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Advocates Concerned With Domestic Violence Deaths

Brian Miller

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Advocates Concerned With Domestic Violence Deaths

By Brian Miller. CREATED Dec 17, 2013

APPLETON, Wis.-- An officer-involved shooting in Green Bay is the latest example of a trend of domestic violence turned deadly.  Officers shot and killed a man who violated a restraining order when he showed up at his estranged wife's apartment with a gun Monday.  Domestic violence advocates say it's reason for alarm.  

If someone violates an order of protection in Wisconsin, they face nine months in jail and a $1,000 fine.  Advocates say  tougher penalties would help keep more victims safe.

Legal Advocate Wendy Gehl of Harbor House, a domestic abuse shelter in Appleton, says the most recent example could have ended much worse.

"A lot of red flags there, it is the most dangerous time when someone is leaving or after they've just left, it's when perpetrators feel most desperate," Gehl said.

Gehl says a restraining order can only go so far.  

"It's a piece of the plan because there are plenty of individuals who will not respect that court order, they see it as a piece of paper," she said.

 "Obviously its a piece of paper an injunction is just that," said Sgt. Mike Fitzpatrick of the Outagamie County Sheriff's Department.

 The department works with several agencies to investigate and arrest those who violate the orders.  

"We try to work closely with Harbor House and the district attorney  and go through safety planning with the victim and those other agencies  to hopefully prevent further violence," Sgt. Fitzpatrick said.

 According to data from End Domestic Abuse Wisconsin, 89 people died in two years from domestic violence related murders and suicides.  Last year in Wisconsin, 52 people died . That's up from 37 killed in 2011.  This year's numbers are not yet available.

 "It is very concerning. I think for all of us we should be extremely concerned about the rate of domestic violence and the lethality factors that are going along with it," Gehl said. 

When a restraining  order is filed, the alleged perpetrator is required to surrender any guns, but advocates say it's hard for police to enforce the requirement.