Reflecting on Middleton workplace shooting one year later

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MIDDLETON (WKOW) — Thursday marked one year since a shooting at the Middleton software company, Paradigm.

On Sept. 19, 2018, officers responded to Paradigm after authorities say an employee in the building stood up from his desk and started shooting. Officers shot and killed Anthony Tong after they say he started shooting coworkers. Four people were hurt.

Since that frightening day, the officers who responded were honored, Paradigm renovated its space and employees worked to move forward in a positive way.

“And if you want to call it that I’m calling them out, then I am,”  Middleton Police Chief Charles Foulke tells 27 News.

Foulke says last year’s workplace violence at the software firm prompted ramped-up active shooter readiness at his department.  He says there’s now access to more sophisticated blueprints of businesses in Middleton, to include building locations for police to direct employees to safety and detailed exit routes.

Foulke and other Middleton Police staff have shared lessons learned from the 2018 shooting response at training sessions in Dane County and across the state.

Sgt. Tyler Loether, a fellow officer, and two Dane County Sheriff’s deputies used legally justified deadly force to end Tong’s violent spree. He says training allowed him to address the threat that day, and it remains a priority.

“We need to stay ahead of the game and tactics are always evolving,”  Loether says.

Sgt. Darrin Zimmerman entered the scene of the violence with Loether and says others affected by workplace shootings must be considered in their aftermath.

“That’s the message we keep sending: you might be training to deal with something like this, but think about your families at home.  They’re going through this just as much as you are,”  Zimmerman says.

“As a police operation, this went remarkably well,” Foulke says of his officers’ response.  “And yet it’s still been very, very traumatic for our staff.”

Loether says he’s been able to cope well but remains on guard.

“We know that PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) can creep up months or even years later, so just because things might be well now, there might be something that could trigger down in the future,”  Loether says.

“We need to stay on top of that and as law enforcement in general,  we need to be able to talk about that.”

Foulke sent a message on Thursday:

A year ago today, Middleton became yet another community affected by an active shooter. Without provocation or warning, an employee of Paradigm stood up from his desk and began indiscriminately shooting at his co-workers. Because of the brave reactions of Paradigm employees, prompt response and decisive actions by law enforcement, and remarkable medical care by Emergency Medical Services and Hospital staff, no one died that day other than the shooter.

Nevertheless, the actions of that shooter forever affected the lives of Paradigm employees, their families, friends, our community and first responders.

The shooter in this case was not allowed to legally purchase or possess a firearm, but obtained numerous firearms through a loophole in our laws. He ordered gun parts over the internet and manufactured his own firearms, a method referred to as building ghost guns.

When I became a police officer 38 years ago, I swore an oath to protect the Constitution and protect the members of my community. I believe that closing gun law loopholes and enacting common sense gun laws on a federal and state level support those responsibilities that I take so seriously.

I ask our federal and state elected officials to close firearm law loopholes like ghost guns and gun show sales. I ask them to enact universal background checks, red-flag laws, to ban weapons of war such as assault rifles and high capacity magazines and to reinstitute a 48 hour waiting period to purchase firearms. These are commons sense gun laws, supported by a majority of our citizens and they do not infringe on the rights of people to legally purchase and possess firearms.

For those who look at these proposals and say they would not prevent a mass shooting event, I simply reply that the status quo is doing nothing to stop them.

I wrote a letter to the community a year ago, after the Middleton shooting. I commented that w e cannot let this be the new normal. How profoundly mistaken I was. It is the new normal, and it is not acceptable.

Elected officials, you have the power to make a difference, now have the courage.

 

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