A semi-automatic rifle, a bullet-resistant vest, handguns all in the possession of a felon and a woman held with a gun to her head were part of the story of a shooting Wednesday night in Milton.
But the story took an unexpected turn that put the man with the guns in critical condition at University Hospital in Madison, where he is being treated for a gunshot wound to the head.
And the man who did the shooting was released because the evidence showed the single gunshot was fired in self-defense.
It leaves a troubling question: Did the man with all the guns intend to take on police when they arrived?
Milton Police Chief Scott Marquardt told the story at a news conference Thursday. Police responded to a 911 call from the wife of Zachary J. Barrett, 30.
She called from their residence at 373 Elm St., Milton, about 8:22 p.m.
Marquardt did not identify the wife.
Barrett, who is in critical condition at University Hospital in Madison, has not been able to speak to investigators, so police pieced together a time line from Barrett’s wife and his friend Jason P. Kraayvanger, 21.
The wife told officers she and Barrett had an argument that escalated, and they went into a bedroom, where he put a pillow against her head and then held a pistol against her head.
She left the bedroom, and told Kraayvanger what had happened, Marquardt said.
Kraayvanger was Barrett’s friend—one person said best friend—and had been staying with the couple and their five children—ages 1 to 14—while helping Barrett with remodeling projects, Marquardt said.
Kraayvanger told the wife to go to the upstairs apartment with the children, and then Kraayvanger went upstairs to tell her to get out of the house. She told him she didn’t have keys to the vehicle, Marquardt said.
Kraayvanger went downstairs to find Barrett had armed himself with an AR-15 .223 caliber rifle, a bullet-resistant vest with rifle-rated plates and a holster attached to the front of the vest containing a 9mm handgun, Marquardt said.
Barrett told Kraayvanger he figured his wife had called 911 by then, so he was getting ready for police to arrive, Marquardt said.
The two men continued talking as they went outside to the driveway next to the house, Marquardt said, and Barrett started pointing the rifle at Kraayvanger, telling him to get out of there.
“Barrett would raise the rifle, and Kraayvanger would knock it away,” Marquardt said, describing what Kraayvanger told investigators.
This happened several times as the confrontation escalated, and then Barrett pointed the rifle directly at Kraayvanger’s face, Marquardt said.
Kraayvanger believed he was about to be shot, so he grabbed the handgun from the holster on Barrett’s chest and shot Barrett once in the head, Marquardt said.
The bullet lodged in Barrett’s head, Marquardt said.
It wasn’t until the shot was fired that the wife and others called 911, Marquardt said.
No one other than Barrett and Kraayvanger witnessed the shooting, as far as police know, but they hope to talk to any others who might have been nearby, Marquardt said.
Police are conducting “a very active and ongoing investigation,” Marquardt said.
Officers arrived quickly, and they said it looked as though Kraayvanger was trying to render first aid to Barrett, Marquardt said.
“Kraayvanger also stated (to officers) something to the effect of, ‘He gave me no choice. I had to do it,’” Marquardt said.
A neighbor who talked to The Gazette said he heard the shot, saw Barrett on the driveway, turned him so he could breathe better, and then walked to the street, where police pointed guns at him and told him to put his hands on his head.
“The physical evidence at the scene is consistent with Kraayvanger’s version of the shooting, that he acted in self-defense,” Marquardt said.
Police later found two smaller pistols in Barrett’s pockets, and he was wearing a belt with more than one AR-15 magazine, and he had spare magazines for the pistols, Marquardt said.
No other weapons were found in the house, although more ammunition was, Marquardt said.
So the questions remain:
- How did Barrett, a convicted felon, get the firearms? He has been convicted of second-offense possession of marijuana and failure to report to jail, Marquardt said.
- Did Barrett intend to take on police with those weapons?
“We don’t know what his mindset was, but from his behavior and the comments that he made to Kraayvanger, that’s something that we are very seriously considering,” Marquardt said.
- Will Barrett survive?
“Barrett’s status remains a question mark that is going to continue into the future, and that will have an influence on the trajectory of the case,” Marquardt said.
- Did drugs play a role?
Marquardt said there was no indication of that, but tests will be conducted.
- Should anyone worry that Kraayvanger is free? That was a concern of some in the neighborhood Thursday.
Marquardt said the incident stemmed from a confrontation between two people who knew each other, “and I do not believe there’s any danger to the community, even now that he’s been released.”
- Might Barrett face charges?
“We’ll make that decision when we see what his status is,” said District Attorney David O’Leary, who also spoke at the news conference.
But it is possible Barrett will face charges, O’Leary added.
Marquardt said charges are possible for both men, depending on what the investigation reveals.
“All we can proceed on is what we do know,” O’Leary said, “and what we do know right now is that the statements that we received basically support a self-defense claim, and but for that individual’s actions, things could have been much worse.”