“Targeted act”: Militia member kills ex-judge, had “hit list” targeting Whitmer, officials say

Law enforcement investigates possible domestic terrorism after retired judge found zip-tied and fatally shot

By Igor Derysh

Managing Editor

Published June 6, 2022 9:15AM (EDT)

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

A reported militia member accused of killing a retired Wisconsin judge was found with a "hit list" containing the names of 13 people, including Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, officials say.

SWAT officers found former Juneau County Judge John Roemer, 68, zip-tied to a chair and fatally shot in his home in New Lisbon on Friday, law enforcement officials told WISN-TV. The state's Justice Department said officers found 56-year-old Douglas Uhde in the basement with a self-inflicted gunshot wound and took him to a hospital in critical condition. Local news outlets reported that Uhde was a member of an unidentified militia group. Uhde has an extensive criminal history dating back 20 years, including a conviction for armed burglary and gun charges that at one point came before Roemer, according to CNN.

Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul said in a news conference that the killing "does appear to be a targeted act and the individual is a suspect who appears to have had other targets as well."

Uhde has not been formally charged but was found with a "hit list" of 13 names that included Whitmer, Evers and McConnell. Kaul said many of the other targets were "part of the judicial system."

"The information that's been gathered indicated that it was a targeted act and that the targeting was based on some sort of court case or court cases," Kaul said.

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The attorney general said investigators were not aware of additional threats to those on the list.

"Those who may have been other targets have been notified of that, but we are not aware of any active threat to individuals," he said. "If we become aware of any specific ongoing threat, we will certainly notify people when we are aware of that."

Zack Pohl, Whitmer's deputy chief of staff, told The Detroit News that her office was notified on Friday.

"While the news reports are deeply troubling, we will not comment further on an ongoing criminal investigation," Pohl said. "Gov. Whitmer has demonstrated repeatedly that she is tough, and she will not be bullied or intimidated from doing her job and working across the aisle to get things done for the people of Michigan."

Whitmer has been the target of numerous threats, including an alleged plot by Michigan militia members to kidnap and kill her in response to COVID-related lockdowns she ordered earlier in the pandemic. A jury acquitted two defendants in the plot in April while prosecutors plan to retry two other defendants after a judge declared a mistrial in their cases.

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Evers declined to say whether he was on the list.

"I'm not going to comment whether I was on that list or not on that list. Nothing is stopping me from doing this job," he told reporters on Saturday.

The governor called the killing a "horrible situation."

"It makes me feel ill that somebody who devoted his life, shared his life to being a jurist in rural Wisconsin, and that's hard work, to be targeted like that, it makes me, frankly, sick to my stomach," Evers said. "I mean, the idea that, as I said before, a judge from a rural county is targeted and murdered. It's abhorrent to our judiciary, and to leadership in our state and our country. We can do better than this in Wisconsin."

Law enforcement officials told WISN they are investigating the killing as a possible case of domestic terrorism.

Roemer sentenced Uhde to six years in prison in 2005 on a charge of armed burglary with a dangerous weapon, according to NBC News. Uhde pleaded guilty to the charge, as well as to charges of carrying a concealed weapon, possessing a short-barreled shotgun rifle and being a felon in possession of a firearm.

Roemer was first elected in 2004 and re-elected in 2010 and 2016. He retired in 2017. He also served as an assistant district attorney for Juneau County and as an assistant state public defender.

Wisconsin Supreme Court Chief Justice Annette Kingsland Ziegler said the court was "shocked and saddened" by his death.

"Judge Roemer dedicated much of his career to public service in the law," she said in a statement. "He was known by colleagues for his sharp legal mind and his willingness to share his time and knowledge with others. His work made a tremendous difference in the lives of many people in Juneau County and elsewhere in the state. Our deepest sympathy goes to Judge Roemer's family at this time."

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By Igor Derysh

Igor Derysh is Salon's managing editor. His work has also appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Boston Herald and Baltimore Sun.

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Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Aggregate Domestic Terrorism Gretchen Whitmer Michigan Mitch Mcconnell Politics Tony Evers Wisconsin