Officers who approached an apartment building on 92nd Street in Milwaukee earlier this month were met by two children, who were scooped up and carried to safety, according to a criminal complaint.
Inside, investigators found the bodies of 40-year-old Jesus R. Manso-Perez, 36-year-old Phia Vue and 32-year-old Mai K. Vue, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported.
And outside, authorities had taken Dan J. Popp, a 39-year-old man who also lived at the address, into custody.
Investigators think Popp fatally shot his neighbors; he now faces three counts of first-degree intentional homicide and one count of attempted first-degree intentional homicide.
“This is not a part of our city where we generally see violence,” Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett later said, according to the Journal Sentinel. “They left this life doing what they love, spending time with their families.”
Hundreds of people, including friends and family members, remembered the victims at a candlelight vigil this month, the Journal Sentinel reported. And in the wake of the homicides, Chia Youyee Vang, co-chair of the Milwaukee Police Department’s District 4 Hmong Advisory Task Force, told the newspaper that the shooting “made us feel vulnerable and made us question our security.”
Before we get too far into this, it’s important to note that police haven’t released a motive for the incident.
“The investigation into what led up to this incident is ongoing,” Milwaukee Police Department Sgt. Tim Gauerke said in an email to The Post. “Milwaukee police have yet to determine a motive for this incident.”
And Popp’s defense attorney has raised the issue of competency, according to reports.
“I think that he is just entirely confused about everything and I’m not sure he really even understands what’s going on,” attorney Chris Hartley told NBC’s TMJ4 in Milwaukee.
But the shooting has prompted a strong reaction, at least in part because of what was detailed in the criminal complaint: According to the documents, the shots rang out March 6 after a comment about how two of the victims didn’t speak English.
Shortly before the incident began, a witness told authorities that he and his father, Manso-Perez, encountered “the man in apartment #3,” who asked the pair if they wanted a beer. Manso-Perez declined the offer, according to the documents.
The man then asked Manso-Perez and his son where they were from, and they told him they were from Puerto Rico.
“Oh, that’s why you don’t speak English,” he allegedly responded. “You’re Puerto Rican.”
He went back into his apartment, and when he emerged again, he pointed a long gun at Manso-Perez, the complaint states.
“You guys got to go,” the man told the father and son, according to the document.
That’s when he opened fire on Manso-Perez, hitting him in the head.
The fatal shootings of Phia Vue and his wife, Mai, also occurred while their children were home, according to the complaint.
Another witness, Phia Vue’s sister, told investigators that a man kicked in the apartment door and managed to get into a bedroom where members of the family clustered after hearing gunshots, the complaint states.
He told Phia Vue to leave the room with him, which he did, and then the witness heard gunshots again. When the man returned, the witness said he told the family to come with him, and then eventually dragged Mai Vue and two of her daughters out.
As the witness left the apartment, she told investigators, she found Phia on the bathroom floor.
He “did not say anything nor did he move,” according to the complaint.
Both witnesses picked Popp out of a lineup, identifying him as the man they saw that day, the documents state.
An officer who responded to the emergency call March 6 heard a gunshot, then called out, asking to talk. But the person who responded told the officers that he wasn’t feeling well. A few minutes later, a man walked out with a gun over his shoulder. An officer yelled at him to drop the firearm, but the man, later identified as Popp, just kept walking.
“I’m just going to go to the cop car by the curb,” he told police, according to the complaint, which noted that there was “no squad car in that area.”
Eventually though, the documents state, he lowered the gun, dropped to the ground, and was taken into custody.