A prosecutor alleged on Friday that the shooter who killed six people in a cafe and a pizzeria had made a secret plan to ambush conservative commentator Candace Owens at a Kenosha restaurant.
“It was a posthoc destruction, a textbook textbook case of people coming together to support themselves,” Assistant District Attorney Mark Harrison said in a conference call with reporters on Friday. “The purpose of it was clearly rage against conservative voices.”
The killer, Jeffrey Johnson, 53, had concluded that Ms. Owens would be the greatest target, Mr. Harrison said. He also admitted that in targeting a restaurant frequented by White supremacists, Johnson gave up his fair shot at killing all people in the establishment. But he had locked himself in a bathroom with the intent of shooting everyone else he encountered.
“Jumping ahead of all the other potential targets, he was just aiming at Ms. Owens,” Mr. Harrison said. “He didn’t know who might try to argue with him and get him to leave her alone, so it was purely his intent to kill her.”
Mr. Harrison said the shooting erupted, as it often does in a gun battle, when Johnson went to shoot someone who crossed paths with him.
“This was spontaneous in some sense, but it was, of course, planned and organized and premeditated by the defendant,” he said.
Mark Kohlman, the prosecutor, said Johnson also had been grooming Mr. Owens for the attack.
“He was building her up as a hate leader,” Mr. Kohlman said. “He knew who she was, he knew where she worked, and he knew how to get in her way.”
The shooter also had considered attacking two other pizzerias, Mr. Harrison said. In Mr. Johnson’s mind, Ms. Owens had been put on a “hit list,” he said. He had tried to portray himself as the victim of a White supremacist conspiracy.
“Because of his anger, he was rushing to shoot someone, and he didn’t realize he was shooting everybody,” Mr. Harrison said.
This is the second mass shooting in Wisconsin in less than three weeks. The attack on Nov. 2 in a Sikh temple in Oak Creek killed six. A gunman who attended that temple, Wade Michael Page, killed seven people before he died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head.
Mr. Harrison cited both killings in his attack on Ms. Owens, who described Mr. Johnson as a “racist coon.”
“I can’t say this was her motive,” Mr. Harrison said. “But it was clear there was some type of unity event in Kenosha that he wanted to bring attention to by doing the shootings and then afterward saying he would not have done that if not for Candace Owens.”
Before the shooting, Mr. Johnson had apparently planned to take a ride-along with the Milwaukee police, but the plan was scuttled when he realized the officers were police detectives.
He had also left note on his car that indicated, “Hey, they’re coming for me,” Mr. Harrison said.
The note also mentioned Kathleen Kinney, a conservative author and radio show host, according to the prosecutor. He also said that the note had many children’s jokes about her.
Mr. Harrison has already charged Mr. Johnson with six counts of first-degree intentional homicide, as well as five counts of attempted first-degree intentional homicide and two of armed robbery.
The suspect had previous convictions for sex offenses and drug offenses.
While news organizations pressed for details of what led to the crime, some of the people who witnessed the shootings have asked that their names be withheld.
Johnson, who had a long criminal record, had legally purchased a handgun and a shotgun the day before the attack.
Cynthia Peterson, an avowed white supremacist who had gone to speak with Mr. Johnson in the car, gave Ms. Owens’ address. She said that Mr. Johnson came across her by chance, parked in front of the group of extremists and opened fire.
The sheriff in Lake County, Robert Hermann, said earlier this week that the suspect was targeting people with “hatred” who sympathized with white supremacists.