six people were killed by an off-duty deputy in October
By ROBERT IMRIE
CRANDON, Wis.— Relatives of six people killed by a young off-duty sheriff's deputy who then apparently killed himself called for required psychological screening, full training and a minimum age of at least 21 for anyone hired as an officer.
About 20 family members and friends on Sunday sat at a table behind pictures of those who were gunned down early Oct. 7 by 20-year-old Tyler Peterson after he showed up at their house party and tried to make up with an ex-girlfriend but was told to leave.
The parents of 20-year-old victim Aaron Smith said in a statement read on their behalf that Peterson was too "young, immature and obviously psychologically challenged" to be a law enforcement officer.
Peterson, who also was a part-time Crandon police officer, never underwent psychological testing to work in law enforcement. Anyone 18 or older can become a police officer in Wisconsin, and the state doesn't require mental evaluations. He also had an assault-type weapon as a SWAT team member.
The victims' families advocated changing the law to require written and oral psychological testing before anyone can be hired as police officer.
They also said that prospective officers should be at least 21 and possibly 23 before going on the job, and that no officer should be hired until completing full training and schooling.
They also want continued evaluation of officers, suggesting that they undergo mental-health screening once every six months.
As for SWAT team members, they said their weapons should be kept in a more secure place, with some accountability.
Cody Schultz, the brother of 20-year-old victim Bradley Schultz, read the statement on behalf of the Smith family. He also read statements on behalf of several other victims' families, describing their children as loving, ambitious, caring and with unfulfilled dreams.
Three state lawmakers were at the meeting, and a state bill is in the works to take up issues the families raised.
"From my heart to your heart, we will try to rectify the situation and take a bad situation and try to make some good out of it," said Rep. Ann Hraychuck, a former sheriff.
The meeting was monitored by attorney Ginger Murray, a former Crandon city attorney who said the families asked her to participate. She would not say whether the families planned any legal action.
"They are being made aware of their legal rights," she said.