Cemetery employees called alleged Wausau shooter “a very scary person” in 2012 police report

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WAUSAU, Wis. (WSAW) -- Henry West, the man accused of killing one person and injuring two others in a shooting spree at Pine Grove Cemetery last month, was the subject of a report filed with the Wausau Police Department in September, 2012 before he was fired from the Pine Grove Cemetery.

White bows, flowers, ribbons and mesh decorate the entrance to Pine Grove Cemetery (WSAW photo)

Newly-released records from the Wausau Police Department on Wednesday reveal more information about West’s termination from the Pine Grove Cemetery in 2012. A report filed prior to his termination said “everyone that works at Pine Grove Cemetery is afraid of West”, and that employees were “scared to talk to the police in reference to the comments [West] has made.”

“All the employees stated West is a very scary person,” according to a person who contacted WPD about West, whose name was redacted. The record describes plans to terminate West’s employment at the cemetery, but that the person was concerned about doing it alone. At the time, WPD advised they could do a civil standby during the termination.

“Those individuals who worked at the cemetery had some fear of Henry West based on the comments that they made," Barnes told NewsChannel 7. Cemetery management had contacted them about the threats to file the report, he noted.

West was fired from the cemetery in the fall of 2012, according to police reports and information released at the time of the shooting this October. The reports from the 2012 cases provide more information about why West was originally terminated from the Pine Grove Cemetery after working there for three years, according to West.

An officer responding to the cemetery for a suspected arson on September 7, 2012 said a man had terminated West because “he thought West’s behavior was inappropriate,” and that the person who terminated him had been working with the WPD about the issue. The person told police that he didn’t want West back on the cemetery property, which police communicated to West at the time.

The following month, police reports show WPD was called to three separate incidents of suspected arsons at Pine Grove Cemetery. Cemetery management named West as a person of interest to police.

“Based on the fear and concerns that cemetery staff had of Henry West, when asked who they thought might start a fire there, Henry West’s name was listed as a suspect,” WPD Deputy Chief Matt Barnes told NewsChannel 7. In the resulting investigation, a different suspect was named by police as the one they believed responsible for the fires, based on an investigation that included the other suspect’s whereabouts prior to each of the fires, as well as his knowledge of the fires despite no public information being released at the time.

“Henry West is an individual who committed heinous crimes in our community. And in this case there were three fires that were set at the Pine Grove Cemetery. But we also know that Henry West didn’t have anything to do with those fires,” Barnes told NewsChannel 7. Based on the information detectives uncovered regarding the other suspect and the strength of that belief, WPD has not reopened the investigation into the arsons since the October 3 shooting spree, Barnes told NewsChannel 7.

Neighbors also expressed concern about West in the months prior to his eviction from his apartment in Weston, Everest Metro police reports show. He's accused of setting fire to a garage at the complex in Weston on October 3, and setting makeshift bombs that police say could have killed from dozens to hundreds of people.

Patricia Grimm, 52, of Wausau, was shot multiple times and killed just inside the doorway of the cemetery office. She was the General Manager at Pine Grove Cemetery. Cemetery foreman Bill Buhse of Wausau and Rosemelia Short, a relation of a cemetery employee, were also shot and injured.

West is facing one count of first-degree intentional homicide, 11 counts of attempted homicide, and multiple counts of attempted arson. A pre-trial conference is set for November 21, and he is currently behind bars on a $10 million cash bond.