Community Unites Over Wausau Area Fatal Shootings

Some Say Tragedy Has Brought Community Together Like Never Before

Rick Reyer/WPR

A little more than a week after a shooting spree in northern Wisconsin, the Wausau area is still reeling from the incident that killed four people, including a police detective. Some say the tragedy has united the community like never before.

Ribbons decorate streetlights, money is being collected for the families of those killed and law enforcement agencies across the country are sending their support to the detective’s family.

Wednesday, March 22

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In the early afternoon of Wednesday, March 22, Everest Metro Police Det. Jason Weiland, 40, was gunned down at an apartment complex in Weston.

Weiland, a 15-year veteran of the police department, was helping law enforcement set up a perimeter around the apartment building to contain Nengmy Vang, the suspect in the two other shootings that had just occurred.

Two employees at Marathon Savings Bank in Rothschild — Karen Barclay, 62, and Dianne Look, 67 — reportedly died protecting a coworker from Vang, the coworker’s estranged husband. After the bank, Vang reportedly shot and killed Sara Quirt Sann, 43, the wife’s attorney, at the Tlusty, Kennedy and Dirks law office in Schofield.

Just before 5 p.m. Wednesday, another volley of gunshots rang from the Weston apartment complex. Vang, 45, was rushed to the hospital with nonfatal gunshot wounds after tactical officers at the scene provided emergency medical care.

The following day, Everest Metro Police Chief Wally Sparks held a somber news conference, where the chief had to leave the podium after becoming too emotional to continue speaking.

“Det. Weiland was well trained, and his brave response likely prevented other deaths,” Sparks said. “Jason was a phenomenal officer, and he was part of our family.”

Shocked And United

The shootings shocked the greater Wausau community and united it. Streetlights are decked in ribbons, blue for Weiland, and pink and red for Barclay, Look, and Quirt Sann.

Ribbons and flowers on a post outside the memorial service for Everest Metro Police Det. Jason Weiland. Glen Moberg/WPR

Among those reeling from the attacks are the region’s Hmong residents. Vang moved from Laos to the United States in 1988.

“This is an action taken by one individual, and it’s an act of evil,” said Kham Thong Yang of Wausau’s Hmong American Center.

Yang and other Hmong leaders are collecting money and encouraging Hmong community members to contribute to funds set up for the victims’ families at River Valley Bank and Intercity State Bank.

“That it was a member of the Hmong community who caused this, is terrible,” Yang said. “Regardless of what race the suspect is, to lose four of our community members, one of them being a police officer, is tragic.”

The shootings are being attributed to domestic violence since Vang is in divorce proceedings.

Shootings like this are not particular to any ethnic group or culture, said Jane Graham Jennings of The Women’s Community, Wausau’s domestic violence shelter.

“This is something that happens across every culture,” Jennings said. “People really need to be careful that they don’t attribute this to something and think, that doesn’t happen in my community, because it does.”

Jennings worries that because the victim’s coworkers and attorney were targeted, it may keep other women from seeking help and make others reluctant to help them.

“This happened because one individual felt he was entitled to hurt other human beings, and we have to stop that acceptance,” Jennings said.

‘I Miss You … I Love You’

A week after he died, Weiland was laid to rest. An estimated 3,500 people attended the memorial service, including hundreds of police officers from around the United States.

Lt. Joseph Giambrone of the Chicago Police Department joined officers from New York City, Fort Worth, Texas, and other locations as part of the Brotherhood for the Fallen, a group that provides support for the families of those killed in the line of duty.

“These officers pay the ultimate price for the freedom, for the country, for the members of society that will be the first ones to spit at them and speak ill of them,”
Giambrone said, as he stood in line to pay his respects Wednesday. “That they will stand there and defend them to their dying breath, that’s why we’re here for them.”

A line of people wait to enter DC Everhest High School for the visitation Tuesday, March 28, for Everest Metro Police Det. Jason Weiland. Glen Moberg/WPR

At the service at DC Everest High School, Weiland’s young daughter Anna thanked the law enforcement officers who were there for “protecting our country” and added, “that is just what my dad did.”

His longtime friend Wausau Police Capt. Greg Hagenbucher spoke about Weiland’s sense of humor.

“Jason, I miss you. You have graced my life more than you’ll ever know,” Hagenbucher said. “I love you. God bless our hero.”

Many at the service wore Green Bay Packers jerseys adorned with Weiland’s name and badge number, including Nate Owen, Weiland’s former roommate.

“He’s one of my best friends,” Owen said, choking back tears. The outpouring of support following the death of his longtime friend was gratifying, he said.

“It’s absolutely amazing,” Owen said, “Just the love that everyone is showing for my fallen friend. It’s just really remarkable.”

That afternoon, a slow moving procession of squad cars stretched for more than 2 miles. For those affected by the shooting, and the officers who serve them, there are still more miles to travel.