Male shooting victim was decorated Army vet, family says, only trying to help sister out of 'very bad situation'

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The man who was shot and killed on Whittier Avenue Saturday night was a decorated Army veteran and father of six who had come to Rome to help his sister out of a "very bad situation," according to the victim's family and others close to the family.

The woman was also shot during the incident and remains hospitalized, according to police. The gunman is believed to have then turned his 12-gauge shotgun on himself.

Rome Police have not yet released the names of those involved in the incident at 107 Whittier Ave. The investigation is ongoing and police officials said they will release more information when it is available.

A sister of the two victims recently spoke to the Daily Sentinel and said her brother and her nephew traveled to Rome from Wisconsin to help the woman.

"My brother traveled here to help my sister in a very bad situation," the sister said.

"The fact of the matter is, she didn't come to file the police report and try to get the order of protection for no reason."

According to Rome Police, the female victim contacted authorities at about 4:30 p.m. Saturday to lodge a complaint against the gunman. Police said the pair had once been in a relationship, and the woman wanted to file a complaint for Family Court purposes, but wanted no further action taken by officers. Police said the woman was complaining about "annoyances" from the soon-to-be gunman.

At 6 p.m. Saturday, police said the gunman shot the woman in the abdomen and shot her brother, killing the brother. The woman told police that the gunman then shot himself.

Family said the male victim was a 12-year veteran of the U.S. Army, who served two tours in Afghanistan and Iraq. They said he came home with a Purple Heart. Family said he is survived by six children.

The male victim and one of his sons traveled to Whittier Avenue on Friday.

According to the sister, the relationship between the gunman and the female victim had been over for months, but the gunman and his son refused to leave the residence at 107 Whittier Ave.

"He refused to leave the home. She did have to formally evict him because of it," the sister said. According to family, the coronavirus put the eviction window at 90 days. According to family, law enforcement told the woman that they could not force the gunman out of the residence.

"She was a prisoner in her own home every single day," said one person close to the victims' family. "She didn't feel safe going to the police" because she knew the gunman owned a 12-gauge shotgun that he kept at the residence.

Family said the female victim stayed in her own room in her home and put a lock on the door. Family said there was a recent incident where someone broke into her room and rummaged through her drawers, and that the female victim found a knife on her bed. This prompted her to notify family, and the decision was made that her brother would travel from Wisconsin to help her.

"He went out there to make sure she was OK," one person said, to help the female victim "get out of that situation in safe way because she no longer felt safe."

Family said the woman's contact with police at 4:30 p.m. was part of the effort to rush the eviction process.

Following that contact with police, the female victim and her brother returned to the residence, at which point further argument occurred, family said.

"I think there was some tension and there was arguing. There may be some things that were said that were less than pleasant," the sister described. She said she is taking care of the male victim's son, who witnessed the shooting.

The male victim "obviously did not have a weapon," the sister said. "If his words were harsh enough to incite this man to get a gun, that's not how it works."

One person close to the family said it was "absolutely ridiculous" that the male victim would have been the aggressor, and that he did not have a weapon on Saturday.

Family said the two victims were outside the residence when the gunman came out with the shotgun.

"I think my brother was running from the shotgun. He saw him come out with the shotgun and was probably trying to get away. A gun is a gun," the sister said.

According to police, the male victim's body was found outside in the driveway. The female victim and the gunman were found inside the residence.

The sister said that the male and female victims knew about the shotgun, but did not expect the argument to escalate to the point that it would be brought out. She said the male victim had planned to try to disable the weapon at some point, "but he never actually had that opportunity. Obviously I wish that he had been successful in doing that."

The sister called the entire incident "heartbreaking" and knows that the family of the gunman is also suffering.

"I have empathy for that and I sympathize with what he's going through. He's in my prayers," she said. "I recognize that not just one family experienced a tragedy. We all did."

Rome Police said they are expected to release more information today or Tuesday.

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