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Sheriff: Chippewa County murders comparable to Closs case in Barron County

Chippewa County (WQOW) – We have learned much more about a pair of shootings in Chippewa County, including the names and ages of the suspect and victims and at least a glimpse into what the shooter’s motive was.

According to Chippewa County Sheriff Jim Kowalczyk, the dead include Laile Vang, 24; Bridget German, 66; Douglas German, 32; and Calvin Harris, 8.

The suspect, who died from a self-inflicted gun shot wound, was Ritchie German Jr., 33. Kowalczyk said he lived with his mother in Lafayette at the residence on 54th Avenue off and on since 2004.

Back in 2006, police responded to a domestic situation involving German Jr.. He was arrested. That was the only contact German Jr. has had with police.

Sheriff Jim Kowalczyk said they received a call of shots fired in Lake Hallie around 10:30 p.m. Sunday at a home on 45th Avenue. He said they determined two adults had died there and two others were injured. Four other people were found hiding from the shooter. Laile Vang was found shot dead at the Lake Hallie home along with the suspect.

Kowalczyk said the Vang family did not know German Jr.

The injured include Mai Chang Vang, 39 and Teng Vang, 51. They were both shot in the hand/arm and 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 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.

Facebook photo of Laile Vang

There is however another element. Kowalczyk said there were text messages sent between Ritchie German Jr. and Laile Vang, some of which were sexual in nature. The sheriff said they are looking into how the two got each other’s numbers and why they were texting since the families did not know each other.

The sheriff compared this case to the Jayme Closs case up in Barron County. He said it was possible German Jr. went to the house with the intent to kidnap Laile Vang. Kowalczyk said when German Jr. first texted Vang she did not know who he was. He also said there were certain items found in the vehicle, which was still running, that led them to the Closs comparisons.

The license plate of that vehicle showed the vehicle registered to the brother of the suspect. Sheriff’s authorities went to the town of Lafayette to notify family. When they got to that residence nobody came to the door and nobody answered the phone. When they went in they found three more victims in the residence. (Bridget German, Douglas German and Calvin Harris, the mother, brother and nephew of the suspected gunman.)

The sheriff said Bridget was found dead in the basement. She was shot in the bathroom and dragged into a different room. Douglas and Calvin were found dead in a bedroom in sleeping bags. The sheriff said those two were shot in the kitchen and dragged to the bedroom. The sheriff said he believes Ritchie German Jr. slept in that same bedroom both Friday and Saturday night.

The sheriff believes Bridget, Douglas and Calvin were already dead on Saturday morning. He said that is because Ritchie called Family Fare in Lake Wissota on Saturday and said his mother Bridget, who worked there, would not be at work because she was sick and in the hospital.

Kowalczyk went on to say a neighbor boy who plays with Calvin went to the home on Saturday and asked if Calvin was home. Ritchie told the neighbor boy Calvin was with his grandmother and went shopping. Kowalczyk believes both Calvin and his grandmother were already dead.

The sheriff said he does not know why the suspect committed the crimes. Kowalczyk did say the alleged shooter was a loner and had no friends. The sheriff called him a “troubled individual.” The sheriff said there is no record German Jr. had a job or a car.

The sheriff added there “most certainly” could be another crime scene authorities have not found yet.

Anyone who previously had involvement with Ritchie German Jr. is asked to call the sheriff’s tipline at 715-726-4563.

 

Clint Berge

Clint Berge is the Social Media & Digital Content Manager for Eau Claire’s Own WQOW News 18.
Report any website issues to him at cberge@wqow.com

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