Some circumstances of the five fatal shootings near Chippewa Falls Sunday night, July 28, appear somewhat similar to the Barron County case involving Jayme Closs, according to Chippewa County Sheriff James Kowalczyk.
At a press conference on Tuesday afternoon, July 30, Kowalczyk said alleged gunman Ritchie German Jr., 33, of the town of Lafayette, near Chippewa Falls, left “certain items found in the vehicle (he was using) that led (investigators) to compare the case” to the October 2018 murders and abduction in Barron.
According to information released at the press conference, Kowalczyk said there were text messages sent between the alleged gunman and one of his victims, Laile Vang, 24, of the town of Hallie, “some of which were sexual in nature.”
The sheriff said investigators are checking how the two got each other’s numbers and why they were texting since the families did not know each other.
Kowalczyk said it was possible German Jr. went to the house with the intent to kidnap Vang. Kowalczyk said when German Jr. first texted Vang, she did not know who he was.
The shootings began earlier in the weekend, when the gunman shot his mother, Bridget German, 66; his brother, Douglas German, 32; and Douglas’ 8-year-old son, Calvin German. Earlier reports gave a different last name for the boy.
Kowalczyk told reporters he believes Bridget, Douglas and Calvin were already dead on Saturday morning. He said the gunman called his mother’s place of work, Family Fare in Lake Wissota, on Saturday and said his mother would not be at work because she was sick and in the hospital.
The sheriff said a neighbor boy who plays with Calvin went to the home on Saturday and asked if Calvin was home. Ritchie Jr. told the neighbor boy that Calvin was with his grandmother and had gone shopping together.
The scene shifted to the town of Hallie home Sunday night. There, Mai Chang Vang, 39, and Teng Vang, 51, were shot in the hand or arm. Both had to have an arm amputated as a result of the shooting. They are expected to recover.
Kowalczyk said when German Jr. got to the Lake Hallie house, he left the vehicle running, got out of the vehicle and shot a round from a shotgun through the door of the home.
The sheriff said German Jr. was approached by Teng Vang and Teng Vang was shot in the hand. Shortly thereafter, Mai Vang approached the shooter and was also shot in the hand. A total of 10 spent shotgun shells were found at the scene.
Laile Vang and the gunman also died at the Vang home, Kowalczyk added.