Waukesha Freeman

  • FMS: A disease that’s hard to diagnose (PDF)
    Fatigue, muscle soreness symptoms of fibromyalgia
    Imagine playing tennis for the first time in spring: The next day your muscles feel tight and sore.
    (April 2, 1994)
  • Rule forces fire chief to quit (PDF)
    Personnel policy causes Firnrohr’s departure.
    A firefighter whose dedication amazed the family of a woman who perished in a house fire credits his chief for providing both inspiration and manpower when it was needed that day.

Oswald Shooting

  • Police look for clues in rampage Woman’s quiet morning turns into nightmare
    (April 29, 1994)

    The Oswald shooting was the biggest story in Waukesha, Wisconsin in decades. I was an editor on the news desk that morning when we heard on the police scanner about an armed bank robbery. The robbers were no ordinary thieves — They were a former CPA named James Oswald who spoke Klingon and had amassed an arsenal of automatic weapons, and his teenaged son, Ted. As the heavily armed pair fled the bank, they gunned down a police officer as he sat in his car, shattered the patio door of a home and took a woman inside hostage. They forced her to drive them through a hail of gunfire in her van; she was hit by a bullet and jumped out. The Oswalds continued to drive, exchanging gunshots with police in a residential neighborhood in a drama that only ended then the van crashed into a tree.

    The Freeman quickly revised its front page and went to press but we decided to publish a second, special edition as well that day. After sending reporters to the scene of the bank, the police shooting and the hostage standoff, I took their phoned-in reports while compiling more information from listening to the police scanner. Later, I headed to the scene myself and reported on the aftermath, talking to residents and describing the spent bullet casings on the ground and bullet holes in homes. I ended up working at least 15 hours that day. In the ensuing days, there were numerous follow-up stories.

    Print and television media from all over southeastern Wisconsin showed up, but I was the reporter who talked Judy Opat, the female hostage, into giving us a photo to use. Traumatized, she declined to talk that day and shunned the media for weeks, but eventually, I became the only reporter to persuade her to give an interview.

    The following year, I helped cover the Oswalds’ sensational court trial — another event that drew extensive media coverage — but I was the first, and one of the only reporters, to whom James Oswald’s ex-wife (and Ted Oswald’s mother) agreed to speak. The Freeman pioneered a new technique during the trial — including short observations and quotes to run alongside the main stories. Today, we’d do that online and call it “live-blogging.”

  • Shooting leaves Opat with scars, mixed emotions (PDF)
    Incident changed her life in ways she can’t explain
    It happens every time Judy Opat runs into acquaintances lately.
    (Nov. 11, 1994)
  • Ex-wife says Jim Oswald is dangerous, sane (PDF)
    He was ready to kill others, she claims
    Susan Oswald says her ex-husband, James Oswald, “is not crazy, even though he’s probably going to use that as his defense.”
  • Eisenberg wants to drop James Oswald case / Oswalds’ possessions to be allowed as trial evidence (PDF)
    Dreyfus says change wouldn’t affect trial date
    Alan D. Eisenberg no longer wants to defend James Oswald.
    (Jan. 5, 1995)
  • Ted Oswald case evokes residents’ curiosity, anger (PDF)
    Some spectators at the Ted Oswald trial have the death penalty on their minds while they watch the 19-year-old defendant.
  • Sequestered role is tough (PDF)
    One Oswald juror vows to revise system
    Richard Schroeder thinks justice prevailed in the Ted Oswald trial.