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SUICIDE GUNMAN KILLS SEVEN DURING CHURCH SERVICE; Carnage of 'nicest guy in the world' who stopped to reload.

Byline: By Ryan Nakashima

A CRAZED church member gunned down worshippers at a service, killing seven, before shooting himself.

Terry Ratzmann, 44, went berserk just after the start of the evangelical service in a hotel.

Last night the motive for the rampage, victims of which included two teenage boys and a 72-year-old man, remained a mystery.

Neighbour Robert Blasczyk said keen gardener and DIY man Ratzmann's actions were unbelievable.

He added: 'He was the quietest guy in the world, the nicest. I would have never believed this in a million years.'

Blasczyk said Ratzmann was a drinker but there was no suggestion he was violent.

His targets were members of the Living Church Of God, which had been meeting at the hotel in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, every Saturday morning for four or five years.

Chandra Frazier, who was at the service, said the gunman started shooting shortly after it began and even stopped to reload.

She was sitting in front of a family he mowed down.

Chandra said: 'It was mayhem. I dived under a chair, the man whose chair I dived under died. I'm asking myself why am I still alive.'

Police later swarmed over the house in the New Berlin area of the city where Ratzmann lived with his mother and sister.

His body had been found in the same room of the hotel as four of his victims.

Three others died later in hospital and four others were seriously wounded, police chief Daniel Tushaus said.

He added: 'There is nobody else being sought at this time as a suspect.'

A spokesman for the church, which is based in Charlotte, North Carolina, said: 'This is a terrible tragedy. We are co-operating with the authorities to find out what happened.'

Police surrounded the hotel after the shooting started and terrified guests refused to leave their rooms.

After the shootings, police removed a pickup truck from the hotel car park.

New Berlin mayor Telesfore Wysocki said Ratzmann's mother and sister were being interviewed by officers as police.

He added: 'We are in total shock and disbelief.'

Neighbours said Ratzmann was a devout churchgoer and avid gardener who built his own greenhouse and shared home-grown vegetables with his neighbours.

Shane Colwell, who talked to him regularly, described him as 'so calm and so mellow'.

He said: 'He brought me over a courgette that was about a foot-and-a-half long.

'We ate it for a week.'

Colwell said Ratzmann raised trout and designed a system in which he used trout waste to fertilise his greenhouse plants - including tropical plants and Venus flytraps - then recycled the water back to the fish tank.

Outside the hotel, well-wishers left a red and white cross and messages of condolence.


HORROR: People are escorted out of the hotel, left, while police and ambulance crews attend the scene of carnage
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Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Mar 14, 2005
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