Wisconsin gunman named, could be charged in two states

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Map of the Menominee River.
Image: Kmusser.

The man who police allege killed three young adults may face charges in two states.

Scott J. Johnson, 38, stands accused of killing three Michigan residents and leaving a fourth wounded Thursday night.

Both the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and the Associated Press report that Johnson allegedly either raped or sexually assaulted a Michigan woman the day before the shooting.

“I think he felt like a trapped animal after (the sexual assault), and decided to do something stupid — not stupid — horrible,” Johnson’s mother, Judy Johnson, told the Journal Sentinel. “They (authorities) came here yesterday saying they were looking for him. They left a card and said to let him know they were looking for him. They said he talked about committing suicide. Obviously, he didn’t.”

Johnson has not been formally charged with any crime and will be arraigned either Monday or Tuesday, the Associated Press reported Friday. Neither the Detroit Free Press or the Journal Sentinel mention either a sexual assault or rape in their story.

The Journal Sentinel, the Associated Press and New York Times name all four victims: Tiffany Pohlson, 17, of Norway, Anthony D. Spigarelli, 18, of Kingsford, and Bryan Mort, 19, of Iron Mountain. Daniel Louis Gordon, 20, of Kingsford survived with minor injuries, according to a Friday news conference by the Marinette County Sheriff’s Department.

According to the Associated Press, who spoke to the rape victim by phone Friday, Johnson was a casual acquaintance, whom she had met in December.

"We just became friends — not good friends, just friends," the woman told the Associated Press in the phone interview. "If he rode past on his bike, if he saw me working in the garden, he would stop and say hi."

The night before the shootings, the 24-year-old woman (who the AP did not name) alleges that she and Johnson rode on bicycles to the railroad bridge where the shooting occurred. Johnson had been to the bridge with the woman before with out incident.

The woman says that Johnson then raped her, while she tried to fight back. She was unsuccessful and the woman says she rode back to town with Johnson.

"I was trying to act as calm as I could," the woman told the Associated Press. "I didn't want to try to run away. Who knows what he would have done if I did?"

She reported the alleged assault and after the shooting, local authorities asked the woman for a description of Johnson. By this time the manhunt had started, involving over 100 different officers from more than ten separate agencies.

Though police have not released much information on Johnson, according to the Associated Press, a restraining order placed on Johnson by the rape victim list his address in Kingsford, about four blocks from where the woman lives. Authorities have said Johnson lived on nearby Iron Mountain.

The Journal Sentinel, the Free Press, the New York Times and the Associated Press all report that Johnson had served in the military, though only the Journal Sentinel provided details. Press reports also state that Johnson used a military-style assault rife during the shooting and carried a knife.

“A random killing like this is something that we see on TV and think fortunately we live here, we don’t have to worry about that,” Perry Franzoi, manager of Breitung Township, on the Michigan side of the river told the New York Times. "This is something that is going to be very, very difficult for the community to overcome, because these were kids that were killed for no apparent reason.”

The Journal Sentinel reports that a over 200 people gathered at the First Covenant Church in Iron Mountain said a pastor from Maranatha Assembly of God Church in Kingsford.

Among the mourners was 16-year-old Brittany Gunville, who told the Associated Press that she was at the river until about 15 minutes before the shootings. She left to get a ride home with a friend.

"My friend had to work otherwise we would have still been there," she told the Associated Press.