Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Governor ‘will not be bullied or intimidated’ following ‘targeted attack’ in Wisconsin


Need to Know

  • Authorities suspect Douglas Uhde killed retired Wisconsin judge John Roemer in a “targeted attack” that may have also included other targets in both state and federal government.
  • A “hit list” found with Uhde reportedly included Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s name.
  • In a statement, Whitmer’s office said that she “will not be bullied or intimidated” by extremists.

By Kyle Kaminski

LANSING, Mich. — A man suspected of killing a retired Wisconsin judge in a “targeted attack” also reportedly had another name on his “hit list” — Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.

Douglas Uhde, 56, was identified by state authorities on Saturday as a suspect in the “targeted” killing of retired Juneau County, Wisconsin, Judge John Roemer, who was found zip-tied and fatally shot on Friday at his home in New Lisbon Township. Uhde was not charged with a crime before he died at a hospital from injuries resulting from a self-inflicted gunshot wound on Tuesday. Investigators suspect the judge may not have been the only intended target of Uhde’s anti-government violence, after they discovered a “hit list” with Whitmer’s name, among others.

In addition to Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers, the list included several high-profile government officials as potential targets, reports the Washington Post. Whitmer’s office confirmed over the weekend that the governor was included as a potential target. The list also reportedly included about a dozen others, including Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.

“Governor Whitmer has demonstrated repeatedly that she is tough, and she will not be bullied or intimidated from doing her job and working across the aisle to get things done for the people of Michigan.” a spokesperson for Whitmer’s office said in a release.

The presence of Whitmer’s name on the hit list marks at least the second time that the governor has been faced with threats of domestic terrorism. Four men were charged in 2020 over an alleged plot to kidnap Whitmer and violently overthrow the state government. In April, a jury found two of the men not guilty and deadlocked on two others, leading to a mistrial.

In 2005, Judge Roemer sentenced Uhde to six years in prison and nine years of extended supervision after he was convicted of an armed burglary in Wisconsin. In 2006, Uhde escaped from a minimum-security prison. He faced additional criminal charges tied to that incident, and was ultimately released from prison in April 2021.

Recent reports in the Detroit News suggest that Uhde may have been an “independent actor likely involved in extremist anti-government movements” — but not a movement that walks along any particular political lines. 

Uhde — who reportedly briefly lived in Michigan and demonstrated a general dislike for authority figures — had previously talked about “taking care of” a Michigan judge, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

Javed Ali, associate professor of practice at the University of Michigan’s Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy and former senior director for counterterrorism at the National Security Council, told the Detroit News that Uhde’s list appeared to show anger at the government at large.

“This is a person who apparently had grievances with a full range of political actors, for whatever reasons he had in his head,” Ali said. “… It’s not necessarily a bias against a political party. It’s a bias against the government, just writ large, whether Democrat or Republican.”

Despite appearing to have acted alone, Uhde’s behavior seems to fit the overarching philosophies of extremist movements like the Oath Keepers and the Proud Boys, Ali said.

Jon Lewis, a research fellow at George Washington’s University Program on Extremism, also told the Detroit News that a connection might exist between Whtimer’s kidnapping plot and the Wisconsin case in the sense that they’re based on the same culture war narratives and grievances actively pumped out by online actors, conservative politicians and right-wing media.

That rhetoric, he explained, helps to push “that idea that violence against the other is not just permissible, but has to happen, because if you don’t do it against them, they’re gonna do it against you. They’re going to come and take everything of yours, your way of life, your guns, your Judeo-Christian values, your lifestyle,” Lewis described in reports from the Detroit News.

For Uhde’s friends in Michigan, the allegations came as a shock. One of them — who was not identified by name — told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that he’d been aware of Uhde’s criminal record and legal troubles, but never personally knew him to be a “bad presence around his family.” He also noted that Uhde “would cherish anyone who was a friend.”

A Washington Post-University of Maryland poll found that about 1 in 3 Americans say they believe that violence against the government can at times be justified — which represents an all-time high compared to previous polls that have asked similar questions.

Senate Republicans last month blocked a bill designed to combat domestic terrorism that would have set up offices at the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Justice, and the FBI to investigate incidents of politically motivated violence.