Wisconsin workplace shooting suspect had revoked gun permit

A woman is escorted from the scene of a shooting at a software company in Middleton, Wis., Wednesday, Sept. 19, 2018. Four people were shot and wounded during the shooting in the suburb of Madison, according to a city administrator. (Steve Apps/Wisconsin State Journal via AP)

MIDDLETON, Wis. –  The gunman in a Wisconsin workplace shooting was taken to a mental health hospital and barred from purchasing firearms in 2004 after telling South Dakota police that he thought co-workers were "talking bad about him," according to court records and police.

Anthony Tong also said he believed his neighbors were spying on him after police were called to his Sioux Falls apartment. Officers handcuffed Tong for their own safety because he was acting delusional and paranoid, and seized a pistol and an AR-15 rifle from his home, according to South Dakota court documents.

The revelations raise questions about how Tong acquired the 9 mm pistol used in Wednesday’s attack at WTS Paradigm, a software company in Middleton, Wisconsin. Investigators allege the 43-year-old employee opened fire in his office, seriously wounding three people and grazing a fourth before officers killed him in a shoot-out.

Middleton Police Chief Chuck Foulke said during a news conference Friday that Tong had no criminal history, but said his run-in with police in South Dakota in 2004 resulted in a judge revoking his concealed-carry permit over mental health questions. That revocation would have red-flagged him on a gun background check, making it illegal for him to purchase firearms, Foulke said.

"It absolutely seems as though with some loophole he was able to get that firearm, and he should not have been able to do that," Foulke said.

Foulke said a motive behind the attack remains unclear.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives was trying to track down the origin of the pistol used in Wednesday’s attack — but agents were running into problems with the trace, Foulke said.

"There’s something unique about that weapon that they’re having trouble finding out where it came from and what hands it passed through," the police chief said.

He declined to elaborate.

Tong moved to the area from South Dakota in March 2017, a month before he started his job with WTS Paradigm, Foulke said. The chief said he didn’t know what Tong was doing for a living before moving to Wisconsin.

According to South Dakota court records, the manager of Tong’s Sioux Falls apartment complex called police in August 2004 because the fire alarm had been disconnected in Tong’s apartment.

Tong told officers he had disconnected the fire alarm. Inside his apartment they discovered he had disconnected a host of other electronic devices, including ceiling fans, lights and smoke detectors. Tong told police he disabled the devices because people in the apartment below were eavesdropping on him.

Officers reported that Tong took several minutes to answer simple questions and was defensive when he did answer. He also blocked a bedroom door when police asked if anyone else was in the apartment.

Officers handcuffed him and found a .40-caliber pistol under his shirt. They also found a can of pepper spray and a folding knife on him, according to court documents. In the bedroom, the officers discovered an AR-15 rifle and hundreds of rounds of ammunition. Tong told them he needed the guns for protection.

"Defendant made statements that there were people at work that were talking bad about him, but would not elaborate," an affidavit said.

He was taken to a mental hospital on a 24-hour hold. That November, a state judge revoked his concealed-carry permit that November.

On Friday, authorities in Wisconsin said the conditions of the three seriously wounded workers had improved. The woman and two men had been upgraded from serious to fair condition at University Hospital in Madison, according to UW Health.

Police don’t know if the victims were targeted or shot at random. Their names haven’t been released.

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Nord reported from Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

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