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Shooting deaths investigated in Rice Lake

Rice Lake residents Cheri Fullarton, 37, and Justin Lowrie, 32, were found dead of gunshots on Jan. 7. (Images courtesy of Barron News-Shield)

Six days after two people were killed by gunshots at a downtown Rice Lake apartment building, their deaths were still being probed by investigators from the Rice Lake Police Department, with assistance from the Barron County Medical Examiner and the Wisconsin Department of Justice, Division of Criminal Investigation.

Killed in the incident were Cheri Fullarton, 37, and Justin Lowrie, 32, who both reportedly were Rice Lake residents.

Although investigators declined to comment, the Jan. 7 incident is being described as an accidental shooting, followed by a suicide, according to the father of one of the deceased.

Official version

Since the morning after the two shootings, no official announcements have been made about the incident.

According to the original press release from Chief Steven G. Roux,  police got a call shortly before 10:30 p.m.Thursday, Jan. 7, from a woman who said that she heard a gunshot and screaming from a location that turned out to be an apartment at 5 1/2 W. Eau Claire St., Rice Lake.

Officers responded and discovered a deceased female (Fullarton) inside the apartment building. Additional shots were reportedly fired before officers reached the scene. The occupants of the building were evacuated.

With the assistance of the Barron County Sheriff's Department Emergency Response Team, officers eventually searched the apartment building and located a deceased male (Lowrie) inside.

Police recovered a handgun and other evidence.

Dispatch records said that several witnesses were taken to the Rice Lake Police Department, presumably for further questioning, and that the Wisconsin Division of Criminal Investigation was summoned to the city.

Unofficial reports indicated that the Sheriff’s Department used its radio-controlled drone to check out the apartment where the second body was discovered.

A ‘tragic accident’

Earl Lowrie, of Cameron, Justin Lowrie’s father, said that Fullarton’s death was a tragic accident, and that his son would have felt immense responsibility for it.

“They were drinking, he was playing with his gun,” Earl Lowrie said via phone on Tuesday, Jan. 12. “He had removed the clip, thought it was empty, and didn’t realize it was chambered. A round went off and killed Cheri.”

Earl Lowrie said that he knew that his son would have been distraught over what happened, as Fullarton was the fiancée of Justin’s best friend.

“A few minutes later, he took his life as a consequence of what he did,” the father said. “He went back to his own apartment and that’s when he took his life.

“I don’t know what Cheri’s family’s thoughts are, and my heart reaches out to them. I can only imagine,” Earl Lowrie added.

Justin Lowrie’s death has been tough on him, the father said, and, especially, for Justin’s brother, Josh. Earl Lowrie said that he has had tough moments, but has had plenty of support from others and the memory of Justin.

In the aftermath of the incident, funeral arrangements are being made in two communities.

A memorial service for Lowrie will be held at 11 a.m. this Friday, Jan. 15, at Red Cedar Community Church, Rice Lake.

A similar service for Fullarton will take place from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. next Wednesday, Jan. 20, at O’Connell Family Funeral Home, Hudson.

Incident timeline

County dispatch records list the following transmissions on the night of the incident:

Fourteen units responded, according to dispatch logs.

At 10:26 p.m. a woman called to say that “she just heard a gunshot and now hears screaming,” coming from an area south of where she lives in the 200 block of Main Street. Another caller said someone was shot at 5 1/2 W. Eau Claire St.

A second call went out for additional officers, Lakeview Medical Center Ambulance, and Rice Lake Fire Department.

At 10:29 p.m. police found one female shot in the head and deceased. All available units were summoned.

Two minutes later, a Rice Lake police officer said there were two more shots fired. A K9 unit was summoned and the area was ordered blocked off for emergency traffic only.

  • At 10:33 p.m., another officer said that a man “came out and fired off two more shots.” The Emergency Response Team was paged.
  • At 10:47 p.m., the Division of Criminal Investigation was contacted.
  • At 10:48 p.m., Rice Lake Fire Department was asked to close Main Street from Marshall to Messenger. Police also blocked off Eau Claire Street and Wilson Avenue.
  • An ambulance took witnesses to the police department at 10:53 p.m.
  • At 10:58 p.m., an officer requested that dispatchers ping (Lowrie’s) phone, but it was powered off and there were no recent calls.
  • At 11:15 p.m. the sheriff’s department drone was summoned, and the State Patrol was asked to respond four minutes later.
  • At 11:29 p.m., the owner of the apartment was on the scene and provided a set of master keys for the building.
  • At 11:37 p.m., the Sheriff’s Department drone was airborne.
  • At 12:15 a.m., the Emergency Response Team entered the apartment.
  • At 12:17 a.m., police said the “house is secure,” and that the suspect was deceased on arrival.
 This story was published by the Barron News-Shield