The Wisconsin Tragedy: What the Gunman’s Neighbor Saw

Wade Michael Page may have been quiet, but there was already something noticeably odd about him in the three weeks he lived above Jennifer Dunn's apartment

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Scott Olson / Getty Images

The home of Wade Michael Page sits in a suburban Milwaukee neighborhood, Aug. 6, 2012, in Cudahy, Wis.

Three weeks ago, Jennifer Dunn got a new neighbor. She had lived in her duplex apartment in Oak Creek, Wis., for nearly a year when her landlord, Kurt Weins, informed her he had rented out the space upstairs. Her new neighbor showed up with his belongings packed into two large garbage bags. His name was Wade Michael Page.

Last weekend, Page left a path of destruction at the sprawling Sikh temple — or gurdwara — in the Milwaukee suburb, leaving six dead before the gunman killed himself. Dunn, a psychiatric nurse, wonders if things would have turned out differently if she had engaged him more and seen enough to warrant calling in help.

(PHOTOS: Wisconsin Community Reacts to Terrible Sikh-Temple Attack)

As it was, Dunn barely saw Page during his brief tenancy. Her neighbor rarely stepped outside. She never really heard a sound from above. Occasionally, while she played in the backyard with her six-month-old black lab puppy, Dunn would see Page come out of his apartment and head to his truck parked near the alley. The hulking man with the close-cropped haircut rarely looked her in the eye, though he’d sometimes grunt a greeting before going on his way. Though the landlord told her he worked late shifts, Dunn never figured out what job he did, if any; meanwhile, she estimates that Page’s truck was parked at the home 80% to 90% of the time.

Her landlord, Dunn says, had told her that the new tenant would be no trouble. Indeed, she says, the owner had rented out a room in his own home to Page when the man answered an ad for a spare room. Page apparently kept quietly to himself there until Page asked to rent the upper duplex apartment the landlord also owned across the street.

And then the quiet, nearly invisible neighbor suddenly got a bit more noticeable. Last Friday night, two days before the killing spree, Dunn heard loud “thumping music” coming from his apartment. She decided to tolerate it as long as the music (“indistinguishable but heavy,” she recalls) ended before her kids needed to go to bed. It did.

On Saturday, Dunn noticed Page was up unusually early, at about 5 a.m. Later that morning, Dunn was in the backyard with her daughter. “He had the same two garbage bags I saw him move in with. I never saw him move in anything other than that. I assume he did.” Dunn’s daughter came in to tell her the neighbor was “acting weird.” He had set a cardboard box in the front seat of his truck, and had begun pacing back and forth for several minutes. When Dunn went outside to have a look, he had already left.

(READ: After the Bloodbath: Oak Creek Comes Together to Mourn)

The next day Dunn’s daughter asked, “Hey, Mom, did you know there was a shooting?”

Dunn would hear some of the initial details on her car radio as she drove to work. But it wasn’t until she received a call at work from the Milwaukee district attorney assuring her that her children and dog had been evacuated and were safe, that she realized her neighbor was involved. Dunn and her girls were not to return to their apartment until 11 o’ clock that evening. “It was very important to get back into the house for the girls to know it was safe, to sleep in their own beds.”

Later, Dunn had a peek at the killer’s apartment. It was scarcely furnished. “It had a mattress, remnants of the computer setup and a TV that he left,” she tells TIME. “The refrigerator was as clean as the last tenants left it. There was weird stuff left all over the stove.”

Dunn desperately wants to feel safe again. “It’s a really nice community,” she says. “Up until all this happened, I felt really safe. It’s got a big backyard for them to play in, along with the dog. Work’s not that far away.” But she admits, “I’m not sleeping. I’m trying to figure out how I’m going to get out of here.” Though she works with psychiatric patients in the behavioral unit of a hospital, her brief exposure to Page didn’t raise flags. “I work in a long-term residential unit with folks that cannot live in the community. I’m used to physically aggressive patients, pedophiles, people with developmental disabilities … There are certain behaviors that you cue in on. He didn’t have these behaviors.”

The “what ifs” bother her. “This is the only time in my life that I paid attention to my skin color,” she says. “What if I wasn’t white? What if I had a friend over who wasn’t white? Would he have been offended? I deal with mental illness all the time, and I understand the complexity of it. It’s very unfortunate he wasn’t in a situation where he was helped with whatever his issues were.”

And then Dunn’s thoughts turn to the Sikh community that lost six members, with two still recovering from their injuries. “What I’m going through is nothing compared to what [the Sikhs] are going through.” Like the Sikh community, Dunn is hopeful some good will come out of this mass killing. She yearns for the friends and families of the victims to reach a sense of peace. “My hope is that someone digs into why he did what he did, to see if it was mental illness. That puts the spotlight on it and educates people. It shows what can happen if it goes untreated.”

MORE: Is the Military Racist?

35 comments
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文燕
文燕

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kms123
kms123

According to reports he was known to belong to white supremacy groups and was not unknown to the FBI. Yet, he was able to procure guns easily.

D.j. Euphoria
D.j. Euphoria

There seems a need within society to be able to point towards a single idiosyncrasy that acts as a trigger or a sign with psychopaths when there's not. As much as we want to put these people under a  

microscope and dissect their lives after the fact, there's usually no single factor that ties them all together. 

 

Zip Reeper
Zip Reeper

she is a psychiatric nurse and she did not realise the guy was a loon? figures.  

Bea.  ✇
Bea.  ✇

We'll never know what happened. Dun should have engaged with him more.  How don't you know someone that lives in the same house as you.?  Where were her antennas? lol 

Mahuika
Mahuika

 So you think she was not sufficiently interested and UKTR thinks she was a nosy neighbour. Damned if she does, damned if she doesn't.

michael
michael

as Ronald said I cant believe that people can earn $9637 in four weeks on the computer. did you see this web site

http://LazyCash49.com

TheWanderer
TheWanderer

Based on the article it doesn't look to me like he behaved in any way that was that unusual. What was suppose to raise alarm bells? The fact that he didn't meet her eyes? The fact that he paced back and forth?  The fact that one night out of all the time he was in his apartment he played his stereo too loud?

I think that what happened is tragic, but we can't go around committing everyone that fails to make contact with their neighbors or paces on occasion. I have a mental illness that has been very successfully with medication. Should I be institutionalized? Should I be reported if I fail to meet someone's eyes or play my stereo too loud on one evening?

Eric T.
Eric T.

[YAWN] Yet another example of lazy reporting in the wake of a mass killing.  What's the first thing these reporters do?  Talk to the neighbors.  And --surprise-- what do they all say?  "He was quiet, kept to himself," blah blah blah.

Don't people realize that,  in this day and age in which everyone is absorbed with their cellphone or video games, you could ask the question, "What was he like?" to ANYONE's neighbors and get pretty much the same answer?  No one really knows their neighbors very well anymore. That's a 50s phenomenon.

NaveedXVO
NaveedXVO

Still being a neighbor, especially one in an attached apartment, you get some feel for what your neighbors are like. What would you have had them report on? This is probably the closest person to him they could talk with and maybe was the closest person to him.

Eric T.
Eric T.

All neighbors can give you are their distorted impressions.  Decades ago, it was more commonplace for neighbors to know one another.   Why?  Because back in the day, there were much less instant communication channels:  you found things out through direct contact.  

We don't live in that age any more and we haven't for quite a long time.   People stick to their own lives and families.  They're glued to their cell phones.  They're locked up in their homes surfing the Internet.  That's the new reality.  

His neighbor clearly had no direct contact with him beyond a simple, "hello."  The rest was culled from the neighbor's own imagination.  That this person turned out to be a killer doesn't legitimize any of his neighbor's so-called "observations," as they were all made after the fact.   I'd wager that the majority of anyone's neighbors out there would probably describe them the same way as they'd described this man. Pointless waste of time.

Pal1964
Pal1964

Economic base system design to kill social sense set to fail human being as Communism spreading social amp; environment junk around the world through powrful media amp; wars. These kind people come from broken families full of stress abuse drugs alcohol. Economic base system amp; Communism creation of same civilization circle around wealth should be spread equal or not, no soul or social ense. Social amp; family sense take us close to humanity, mother nature God means peaceful world.

80sGuy
80sGuy

 Same goes for the distress and oppressed.

NaveedXVO
NaveedXVO

*blink* *blink* you could understand what pal was saying?

US_Army_Veteran
US_Army_Veteran

Wow, what a nosy neighbor. Didn't she have a life? She seemed to know this guys entire schedule. 

Deanne15
Deanne15

I don't think this guy was mentally ill, I think he was a racist that targeted these people because of what they look like.

ProwdLiberal
ProwdLiberal

If you are a racist you are mentally ill.

80sGuy
80sGuy

When a white person commits mass murder = he is mentally ill, or 'insanity' is the ticket out of death.

When a non-white person commits a murder (or even vehicular manslaughter) = Electric Chair!

ReDQLulz
ReDQLulz

Exactly. And the 'built-in' prejudice of our justice system merely reinforces such bigotry and bias.

NextPrez
NextPrez

He was not mentally ill. He was just a racist!

Yassine Blue
Yassine Blue

I don't know why you Americain are obesseced with guns? So why are you spending More than the worls in Military and security if at last you have to buy a gun to ensure your own security? life of other persons is not a game!!!

RussianRevolution
RussianRevolution

Many people say "you Americans", which is making a broad generalization. Should I assume everyone in your country is exactly the same, with the same beliefs?

jackson124
jackson124

"There was weird stuff left all over the stove.”

What???

FemaleCyclist
FemaleCyclist

Even if Wade Michael Page was diagnosed with mental illness, it would have taken him a year or longer to receive VA disability. This is the ugly truth not being told by our politicians.  I served over 30 years in the U.S. military. Although I am receiving a monthly retirement pension, I am still waiting a year later for VA disability approval. Page served his country for 5 or 6 years, not long enough to earn a pension. If unemployed, his only source of healthcare coverage would be from the Veterans Administration.  Some high ranking official needs to contact the Veterans Administration in Wisconsin and see if Page applied for disability or not. This could be the tip of the iceberg...Vets going off the deep end because they lack adequate health care benefits and timely approval.  Just last year, another veteran in Washington shot a park ranger before killing himself. He too, had waited over a year for VA approval. The system is currently overwhelmed with returning veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan.

Buzz Bayless
Buzz Bayless

 He received a "less than honorable discharge" from the Army, (evidently for a drinking problem)  so depending on whether it was a general discharge or OTH , (Other Than Honorable), he may not have been eligible for VA benefits. Reports seem to vary as to exactly what kind of discharge he did receive. He didn't do this because he was some kind of disadvantaged victim of the system and I don't think being a drunk qualifies you for any kind of VA disability. This cat didn't see any combat or deployment overseas. He did it because he was a white supremacist. Another loser.

FemaleCyclist
FemaleCyclist

From the articles I've read, Page received a general discharge with honorable conditions.  Other Than Honorable and dishonorable discharges would make him ineligible for VA benefits. He fits the pattern of someone who snapped over a breakup or not holding down a job. White supremacy might have been the gasoline but he's been soaking in it for over 12 years. I hope someone researches VA involvement to see if Page fell through the cracks or even tried to get help. The most dangerous ones fly below the radar. Both Holmes and Page had disturbing behaviors but not enough to 5150 them before they went on a killing rampage.

80sGuy
80sGuy

So, for this it gives him valid reasons to go out and kill innocent people?

FemaleCyclist
FemaleCyclist

No it doesn't give him a valid reason to kill anyone but himself. Labeling someone as crazy with no explanation other than being a white supremacist isn't fixing the problem. The vet who killed a park ranger before shooting himself tried to get help and the system failed him.

ReDQLulz
ReDQLulz

Mental illness is most certainly a serious and dangerous issue, but the 'system failed him' sounds like an excuse - usually labeled a bleeding-heart-liberal-excuse - offered up by an drug addict and I don't recall such compassion and concern ever being afforded to a crack addict like is afforded to Page. Nor have I seen such obnoxious talk about the 'search for a motive.'

Which validates 80sGuy's observation that when a black man commits a murder, white men react with 'fry him, give him the needle, string him up' but when a white man commits a mass murder, then suddenly compassion kicks in and we are left with "oh, he must be mentally ill."

Don't try to pretend this doesn't happen.

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