The gunman who went into his Middleton workplace last week and shot and injured several co-workers was a quiet man who didn’t socialize much with others, a former co-worker said in an interview Sunday.
Anthony Tong had been with WTS Paradigm since April 2017 when he went into the office building at 1850 Deming Way and began working Wednesday morning before he fired several rounds at co-workers, seriously injuring three people and grazing another person.
Tong, 43, died in a shootout with law enforcement officers.
“He never smiled. We never heard him say a word,” said Isaac Hall, a former development lead at WTS Paradigm who left the software company for a new job the week before the shooting. “He didn’t really talk to anybody.”
Hall had worked for WTS Paradigm for eight years and heard about the shooting in a text from his financial adviser asking if he was alright.
“I did figure out pretty quickly that it was Anthony Tong, and I’ll be honest, if it would have been anybody else there, literally anybody else, I would have been really surprised. But him, I mean, he kind of creeped me out a little bit,” Hall said.
While Hall didn’t work on Tong’s team, he said he was stationed about three cubicles away from Tong. A couple of times Tong saw that Hall was looking at him, and it would draw out prolonged stares by Tong, Hall said.
“His head would actually follow me and watch me as I go,” the 31-year-old Hall said. “At the time I just thought, ‘Well, you know, maybe he’s just antisocial.’”
Hall described WTS Paradigm as being a “very social group.”
“He didn’t really join in on any of the social activities at all. I never saw him at anything. I only saw him at work,” Hall said of Tong.
Hall declined to identify the victims of the shooting, though he said the woman who was wounded was relatively new to the company.
Former Madison Ald. Chris Schmidt said he attended Lawrence University in Appleton with Tong. They both entered the college’s undergraduate physics program in 1993 and graduated in 1997, Schmidt said.
Schmidt said he had several classes with Tong, given the small number of students in the physics program, and remembers that Tong studied frequently in the library and was interested in computers.
Tong “fit into the norm of the school,” Schmidt said.
“He was a physics major. He was quieter than maybe some people are, but I don’t know that he was any less sociable than I was,” Schmidt said. “He wasn’t asocial. He did socialize with people some.”
According to a report from the Jacksonville Journal-Courier, Tong graduated from the Jacksonville, Illinois, high school in 1993 and lived in the city for much of his childhood. The report said Tong’s father, a professor at Illinois College, died in 2010.
Tong had assembled a huge cache of weapon parts and ammunition at his house on Madison’s Far West Side despite not being able to legally possess a weapon. According to police, the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives is having difficulty determining where Tong got the gun he used in the shooting, which was recovered by investigators.
Police in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, reported in August 2004 that Tong had disabled a fire alarm, ceiling fan and other devices in his apartment building because he believed people in the apartment below were eavesdropping on him. The mental health incident resulted in Tong’s concealed carry license being revoked.
Middleton police have not established a motive for the shooting and have cautioned against jumping to the conclusion that mental health issues played a role.
WTS Paradigm issued a statement Friday saying Tong “was an employee in good standing and was not facing any type of disciplinary action.”
“We, like everyone else, are shocked and saddened by this senseless act,” the company said.
Company officials have so far not elaborated on Tong’s personality, social involvement or demeanor.
Hall, the former WTS employee, said he was “freaking out” when he heard about the shooting as he has several friends at WTS Paradigm.
“I know if I was there, it would take me a while to go back (to work),” Hall said. “Thank God nobody died.”
Last October while visiting Las Vegas, Hall said he was taking in a show a few hotels away from where at the same time a man opened fire on a country music festival, killing 58 people.
“I feel like I almost dodged a couple bullets,” Hall said. “I missed that and then I missed this.”