Patterns of Violence

In May, Bruce Pofahl, 62, shot and killed two people and injured a third near Green Bay at a restaurant where he had been fired for inappropriate behavior. Details about his harassment of a woman he hired to work there indicated a pattern of obsession and control. The woman filed a harassment restraining order against him two months before the shooting, which killed her boyfriend. Pofahl was allowed to own a firearm despite the injunction.

Harassment, stalking, and domestic violence can be linked to an escalation in violence. A Bloomberg News analysis of 749 mass shootings between 2014 and 2019 indicated that in about 60 percent of the cases, the shooter had a history of domestic violence.

The patterns of violence are not hard to identify, said Wisconsin-based End Abuse executive director Gricel Santiago-Rivera after the Pofahl mass shooting. Domestic violence and harassment is “too often dismissed as a personal or private matter and known patterns that predict future violence are ignored by those with power to prevent harm. This recent tragedy demonstrates the far-reaching ramifications of not addressing root causes of violence.”

Beverly Scow, of Wise Women Gathering Place, a Green Bay gender-based violence program offering Native American culturally specific services, said, “Every restraining order without firearm restrictions is alarming because the safety of the petitioner is significantly more compromised, especially with domestic violence and harassment, because the first time can be deadly.

Violence Free MN will release in October its annual “Homicide Report: Relationship Abuse in Minnesota” about domestic violence cases last year. Of the 28 known victims, 19 were killed by a current or former intimate partner, 3 were children aged two and under, and six were bystanders murdered in domestic violence-related situations. At least 16 minor children are left without a parent due to intimate partner violence.

As of July 2021, Liz Richards, former executive director of Violence Free Minnesota, is leading the state’s Department of Corrections victim services programs. She has more than 30 years of experience working with victims.

Minnesota Department of Corrections victim assistance program: mn.gov/doc/victims

Violence Free Minnesota: vfmn.org

End Abuse Wisconsin: endabusewi.org