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Former employee and friend remembers Oneida Casino shooting victims, recalls working with shooter

Posted at 11:16 PM, May 03, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-04 00:35:19-04

BROWN COUNTY, Wis. (NBC 26) -- Sarah Sai-Vong worked with one of the victims as a waitress for two years at the Duck Creek Restaurant, the site of Saturday's shooting that killed two people and injured another. During that time, she says she found more than a co-worker.


"The world is definitely worse without him," Sai-Vong said.

Jacob Bartel, 35, is someone Sai-Vong knew for 11 years. She says the victim was a companion who gave her a place to stay when she was homeless. Now, he's gone.

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"We were all crying since like Saturday, because he was gone since Saturday," she said.

Bartel was killed along with co-worker Ian Simpson, 32.

"A lot of the tourism, a lot of people came to visit him [Bartel], Sai-Vong said. "A lot of the attraction was him. I honestly feel like it."

When she was on the streets without a home, Sai-Vong says Bartel gave her a place to stay, rent free.

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Sarah Sai-Vong, 29

"I know he was a good person and stuff, but people aren't that nice," she said "Usually, if I stayed at someone's house, they would ask for money."

After living with Bartel for nearly a year, Sai-Vong remembers his loyalty.

"He was one of those people that like, once you became his friend, you knew if you ever lost him as a friend, it was your fault," Sai-Vong said.

At 29 years old, the former restaurant employee recalls working with the shooter, Bruce Pofahl, for three months.

"He [Pofahl] would make fun of people in front of their faces," Sai-Vong said. "[He would] insult people's bartending skills, insult people's serving skills. He was just very sick. There's no better way for me to describe him."

Sai-Vong says she wishes the shooter was fired earlier.

"Our deepest condolences go out to the family and friends of those who have lost their lives in this senseless act of violence," Brown County Sheriff Todd Delain said in a press conference Monday morning.

Sai-Vong says she cherishes the two years she spent working with Bartel at Duck Creek.

"He just made everything so much better," she said. "You know when you walk into work when you have to say 'hi' to everybody? He was definitely my favorite person to say 'hi' to when I walked into work."

Update on Oneida Casino complex shooting

And Sai-Vong says she spoke with Bartel just a few weeks ago to make brunch plans. She had no idea it would be their last conversation.

"He was just a really good person," she said. "He was only 35. It's just a horrible thing to happen to someone so great."