Wisconsin judge shooting suspect had frequent legal trouble, but friends surprised by accusations
The man suspected of killing retired Juneau County Judge John Roemer previously talked about “taking care of” a Michigan judge as well, according to a longtime friend.
Douglas K. Uhde, 56, doesn't like authority figures and has had frequent legal troubles, said Michigan resident Kevin Baden, who has known him since childhood. But he didn't know Uhde to be a violent person, Baden said.
"I've never in my life seen a violent bone in that man," Baden said. "He was afraid of everybody."
The Wisconsin Department of Justice says Uhde is the suspect in Roemer's killing Friday in his New Lisbon home. Attorney General Josh Kaul has called the shooting, which has drawn national attention, a targeted attack and said the assailant appeared to be targeting others related to the judicial system.
Sources told the Journal Sentinel that Gov. Tony Evers was on a list of officials Uhde was targeting. ABC News then reported that a so-called "hit list" was found in the suspect's vehicle with names that included Evers, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.
More: 'I can’t believe this happened in our neighborhood': New Lisbon community grapples with the killing of Wisconsin Judge John Roemer
More: Here's what we know about the targeted killing of retired Wisconsin Judge John Roemer in the town of New Lisbon
According to the DOJ, the Juneau County Sheriff's Office received a call around 6:30 a.m. Friday about an armed person in a New Lisbon home where two shots had been fired.
Law enforcement entered Roemer's home around 10:17 a.m. after "failed attempts" to negotiate with Uhde, the DOJ said.
Roemer, 68, was dead. Uhde was found in the basement with an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound. He was transported to a hospital and was in critical condition as of Saturday.
Roemer handed down burglary sentence
Years ago, Roemer sentenced Uhde to prison on a burglary charge, court records show.
In connection with an August 2001 armed burglary of an Adams County home, Uhde entered a no contest plea and was found guilty of burglary, carrying a concealed weapon, possession of a short-barreled shotgun and being a felon in possession of a firearm.
In 2002, he was sentenced to 10 years in prison and seven years of extended supervision.
Uhde won an appeal and was allowed to withdraw his plea after the 4th District Appellate Court ruled the judge in the case should have explained the state's truth in sentencing rules during the plea hearing. The appellate court decision was later reversed by the state Supreme Court.
The case was reopened and went before Roemer, who in 2005 sentenced Uhde to six years of prison and nine years of extended supervision.
Uhde escaped from the Fox Lake Correctional Institution, a minimum-security prison, in 2006, according to online Wisconsin Department of Corrections records. According to authorities, he walked away from custody while painting the inside of a house on the Baraboo Circus World Museum grounds.
He was captured about three weeks later and, following convictions related to the escape, received additional prison time.
In April 2020, Uhde was released from Stanley Correctional Institution, a medium-security prison.
Longtime friends recall Uhde as nonviolent, but often in trouble with the law
Sometime after he was released from prison, Uhde reached out to the Baden family and asked for a place to stay.
The Badens grew up with Uhde in Lapeer, Michigan, a town of about 9,000 people 60 miles north of Detroit.
Uhde stayed at the homes of two of Kevin Baden's brothers in Michigan, but both kicked him out. One of the brothers, Craig, had enough after Uhde began talking about dressing up in a clown costume and "taking care of" a judge in Roscommon County, Michigan, Kevin Baden said.
Uhde also began stealing items "from a lot of people," including coolers from campgrounds and tools from area residents, Kevin Baden said.
"My brother had to tell him, ‘Look, you've got to go. I can't have this here,’” he said.
Kevin Baden was unaware of the threat to the Michigan judge until he heard news of the Wisconsin shooting and talked to Craig. Both incidents surprised him.
"He's always been shy and quiet," he said. "My brother used to have to fight his battles. He was always the type of person that would run away from his problems."
Still, Uhde bristled at any kind of authority. Baden described him as "anti-government," but he did not know of any associations with a militia, as some news outlets have reported.
Baden said Uhde's mood varied widely. In one moment, he was trying to be your best friend, Baden said. In the next, he was acting like he didn't know you. Uhde often tried to rope others into trouble with him, Baden said.
When he was staying with Craig, Uhde lived in St. Helen, a town of about 2,000 people in Roscommon County in rural, northern Michigan. He worked at a business that sold all-terrain vehicles and boats and at a manufacturing company, Baden said.
As of four to six months ago, Uhde was living in Kentucky at his mother's house, Baden said. He had a job and had recently purchased a car.
Another family friend, who asked to be identified by his first name, Joshua, said he was aware of Uhde’s past legal troubles but never personally knew him to be a bad presence around his family. He said Uhde “would cherish anyone who was a friend” and never missed a chance to celebrate a birthday or holiday.
“I’m still kind of expecting someone to say it wasn’t him,” he said.
Joshua said Uhde had never demonstrated an interest in violence against public officials and also never knew him to be part of a militia.
“The fact that I’m being told that he did this, it’s gut-wrenching,” Joshua said.
Daniel Bice and Elliot Hughes of the Journal Sentinel contributed to this report.
Contact Sophie Carson at (414) 223-5512 or email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter at @SCarson_News.
This article originally appeared on Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Douglas Uhde, suspect in shooting of Judge Roemer, was anti-government