Wisconsin Hair Salon Shooting
Sunday October 21 a 45 year old gunman killed his wife, two other women, and wounded four others at his wife’s place of employment. Radcliffe Franklin Haughton apparently committed suicide after his shooting spree in Brookfield Wisconsin.
A judge granted a restraining order in favor of Radcliffe’s wife Zina on October 8. Radcliffe was in court October 11 when he was served with the restraining order. The order prohibited Radcliffe from contacting Zina for four years.
Background information indicates the couple had marital problems for perhaps the previous two years. There are reports that Radcliffe and his wife dated others. In January 2011 Radcliffe held police at bay at his residence by pointing an object that resembled a long barreled rifle at the officers while Radcliffe was inside his home; he pointed the object out a window at the officers outside. On October 4, Radcliffe was identified by witnesses as the person who cut the tires on Zina’s vehicle. In her pleading to the court for an injunction, Zina said she was afraid that Radcliffe would kill her.
Radcliffe is reported to be unemployed. He apparently owes several bills. Radcliffe’s wife moved out; he was worried about where he would stay, apparently worried that he would lose his house. He attended college and his colleagues reported that he seemed depressed for the last month. Radcliffe approached a college professor for help but never followed up on the assistance offered.
At 11 a.m. Radcliffe took a cab to the hair styling business where his wife worked. There were signs on the doors warning the occupants to keep the doors locked, apparently an attempt to keep Radcliffe out. He gained access to the business and shot his wife and others. He chased one woman out of the store, then abandoned his pursuit and returned to the store and set a fire. He killed himself inside the store.
This unfortunate incident can certainly be classified as domestic violence. The incident is a good example of how domestic violence can spill into the workplace as workplace violence.
This incident illustrates many of the principles of threat assessment and threat management. We look for stressors and past coping behavior to predict future violence and dangerousness. Radcliffe apparently had several indicators of stress and potential violence that would be discovered in a risk assessment inquiry. He was unemployed and unable to find a job. He had debt that he could not pay. His marriage was failing. His wife left him. He reacted with violence to frustrations. He threatened violence if his wife did certain things, like contact the police. He was served with court papers prohibiting contact with his estranged wife. His behavior had changed in the last month; he appeared to be depressed. This recent change in behavior is a significant sign that the individual is under increasing stress and is losing the ability to cope with stressors.
Radcliffe certainly had a number of stressors in his life, and a history of at least threatening physical violence, and property damage. His wife was concerned to the degree that she took the unusual step of locking the doors of the hair salon during business hours as a means of protection from Radcliffe.
The press has made comments that an injunction is merely a piece of paper and offers no real security; there is merit in that philosophy. I have seen cases where the threat of future criminal sanctions was enough to make a threatener control his behavior. However, some individuals may be sufficiently challenged or embarrassed by a court order that they will direct violence against their spouse to demonstrate that no one can control their behavior. When considering asking for restraining orders, one must evaluate the benefits of the order and the risk that court action can actually increase the risk of violence. That evaluation is made by a risk assessment inquiry.