Woman shot at Speedway previously feared her ex; expert says protection order fear not uncommon

SPRINGFIELD — A Springfield woman who police said was shot by her ex-boyfriend at Speedway of South Burnett Road Saturday feared for her safety, because of her ex, according to court records.

Police called the attack Saturday an “instance of domestic violence.”

Emil Witherspoon, 44, is charged with aggravated murder and other charges in connection to the shooting. His bond is set at $1 million.

Witherspoon is accused of shooting his ex-girlfriend, Tiffany Brugler, and two children. He’s accused of killing Antoine Crooks during the shooting spree at the station.

“Mr. Witherspoon clearly went there to confront his ex-girlfriend and it resulted in gun violence,” said Springfield Police Capt. Brad Moos.

Brugler is still recovering in the hospital after she was shot in the head during the attack.

News Center 7 reviewed court documents that show Witherspoon was listed as the suspect in three criminal cases last year where Brugler was listed as the victim.

Witherspoon was accused of victimizing Brugler about a year ago. Brugler told police last July that Witherspoon began making threats to the safety of her and her children after the couple’s 10-year relationship ended.

“Although the threats were vague, Ms. Brugler advised that she was constantly in fear of her safety, and the safety of her kids,” according to a July 2020 court affidavit. “Brugler stated that she was going to apply for a protection order against Mr. Witherspoon, but fears that she or her family may be seriously or fatally injured if this is done.”

Prosecutors dismissed charges against Witherspoon in a theft case and a grand jury declined to indict him on burglary and stalking charges.

The Artemis Center offers support services to domestic violence survivors and its executive director told News Center 7 what Brugler express in court filings about being afraid of what would happen if she filed for a protection order is not uncommon.

“So what we know in domestic violence is when survivors do leave relationship, the violence typically escalates. And it sounds like this individual’s aware that this is a possibility,” Jane Keiffer, executive director at Artemis Center said. “When we work with survivors and they’re talking about protection orders, we talk about the risk of increased violence when we separate. So sometimes it’s not worth getting a protection order if it’s going to affect our safety.”

Keiffer also cautioned that protection orders are not absolute protection and calls the court orders a piece of the safety plan for survivors.

“I always say it’s another tool in your tool box and it allows the police to help keep you safe. So, the police can respond when you have this piece of paper. But right, it’s not going to stop a bullet, but it’s going to help other people be aware, can lookout, ‘look I have this piece of paper, if you see this person, please call the police,” she said.

If you or someone you know is in need of help surrounding a domestic violence situation you can contact the Artemis Center at 937-461-HELP (4357).