IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Woman claims rape by Wis. shooting suspect

A woman said a man suspected of opening fire on a group of young adults, killing three, had raped her the night before in the same northern Wisconsin woods where the victims were slain.
/ Source: The Associated Press

A woman said a man suspected of opening fire on a group of young adults, killing three, had raped her the night before in the same northern Wisconsin woods where the victims were slain.

The woman said she told her parents about the assault, and they reported it to authorities. She said officers came to her home late Thursday, mentioned the shootings that occurred earlier that day along a riverbank in the town of Niagara — near the same spot where she claimed to have been sexually assaulted — and asked her to describe her attacker.

The suspect, whom the woman described as a casual friend, was arrested Friday after he emerged from the woods following an all-night manhunt.

Scott J. Johnson, 38, was being held in jail Friday night to await an initial court appearance. He had not been formally charged in the shootings.

Authorities did not return calls seeking comment on whether the reported rape was related to the shootings. Jail officials did not know whether Johnson had an attorney.

'We just became friends'
The 24-year-old woman told The Associated Press in a phone interview Friday night that she met her attacker in December while shopping. The AP does not name people alleging sexual assault without their consent.

The woman said the two struck up a conversation and later bumped into each other occasionally in Kingsford, Mich. Kingsford and nearby Niagara are about 210 miles north of Milwaukee, along the Menominee River, which separates Wisconsin from Michigan's Upper Peninsula.

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

On Wednesday evening, the man she knew only as "Scott" stopped and asked if she wanted to go for a bike ride, she said, then he led her down a remote road to a place he had taken her about a month earlier without incident.

"Scott told me that a lot of teenagers go down there, but I didn't know anything about that," she said.

The place was along the Menominee River, near a railroad bridge, which the two crossed to reach the Wisconsin shore.

When they went into the woods, the woman said, the man shoved her to the ground and raped her as she tried to fight him off. They later walked out of the woods and back across the bridge and to their bikes, then rode away, she said.

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

Massive manhunt
Police came to her home the next night. "They wanted me to describe what this guy looked like," she said.

By then, a massive manhunt was under way for the gunman in the riverbank shootings. More than 100 law enforcers from at least 10 agencies searched for him.

Johnson was dressed in camouflage when deputies confronted him the next morning. He dropped his assault rifle as officers approached.

Authorities in Wisconsin's Marinette County listed his address as Iron Mountain, Mich. But a protection order that the woman obtained Friday morning against Johnson said he lived in nearby Kingsford, about four blocks from her.

The order prohibits Johnson from following the woman, appearing at her home or work, or threatening her. It includes details from the woman's account of the alleged rape.

Authorities have not released any information about Johnson.

A woman who answered the door at a Kingsford residence and identified herself as Johnson's mother said she was too distraught to speak with a reporter. "They're not telling me nothing," she said tearfully.

'Seemed like a normal, nice guy'
Johnson's accuser said she learned his last name Thursday afternoon by checking the address where she knew he lived with his mother and a brother.

The woman said she believed he was unemployed, and he told her he had joined the military after graduating from high school.

"Up until Wednesday night, he seemed like a normal, nice guy," she said.

Investigators have not determined a motive in the shootings.

Sheriff Jim Kanikula said there was no communication between the gunman and his victims. He said the shooter was only 7 to 10 feet from one victim when he fired.

The dead were identified as Tiffany Pohlson, 17; Anthony Spigarelli, 18; and Bryan Mort, 19. A fourth victim, 20-year-old Daniel Louis Gordon, was wounded. All were from Michigan.

About 250 people, many of them in their teens, attended a vigil Friday night at First Covenant Church in Iron Mountain.

Among them was 16-year-old Brittany Gunville, who said she was at the river with friends until about 15 minutes before the shootings. She said one of her friends, who was driving, had to leave.

"My friend had to work otherwise we would have still been there," she said as she and other young people hugged and consoled each other.