8 years after Racine mass shooting, suspects are finally behind barsOn July 17, 2005, Aaron Woods, Ryan Lockridge, and Frank Mister were shot and killed in Racine.
By: By Terry Bell, Wisconsin Public Radio, Superior Telegram
On July 17, 2005, Aaron Woods, Ryan Lockridge, and Frank Mister were shot and killed in Racine.
Four others were wounded, in one of the worst mass shootings in the city's history. The accused gunmen, Demetrus Ozier and Juwan Matthews, eluded capture and charges for almost eight years — that is, until they were brought back to Racine this spring, thanks to the help of the Wisconsin Association of Homicide Investigators.
The case was chronicled by investigative reporter Matt Barnidge of the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism.
Terry Bell: Take us back to what happened that night.
Matt Barnidge: [Two] suspected gang members entered a [crowded] parking lot, and they ended up killing at least two innocent bystanders and wounding four others.
TB: This is an unusual cold case, because it sounds like there were plenty of witnesses. This could have been solved pretty quickly.
MB: Police think that the suspects may have intimidated witnesses. There was one report where a witness said one of the suspects actually approached her vehicle and said ‘You didn’t near nothing, don’t say anything.’ From my conversations with Racine police, it seemed like they thought that there were witnesses in this case, but they were afraid to come forward.
TB: What was it that cracked the case?
MB: That’s still a little bit unclear. The Cold Case Review Team wouldn’t tell me exactly what they recommended, because the case is still [pending].
TB: I know authorities couldn’t share a lot of details with you, but it seems as though over time, especially when [one of] the suspects [was] in prison [for an unrelated crime] that witnesses felt a little more confident — maybe a little more safe – coming forward, and that seems to be a big aid in some of these investigations. Time seems to be on the side of the authorities.
MB: And especially since one of them was in prison, and the other was on the run, we think some witnesses came forward in the case.
TB: This is a good time to point out what the Wisconsin Association of Homicide Investigators is, and the Cold Case Team in particular. If a local police agency asks for their help, they’ll provide it. And they don’t do its own investigation, and they don’t turn up any new evidence. They take a look at what’s already been gathered, and make recommendations to the local authorities as to maybe what they might try.
MB: That’s right. The Cold Case Review Team is a team of 10 retired and private investigators – former detectives – and that’s right, they review cases at the request of police agencies, and they don’t provide new evidence. However, they do provide a fresh set of eyes. Sometimes with these cold cases, the police have exhausted all of their ideas. And so it’s helpful just to have another set of eyes take a look at things, and recommend new directions to take.
The WCIJ is working with Gannet Wisconsin Media on cold cases. The state Office of Justice Assistance says there have been at least 277 cold cases in Wisconsin since 2003.
Meanwhile, the two suspects are in the Racine County Jail. Demetrus Ozier's trial is scheduled to start Sept. 17. Juwan Matthews is due in court for a status conference on Sept. 3.