Brief

UPDATE: Suspect in judge’s death declared dead, DOJ reports

By: - June 7, 2022 6:00 am
Police scene crime tape set on long exposure moving down with zoom lens

Mark Strozier (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

The suspect in Friday’s killing of a retired judge is dead, the Wisconsin Department of Justice (DOJ) reported Tuesday.

Douglas K. Uhde “was declared legally brain-dead on June 4, 2022, at 9:41 a.m.,” according to an update that DOJ distributed at 1 p.m. Tuesday. “His body remained on life-support until today to allow for organ donation.”

The Juneau County medical examiner’s office has now pronounced Uhde dead, DOJ said in a statement. Until the statement, authorities had described Uhde’s condition as “critical.”

Uhde is believed to have shot himself Friday morning after shooting retired Judge John Roemer, 68, in Roehmer’s New Lisbon home in Juneau County. Juneau County Sheriff’s Department deputies were sent to Roemer’s home Friday morning after a report of gunshots by a caller who had been in the house and managed to get out. A report on WISN-TV Channel 12 in Milwaukee identified the caller as Roemer’s son, who told neighbors his father had been killed.

According to the DOJ, there were “failed attempts to negotiate” with Uhde, who remained in the home. A tactical unit broke into the house, where they found Roemer zip-tied to a chair, according to WISN, and dead from a gunshot. Officers found Uhde, 56. in the basement with a gunshot wound that authorities said was self-inflicted, along with an unidentified firearm. 

Uhde was hospitalized Friday in critical condition, and DOJ identified him as a suspect in Roemer’s shooting death.

During a brief on Saturday, Attorney General Josh Kaul described the incident as a “targeted” killing. Authorities found a list of names that Uhde is suspected of drawing. “The individual who’s a suspect appears to have had other targets as well, appears to be related to the judicial system,” Kaul told reporters.

The list reportedly included Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers as well as Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, both Democrats, and Kentucky Sen. Mitch McConnell, a Republican and the U.S. Senate minority leader, according to several news outlets quoting unnamed sources. Whitmer’s office also confirmed that she was among those listed, the Michigan Advance reported.

Asked about the incident at an event on Saturday, Evers told reporters that “a judge from a rural county is targeted and murdered, it’s just abhorrent to our judiciary and to leadership in our state and our county.”

Evers said he wouldn’t comment on details of the investigation. “It’s a horrible situation,” he said. “I grieve for him. I grieve for his family. And God, we can do better than this in Wisconsin.”

Kaul’s office said there was “no immediate danger to the public,” which would suggest that authorities believe Uhde acted alone.

Online Wisconsin court records show that Uhde, who has a criminal and prison record going back more than two decades, was sentenced by Roemer in 2005. The prison sentence was on a burglary and weapons conviction from 2001.

A former public defender and later prosecutor, Roemer was elected judge in 2004 and reelected in 2010 and 2016, retiring in 2017.

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Update: This report was updated Tuesday, 6/7/2022, at 1:25 p.m. following a DOJ announcement that Uhde had been pronounced dead.

CorrectionAccording to a DOJ spokesperson, the incident is not being investigated as potential domestic terrorism, and a statement that it was has been deleted.

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Erik Gunn
Erik Gunn

Deputy Editor Erik Gunn reports and writes on work and the economy, health policy and related subjects, for the Wisconsin Examiner. He spent 24 years as a freelance writer for Milwaukee Magazine, Isthmus, The Progressive, BNA Inc., and other publications, winning awards for investigative reporting, feature writing, beat coverage, business writing, and commentary. An East Coast native, he previously covered labor for The Milwaukee Journal after reporting for newspapers in upstate New York and northern Illinois. He's a graduate of Beloit College (English Comp.) and the Columbia School of Journalism. Off hours he is the Examiner's resident Springsteen and Jackson Browne fanboy and model railroad nerd.

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