Lovelorn Band Member Mows Down Prom Kids in Wisconsin Shooting
An 18-year-old opened fire at his alma mater’s Saturday night prom—and students say a bad breakup may have triggered his rage.
A love-scorned Wisconsin teen arrived at his alma mater’s prom stag, armed, and dressed to kill.
It was around 11 p.m. and Antigo High School’s Saturday-night prom was winding down when excited students dolled up in gowns and tuxes were met by an 18-year-old former band member named Jakob Wagner, who arrived clad in camo pants and a red shirt.
He was glimpsed wielding a high-powered rifle with an extended clip before he sprayed bullets and struck two students—a boy and girl—before a patrolling Antigo policeman fired back and took him out, authorities confirmed.
“[Wagner] had just pulled up and got out [of his car] and that was it,” a parent of a prom-goer, who requested anonymity, told us. “He had a lot of bullets and if he hadn’t gotten shot there would be a lot more injured or dead even.”
According to the source, a female student allegedly dumped Wagner “three weeks” ago. “They broke up so close to prom that she didn’t decide to go,” the source said.
The source added that Wagner knew the unidentified boy he shot. It’s unclear if he knew the injured girl.
But the source suspects the boy wasn’t the sole target and noted that the farming town is so closely knit that Wagner was surely acquainted with many of the students.
“I think he was just trying to get there and shoot his way in,” the source said. “He was going for as many people as he could.”
The lone shooter had broken out of routinely posting selfies on Facebook and had proudly shared photos of himself with his girlfriend beginning back in August 2015 and into January of this year. At that point, the photos returned to selfies.
A band member who skipped prom confirmed the name of Wagner’s ex-girlfriend and said she towered over Wagner’s “short height.”
“A lot of people think he did this because his girlfriend broke up with him,” the student, who also wished to remain anonymous, told The Daily Beast.
The couple had allegedly called it quits once before.
“He was kind of controlling of her and she tried to break it off but then they were back together again,” the parent of the prom-goer said. Attempts to reach the student and her relatives were unsuccessful.
An honor roll student (PDF), Wagner had graduated the previous year but rather than go on to college, he stayed local and helped out as an assistant for an art class and also served as the right-hand man to the school’s band leader, Mark Dewey. (Emails to Dewey were not immediately returned Sunday.)
“I heard him do the machine that makes beats for music and that’s about all he did,” the parental source said. “He basically did that one machine and that was about it.
“You could tell he was basically there for the girl.”
The source, whose child knows Wagner’s ex-girlfriend, said she is beside herself with agony over the shooting.
The source noted that Wagner was very introverted. “You could say ‘Hi’ to him and and he wouldn’t say anything.”
When the shots rang out, students were corralled into a corner of the building and held there for several hours, the Wausau Daily Herald reported. “We heard there was a situation, but I thought it was some kind of drug bust,” Antigo junior Nikita Deep told the paper. “Then they flipped the lights and then about 12 officers came in and are armored. We were all frightened.”
Wagner was apparently spirited to a local hospital but “passed away after life-saving measures” were applied, according to a police release. Meanwhile, the injured female student was treated and released while the male student remained hospitalized and had to get surgery for a gunshot wound to his leg at Aspirus Langlade Hospital, the police stated.
The statement went on to say that the efforts by the policeman to fire back “prevented further injuries and possible casualties.”
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker lauded law enforcement’s lethal force on Twitter: “We praise the Antigo Police Department’s response which undoubtedly saved lives. Our prayers to the students, families & community of Antigo.”
On Monday, “traumatized” students will be able to get counseling and have time to grieve, according to the school district’s official website.
In the aftermath of the prom shooting, many of the pupils and community members have come together in solidarity, adopting a seal featuring the school’s aviary mascot with the message: “Love and prayers for AHS… Antigo Pride.”
The investigation was handed over to The Wisconsin Department of Justice’s Division of Criminal Investigation because the fatal shooting involved an Antigo cop, according to the Wausau Daily Herald, which cited a spokesman.
Before the shooting spree, Wagner seemed to take pride in his band playing.
He took selfies of himself in full Antigo Cardinal regalia as well as snaps of the school’s brick façade. His relatives applauded him during one performance of “Celtic Twilight” back in October 2014. “Jakob, We could hear you’re great deep sound blasting from the jazz band…” wrote Carol Wagner, a woman who is related to the shooter. Requests for comment from Wagner’s mother and his grandparents were not immediately returned.
A next-door neighbor told The Daily Beast that Wagner’s single mom had been accepting visits from concerned locals bringing food for her. She was apparently inconsolable about her son’s death, but also praised the fact that so few were injured in the shooting.
“She said ‘I’m just so grateful nobody else was hurt badly,’” the neighbor, Timothy Homp, said. “My heart is breaking for her and for her and her family’s hurting.”
Homp remembered waving to Wagner only days ago and saw him perform music at local parks. “He was a talented musician,” Homp, whose son graduated with Wagner, said. “He really wanted to do something with music and he was very artistic and would play a lot of eclectic stuff.”
His son, who is away at college, is floored. “He’s just so shocked as are we,” Homp said.
Homp added that the churches in town were overflowing with grief and lots of prayers. “These things are covered by grace out here,” he said of the close-knit roots of the small farming hamlet three hours north of Milwaukee. “Even if it’s in this case someone that has been killed and others that could have died I think there is still a forgiving nature to it.”
On Facebook, many students and members of the local community have changed their profile pictures to a somber image featuring the school’s mascot. “Love and Prayers For AHS,” the caption reads.
And some of the young survivors made it home and announced on social media they were safe. One of them was Ryan McCarthy, who posted a message to concerned pals: “Just wanted to let my friends know I made it home safe tonight. Thoughts are with the families of those who were injured in the shooting tonight.”
When McCarthy welcomed the chorus of well-wishers knowing he’d made it home safe and sound, he turned his gratitude to the selfless police officer:
“Yea. Luckily there was an officer in the parking lot and was able to stop the shooter before he made it into the school. Happened right as prom ended last night.”