A collection of Facts, Opinions and Comments from survivors of Herbert W. Armstrong, Garner Ted Armstrong,  The Worldwide Church of God and it's Daughters.
Updated 10/26/06 09:23 PM PDT

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Terry Ratzmann Book Review

'Hapless victim' or murderous gunman?

Posted: Aug. 27, 2006

Brookfield - A new book about the Sheraton hotel church massacre that left eight people dead is raising eyebrows because of its sympathetic treatment of gunman Terry Ratzmann.

Author Thomas Geiger, a church member who says he was temporarily barred from the congregation because of the book, describes Ratzmann as a "hapless victim" of Satanic influences.

"Terry Ratzmann is not the one who bears the primary guilt," Geiger writes in his book, "Martyrdom in Milwaukee," available at Harry W. Schwartz Bookshops throughout the area.

Ratzmann, 44, of New Berlin shot and killed seven people during a church service at the Sheraton in Brookfield on March 12, 2005, before turning the gun on himself.

Police have never established a motive, although they found that Ratzmann had a history of emotional outbursts and had recently felt conflicted with the Living Church of God, of which he was a member.

While other church members also say Ratzmann did not appear to be in full control of himself during the shooting rampage, many believe that depicting the gunman as a victim is going too far.

"We must not forget that we all have free will - and help when needed," said Lillian Miller, whose son, Gerald Miller, 44, was among those killed.

Also slain were the church pastor, Randy Gregory, 51; his son, James Gregory, 16; Bart Oliver, 15, of Waukesha; Gloria Critari, 55, of Cudahy; Richard Reeves, 58, of Cudahy; and Harold Diekmeier, 74, of Delafield.

The congregation's new pastor, Darrell Lovelady, said he believes that Satan and the powers of evil are real, but he, too, questioned depicting Ratzmann as a victim.

"The victims were the ones who suffered loss because of what Terry did," he said.

Geiger, who was friends with Ratzmann for many years through the church, devotes the first chapter of his book to episodes in which he believes Ratzmann behaved as a "genius," a "hero" and a "caring and sensitive man who could harm no one when in his natural state."

In an interview, Geiger said he was not trying to absolve Ratzmann of responsibility for the shootings, which left four other church members with non-lethal injuries.

"I don't want to whitewash the man," Geiger said. "He does bear a measure of guilt."

But considering that Ratzmann was known as a friendly man with no history of significant violence, Geiger said, "I find it difficult to ascribe all of that to him humanly."

As the congregation gathered March 12, 2005, for its regular Saturday service, Ratzmann fired 22 shots from the back of the hotel meeting room with a 9mm handgun, stopping once to reload.

In "Martyrdom in Milwaukee," Geiger dedicates the 178-page work to Ratzmann's victims and writes extensively about them, especially about the youngest victim, Bart Oliver, Geiger's nephew.

Bart's mother, Loni Oliver, who is Geiger's sister, said some parishioners are unhappy about the book, partly because they suspect Geiger is trying to profit from the tragedy. The paperback sells for $14 to $17.

The book is not widely discussed among Living Church of God members, who continue meeting every Saturday at a new location in Waukesha.

"There are people who do have a problem with it," Oliver said, "so you just don't talk about it."

Mary McCarthy, vice president of Harry W. Schwartz stores, said her company's Brookfield store has sold about 20 copies in the past month, which she described as above average.

"Obviously, people are interested," she said. "It was a terrible event - we all remember it."

From the Aug. 28, 2006 editions of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel








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