Sussex man avoids murder trial through plea bargain

Published on: 8/13/2013

Sussex resident Richard A. Petarius avoided a murder trial after agreeing to plea guilty on Thursday, Aug. 8, to numerous felonies, including second-degree reckless endangerment and false imprisonment.

Petarius, 76, was charged last year with attempted first-degree intentional homicide after shooting at two police officers during a hostage situation.

According to the criminal complaint, Waukesha Police were disptched at 4:15 p.m. Oct. 23 to the 1800 block of Racine Avenue after receiving reports of a domestic incident.

The officers, Amanda Bauer and Jan Corrigan, knocked at the front entrance and Petarius' 75-year-old ex-wife answered the door. Behind her stood Petarius armed with a shotgun, according to the complaint.

One officer grabbed hold of Petarius' ex-wife and pulled her out of the residence. Another officerfired several shots at Petarius, believing that he was pointing the gun at him. Petarius returned fire, nearly striking the retreating officer.

Petarius eventually surrended to police after his son, daughter and lawyer told him to do so. He said that he fired at the officers to prevent them from entering and shooting at him.

Petarius' ex-wife later told police that the 76-year-old man had appeared at her house at 4 p.m. and forced her at gunpoint into the residence. Petarius was apparently upset after being ordered by a court commissioner earlier that morning to pay alimony owed to the woman.

She said she initially refused Petarius' request, but he pushed her to the ground, breaking her arm and causing an injury to her face. She was eventually able to call the couple's daughter, who then called police.

Petarius had been barred from possessing a firearm after his ex-wife filed a restraining order against him in May 2012. Police later learned the gun had been taken from the home of the couple's son.

On May 19, the two officers each received a Meritorious Award from the Wisconsin Professional Police Association for their heroic action during the incident. They also each received a Citation of Valor in December from the City of Waukesha, the highest award offered by the city's police department.

Petarius also pleaded guilty to possession of a firearm, contrary to injunction, possession of a short-barreled shotgun and violating a domestic abuse injunction.

Altogether he could face more than 32 years in prison and $70,000 in fines if convicted.

He is expected to be sentenced Nov. 1.