Mother, son in custody for shootings, child abuse

Jamie Hult, Staff writer

Artis Kattenberg, 50, of Brandon, was arrested Dec. 29 for felony child abuse after police found 80 guns and thousands of rounds of ammunition in the home she shared with her 16-year-old son. Both suspects are charged in Iowa with two drive-by shootings targeting members of a Rock Valley church in December. 

Eighty guns and 16 five-gallon buckets of ammunition were found in the basement of the Kattenberg home in Brandon. Photo: Minnehaha Co. Sheriff's Office.

Authorities believe two drive-by shootings targeting members of a Rock Valley, Iowa, church may have been just beginning of a bigger and more dangerous plan for two Brandon residents.
Artis Kattenberg, 50, and her 16-year-old son were taken into custody Dec. 29 after authorities linked them to the shootings.
Kattenberg was arrested on felony child abuse charges after police found 80 guns and 16 five-gallon buckets of ammunition in the basement of her home, which was boarded up like a bunker.
The search also turned up tactical ballistic vests, high-end scopes, a stockpile of food and water and, among the firearms, three .50-caliber semi-automatic rifles.
Kattenberg is set to appear in Minnehaha County Court Jan. 12 on the child abuse charges. 
In Lyon and Sioux counties, she was charged with second-degree criminal mischief/aiding and abetting, a Class D felony, as well as reckless use of a firearm/aiding and abetting and contributing to the delinquency of a minor. Her son was charged with criminal mischief and reckless use of a firearm.
According to Capt. Jason Gearman with the Minnehaha County Sheriff’s Office, Kattenberg believed she was microchipped and had been spending between $3,000 to $7,000 on firearms every three to five months. 
“Many people collect weapons, and I know lots of people that have lots of weapons similar to this that don’t concern me one bit,” Gearman said. “However, when you think you’re being handled by a government agent and hearing things from satellites, then we become very concerned about what the intent is and what’s the purpose of having this and what’s the purpose of renovating your basement into a bunker-type, stockpiling food and water.”
Brandon Police Chief Dave Kull said the juvenile is suspected of pulling the trigger on the two unoccupied homes on back-to-back Sunday mornings – Dec. 17 and  24 – while homeowners were at church. 
Sioux County alerted Brandon police Dec. 25 that witness reports linked Kattenberg and her son with the shootings, and that they were mentally unstable. 
Authorities were racing against time to take them into custody. 
“My fear – and I think everyone’s fear – was what was going to happen this next Sunday,” Kull said. “We didn’t want to sit back and wait on that. Given some of the very questionable behavior and odd statements we felt that it was definitely a dangerous situation. 
“Had it not come to our attention and had we not gotten involved, I think there would have been a very different day. A very different ending.” 
Kattenberg and her son attended Netherlands Reformed Congregation in Rock Valley prior to the shootings but had been banned. Authorities believe the suspects had a falling out with church members prior to the shootings.
“You look at the Texas thing, you look at the school shootings – there are red flags that pop up. Something was going to happen the way it was progressing,” Gearman said. “This is how you stop things like the Texas church shooting.”
Neither had a criminal record, they weren’t in the FBI’s database and there was no indication that any of the guns were illegally obtained.
“It’s a fine line to where somebody can come in, and I may know and the front desk may know, ‘This is an odd person,’ and ‘Why am I giving a pistol permit?’ or ‘Why are they purchasing weapons?’” Gearman said. “However, if their criminal background doesn’t portray that, there’s nothing we can do as far as the sheriff’s office, other than, ‘Hey, that’s a red flag; what’s going on?’ unless they’ve been deemed mentally incompetent or committed of some sort.”
During the Dec. 29 search of Kattenberg’s home in the 1400 block of S. Lakota Ave. in Brandon, authorities found the basement walls boarded up, the windows barred and “thousands of rounds of ammunition,” Gearman said.
Kull said it may have been hundreds of thousands.    
“I doubt we’ll be counting the ammunition. We’ll be weighing it,” he said. 
Kull said he doesn’t know what the suspects were ultimately planning but had to prepare for the worst.
Brandon police were assisted for six other law enforcement agencies in the investigation and arrest. 
The four-day investigation crossed state lines Dec. 25 when the Sioux County Sheriff’s Office contacted the BPD with witness reports identifying Kattenberg and her son as the perpetrators in the shootings.  
Brandon police and Iowa deputies met with FBI and ATF (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives) agents Dec. 27. 
The following day, the South Dakota Division of Criminal Investigation (DCI) and Minnehaha County Sheriff’s Office assisted in getting an arrest affidavit and search warrant for Kattenberg’s address.
The suspects were interviewed and taken into custody at approximately 8:45 p.m. Dec. 29. 
“The beauty of this story and this case is that we had all these agencies that came together and worked together smoothly,” Kull said. “That’s how it’s supposed to work.”
Authorities are confident no one else was involved, Gearman said. 
Kattenberg lived in Rock Valley prior to moving to Brandon in 2000. Her husband, Robert, died in 2005. They had no other children. 
At the time of her arrest, Kattenberg was a self-employed business owner.
Kull could not confirm what type of business she ran.
Her son was not enrolled in the Brandon Valley School District.
“Indications are that he was homeschooled,” Kull said.   
He called the arrest “fairly unusual” for Brandon. 
“Brandon is a small town, it’s a quiet town, for the most part. But anything that happens anywhere else in the country can happen here. It usually doesn’t, but we have to be prepared for things like this and know how to handle them,” Kull said.
The Secret Service was also involved, he said, to handle counterfeit money found in the home.


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