The parents of four young people killed by a sheriff's deputy and the lone survivor of his shooting spree last year claim in a lawsuit that the gunman's law-enforcement superiors were negligent in supervising him and giving him access to weapons.
The lawsuit filed in Forest County Circuit Court also claims authorities knew Deputy Tyler Peterson, 20, had a history of violence, yet gave him too much decision-making responsibility.
Peterson was also a part-time Crandon policeman, and the lawsuit names Crandon Police Chief John Dennee, Forest County Sheriff Keith Van Cleve and their insurance companies as defendants.
Peterson killed his one-time girlfriend Jordanne Murray and five other people during a party at her home in Crandon on Oct. 7, 2007. Authorities have said Peterson was angered by the idea that Murray was dating someone else.
After breaking down the door, Peterson fired at least 30 shots from an AR-15 assault rifle he was issued as a member of the Forest County Sheriff's SWAT team. Peterson shot and killed himself hours later after police efforts to get him to surrender failed.
He killed Murray, 18; Bradley Schultz, 20; Lindsey Stahl, 14; Aaron Smith, 20; Lianna Thomas, 18; and Katrina McCorkle, 18. Charlie Neitzel, 21, was shot three times but survived by playing dead.
The parents of Schultz, Stahl, Thomas and McCorkle joined Neitzel in the lawsuit.
According to the lawsuit, Dennee and Van Cleve had been warned that Peterson was a "violent person and a danger," and they knew that Peterson had abused Murray.
None of the complaints against Peterson were investigated, the lawsuit said, adding that the sheriff and police chief failed to protect the public from the dangers posed by Peterson.
Van Cleve and the city attorney for Crandon did not immediately return telephone messages Monday. The sheriff's dispatcher who answered a call for the Crandon Police Department said Dennee was not in his office Monday afternoon.
The city of Crandon and Forest County earlier denied the families' claims seeking more than $5 million in damages. Those decisions opened the door for the civil lawsuit.
The two insurance companies named as defendants in the lawsuit are the League of Wisconsin Municipality Mutual Insurance and Wisconsin County Mutual Insurance Corp.