Mary Annette Pember
Indian Country Today
GREEN BAY, Wis. — A man who shot and killed two people and wounded a third at a northeastern Wisconsin tribal casino restaurant before police killed him had been fired from the eatery and banned from the property, authorities said Monday.
Brown County Sheriff's Lt. Kevin Pawlak said investigators believe the gunman was seeking a specific person he was angry at.
“He was targeting a specific victim who was not there, but he decided to still shoot some of the victim's friends or co-workers, it appears,” Pawlak said.
Brown County Sheriff Todd Delain identified the victims and gunman during a press conference Monday. The victims are Ian Simpson, 32, Jacob Bartel, 35. Daniel Mulligan, 35 was wounded and is in critical condition at a hospital in Milwaukee.
The gunman was Bruce K. Pofahl, 62, of Brown County.
He shot Simpson and Bartel at a waiter station at close range with a 9 mm handgun as dozens of patrons looked on, the sheriff said during the news conference. Pofahl then went outside and shot Mulligan, another restaurant employee.
The sheriff defended the officers’ decision to fire on Pofahl, saying “certainly this individual was a threat.”
Pofahl was a former employee at the Duck Creek Bar Grill located inside the Radisson Hotel. The hotel is connected to a conference center and casino operated by the Oneida Nation on the western side of Green Bay, with the casino tweeting that an active shooter was on the scene.
According to Delain, Pofahl's employment was terminated earlier this year and he was barred from entering the property. At least one employee also had a restraining order against Pofahl but Delain did not provide details.
The attack happened around 7:30 p.m. Saturday. Pofahl entered the restaurant and walked immediately to the waiters station where he opened fire. There were about 50 patrons in the restaurant at the time of the shooting.
"That complex is a busy place; there were several hundred people in various locations," Delain said.
A wedding reception was taking place in the conference center at the time of the shooting. Many people barricaded themselves inside the building according to Delain.
Ernie Stevens Jr. chairman and spokesperson for the National Indian Gaming Association told Indian Country Today he and his wife were on their way to the restaurant in the Radisson Hotel when the shooting occurred.
"We had to get out of the way, police were coming from all directions," said Stevens, a citizen of the Oneida Nation.
Jawad Yatim, a witness, said he saw at least two people shot.
“I know for sure two, because it happened right next to us, literally right next to us,” Yatim said. “But he was shooting pretty aggressively in the building, so I wouldn't doubt him hitting other people.”
Yatim said the shooting began in a casino restaurant.
“We got the hell out of there, thank God we're OK, but obviously we wish the best for everybody who's been shot,” he said.
Attorney General Josh Kaul tweeted shortly before 10 p.m. that the scene was “contained. There is no longer a threat to the community.”
Gambler Max Westphal said he was standing outside after being evacuated for what he thought was a minor issue.
“All of a sudden we hear a massive flurry of gunshots — 20 to 30 gunshots for sure,” Westphal told WBAY-TV. “We took off running towards the highway ... There had to have been 50 cop cars that came by on the highway. It was honestly insane.”
Pawlak said authorities called for a “tactical alert” after receiving the report of an active shooter. That “brings every agency from around the area to the casino, to the Radisson,” he said of the large law enforcement presence.
"Oneida Nation police and law enforcement from surrounding municipalities municipalities immediately set up a perimeter and kept everybody safe," Stevens said.
"Our prayers go out to those families, employees and patrons who were affected by this trauma," he added.
Oneida Chairman Tehassi Hill told WLUK-TV on Sunday that he was in “disbelief" and called the shooting “scary.” He said the tribe prohibits firearms on its properties but that “(mass shootings are) kind of a regular thing in this country.”
The tribe issued a statement on May 2 that reads, "The Oneida Nation is deeply saddened and heartbroken by the tragic shooting. Our heartfelt condolences are extended to all the loved ones of the victims. Oneida is grateful for all condolences, support and encouraging messages we have received."
Gov. Tony Evers issued a statement late Saturday saying he was “devastated” to hear about the shooting.
“Our hearts, thoughts, and support go out to the Oneida Nation, the Ashwaubenon and Green Bay communities, and all those affected by this tragedy.”
The Oneida tribe’s reservation lies on the west side of the Green Bay area. The tribe is one of 11 that operate casinos in the state.
According to the Oneida Nation's Twitter account, the main casino and the Irene Moore Activity Center will be closed until further notice. Other casino locations open Sunday at 8 a.m.
Neither the victims nor the gunman were citizens of the Oneida Nation.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.