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Soldier Gets 28 Years in Prison for Killing Best Friend in Waukesha

Waukesha County Circuit Judge Mark Gundrum calls homicide of 23-year-old Zach Gallenberg senseless as he sends 25-year-old Steven P. Osburn to prison.

An Army vet who served two tours in Iraq will serve 28 years in prison for killing his best friend.

Twenty-five-year-old Steven P. Osburn was sentenced Wednesday for killing Zach Gallenberg in the early morning hours of Aug. 6, 2010, in a Waukesha neighborhood.

The shooting didn’t make sense, Judge Mark Gundrum said in passing down the sentence for second-degree intentional homicide.

“For what you did, you need to answer,” Gundrum said.

Osburn’s attorneys at the three-hour sentencing hearing Wednesday afternoon tried to argue a mix of post traumatic stress disorder from Osburn’s time in the military mixed with impaired judgment from alcohol and self defense lead to the fatal shooting of the 23-year-old Marine veteran. Osburn thought he was being threatened by Gallenberg as the two extremely intoxicated individuals had been fighting all night. Osburn feared that Gallenberg would grab his gun, according to the defense.

Osburn told a similar tale, saying there was more than one side of the story about the “worst day” of his life.

Gundrum wasn’t buying that argument.

“There is nothing that convinces me of that,” the judge said.

Osburn had options available to him, and there was no evidence to suggest that Gallenberg would have shot him, Gundrum said.

“You didn’t need to have a gun in your hand at all,” he said.

According to the complaint:

A witness to the shooting told Waukesha Police Department officers that she, Gallenberg and Osburn had consumed  alcohol during the night of Aug. 5. Osburn and Gallenberg were arguing about their different branches of the military throughout the night.

The woman told investigators at one point in the evening, Osburn began choking her before going into his bedroom and then outside. Gallenberg eventually followed, she told police, and tried to give Osburn a bear hug, which is when Osburn took out a gun and shot Gallenberg.

In the meantime, police officers were at the residence because Osburn called 911 and said if they did not respond, he would kill someone. One of the officers was approaching the residence when he heard the gunshot sound. Other officers were approaching the building at the same time. One officer reported turning the corner of the building, seeing Osburn, hearing yelling and then seeing the muzzle flash.

Osburn admitted several times to officers that he had shot Gallenberg.

“It bothers me that I shot Zach because he was my best friend, but I was threatened,” Osburn told police.

Gallenberg was transported to Waukesha Memorial Hospital where he was pronounced deceased at 4:47 a.m. Aug. 6.

Sarah Millard (Editor) August 25, 2011 at 04:33 PM
It was in the 2000 block of South Cliff-alex Court.
Pizza Man August 25, 2011 at 08:15 PM
Jim thank you so much for your insite. I wish your entire family and those of the victims familes will at some point be able to be friends.
The Marine August 25, 2011 at 11:09 PM
Zach was one of my best friends in the Marine Corps. We also deployed twice to Iraq together. There are plenty of ways to get treatment for PTSD that doesn't involve killing someone. James if you haven't been there you probably can't fathom it. I was there i know what it is like. That does not give you a reason to kill someone. If he wanted the help he could have got it.
Bravo Koz August 26, 2011 at 07:12 PM
Well - to set the records straight. Steve did not serve in Combat Operations. He was a generator mechanic, specifically a diesel mechanic. He was not with Socom, Special Forces, etc. He was a reservist recalled to duty, spun up at Ft. McCoy. His records from Ft. McCoy show that he barely passed the basic quals for overseas deployment. He does not have a CIB (Combat Infantry Badge) that is awarded for direct action. Everything that he has told all of you is BS. He does not have PTSD because he did nothing except eat at the chow hall, and fix generators. He had higher adventures for himself and his emails back home. Basically he served 7 months overseas, and that does not count as 2 tours. He did 7 months. Steve complained of thunderclap headaches, PTSD and all of this, He had the VA snowed. He might have been depressed because he couldn't maintain employment. Zach on the other hand was a distinguished USMC vet with combat experience. It's a shame he died at the hand of his friend. Steve was passed over for DOD/DOS work because he was black listed as having wanted to go back overseas to see what it felt like to kill someone. A shame he did.
Joanne Curley August 27, 2011 at 02:27 AM
I agree families need to look after their own because no one else is going to!
Joanne Curley August 27, 2011 at 02:30 AM
Because he is as a vet even though he has no commen sense... he came from a differant cloth.
Joanne Curley August 27, 2011 at 02:41 AM
You are at least a young unknowing child, Steve never saw combat... Zach did twice he would have never let ANYONE hurt Steve. Growup and realize Steve Shot to death my SON! For no reason! Shut the hell up! Untill you know what you are talking about!!
REAL Vet August 27, 2011 at 02:57 AM
I like that comment "Most of you can't fathom how traumatic of an experience it is to fight a war in a third-world country, having to shoot and kill your enemies" Neither did Osburn. The only thing he fought for was the head of the line at chow. He had memebrs of his OWN outfit show he never saw combat, never shot anything more than Jack Daniels, and lied through his teeth. Now you can believe what you like, but it is ALL on Military Record! You fell for his BS, I am sure the rest of your family did too.....doesn't make it TRUE. You ask where's the justice? That some wannabe usurping washout took the life of someone who actually had a life to look foward to? You blame a judge who neevr saw war and compare him to some loser who also never saw war? Street kids in Chicago see more violence and blood than Osburn ever did! Where is the justice when some slob who cut down a good man out of jealousy walks alive while a useful life was taken? HIs family...YES YOUR family walked behind Zachs family at the courthouse making crying sounds behind them as a taunt! ANIMALS! LOSERS! TRAILER TRASH! What type of people do THAT? YOUR FAMILY NIELSEN! ANd YOU stick up for this waste of skin as if he had some credibility and honor? That makes you just as bad. It also reflects poorly on his parents and siblings who would walk behind a grieving mother and taunt her with impunity! If my kid did this I would cut him off, and NOT try to make lame excuses as Osburn did in court.
Joanne Curley August 27, 2011 at 02:59 AM
Good night Steve I hope life gives you everything you have coming!
Sarah Millard (Editor) August 27, 2011 at 03:50 AM
I deleted several comments that had swearing in them because that violates our terms of use. Please feel free to repost comments without swearing in them or I will have to closed down the thread. To the Zach Gallenberg family, I am sincerely sorry for your loss.
Joanne Curley August 27, 2011 at 04:29 AM
Then recant your story on Thursdays addition in the Freeman
james reagh August 27, 2011 at 05:35 AM
what about my brother zachs family...he was someones grandchild son brother uncle atleast steves family can go see him...they can see him smile and laugh and hug them and tell them how much he loves them...Zachs family will never see him grow old have kids smile hug them laugh with them...they have a stone with his name and underneth lays a loved one a brother a son a grandchild...and steve took that away..no excuse you can make James N will ever make me have any pity on steve
Abby August 27, 2011 at 01:32 PM
James Neilson - not only was I at every hearing concerning your cousin, I was also there the night your cousin snapped. Zach was not any more aggressive with your cousin than they have consistently been with each other in the past. Steve was extremely aggressive that night. He laid his hands on my neck and held me down on the couch. He may not have done any physical damage to me that night, but I accredit that to Zach. The only thing steve ever said to me about it was the I "challenged" him. I never challenge anyone to put their hands anywhere near my neck. And I'm not the only one he's done this to, or attempted to do this to. Zach wanted steve to take his anger out on him. Zach knew he could handle it and wanted steve to let off some steam. Zach had zero intent to end steve's life that night as steve is diligenty sticking to. Zach never would've turned a gun on his "brother" the way steve did. As for steve never being a racist like his lawyers tried claiming: I knew of steve in high school. I knew him by his nickname: Nazi Steve. He wouldn't even talk to me in high school because I'm 1/4 Puerto Rican. I wasn't born there, raised there, or brought up with any of there customs, yet I was disgusting and unpure and not worthy of his time. If that's not racism, I don't know what is.
Abby August 27, 2011 at 01:32 PM
I respect that fact that he is your cousin. And I respect that you will defend him. But maybe you should get to know all the facts of a story and all the sides of a person before deciding if they're really a good person. A truly good, honorable, caring person never would've murdered their "brother" in cold blood.
Shaina Sommers August 27, 2011 at 09:27 PM
I think it is so sad how my fiance' can not post anything about how he feels about his cousin Steve without being bashed personally. This is the reason he removed all of his comments. I do believe James posted how he felt what his cousin did was wrong, he just believes Steve had a mental issue of PTSD. James grew up with his cousin and had talked to Steve a few days before the incident. James felt something was mentally going on with Steve then. James mentioned how he didn't condone what his cousin did and knows it was very wrong! Steve should be allowed to get the help he needs. I wish all of the family and friends of Zach peace and happiness. We are truely sorry for your loss!
Pizza Man August 27, 2011 at 10:20 PM
It is a shame that anybody would bad mouth people on this board. The moderator is going a great job and she should not have to police us. We should act like adults. As far as mental issues I find it horrible that some people who are not understanding of brain chemistry issues would bad mouth a vet even though what he did was wrong and I bet he would be the first to say it was a mistake. Smile people, there but by the grace of God go all of us.
Marine RaiderOne August 27, 2011 at 11:08 PM
Specialty MOS - 52D1 - Power Generator Equipment Repairman His training dates from 20080502 - 20080517,That's 15 days of trng. Wait, maybe a day or 2 for admin stuff. Steve was not Special Forces. Review in Box11 (Performance Summary) States Marginally achieved course standards. The course included training on, convoy operations, detainee operation, the M9, M4, M203, M2, M240, and M249. Basic Land Nav, Basic Communications, Squad Unit Tactics. Ok so Far, Steve didnt become the Delta Force Commando he pretended to be when he flipped his Challenge Coin out, or wait. Maybe his Book called the Killer Elite that was supposedly based on his units actions.His review goes on to say he satisfactorily communicated with others, passed the minimum standards, and interacted with other personnel as a team player. Entered Service 20050906 // Date Separated 20060818 That's 11 months 13 days. National Defense Service Ribbon - A gimme, Joint Service Comm. Medal Iraq Campaign Medal - You landed in Iraq, and you took a breath, a gimme Global War on Terrorism - A gimme Overseas Svc Ribbon - a gimme Army Svc Medal - a gimme Armed forces service medal w/device - a gimme No CIB (Combat Infantry Badge) - If you participated in any action, got accidentally mortared, took indirect fire, the FOB got nuked, you get it. He didnt get anything. Plus his MOS dis-allows him from participating in direct action. They dont use generator mechanics to kick doors like he TOLD you.
Marine RaiderOne August 27, 2011 at 11:19 PM
Service in Iraq from 2005 1014 - 2006 0730. There is time for the RIP, the preparation for the incoming unit. The clearance i Kuwait, etc. So his actual Ground time is 7 months. Here is the ADDRESS for those that where snowed - Commanding Officer 0377 CS CO MNT Det2, FC Fort McCoy, WI. 54656-5150 You will not violate anything by requesting the details for yourself. No information has been compromised, such as a SSN. Name of Trng School was - 2-426 RGT(GS), Ft. MCCoy - Army National Guard Course completion - 20080517
REAL Vet August 28, 2011 at 12:06 PM
Lady, no one blames him for feeling bad for his cousin. What we blame is the fact he is using PTSD, which is a syndrome REAL soldiers get as the excuse. He is trying to gain sympathy from people who have no idea the guy never saw combat. He was lied to by his cousin and in spite of all the soldiers posting data to show this, he still blamed PTSD and the governments lack of helping him sooner. Your fiance's family jeered at the grieving family. taunting them as they walked from the courthouse. Where do you think Osburn got his mental instability? The bottom line is, the guy told lies often enough to people that he believed he was a trained killer, when all he ever did was change oil in a safe area. He was deemed incompetent for combat. Physically unfit as well as mentally. So Pizza man, you claim no one here knows what soldiers go through in combat. Yet, 4 people ...who HAVE been there are telling you the opposite. Osburn NEVER SAW COMBAT! And yet you STILL speak of brain chemistry changes due to combat! And you chasten others for not being adult? How many times do you need to see it in writing that Osburn NEVER SAW COMBAT before you stop using PTSD as an excuse? Save it for the real men and women who fought and saw combat. It will give you back some of the credibility you lost protecting a murderer who lied constantly about his service.
REAL Vet August 28, 2011 at 12:17 PM
Bad mouth a vet? No one badmouthed his service. They badmouthed his LYING about his service. The guy told people he killed women and children? Kicked down doors, fought in deep cover ops,....on and on. The guy changed tires. You DONT GET PTSD FROM CHANGING TIRES in NON-COMBAT SITUATIONS. And people like you who keep insisting it was PTSD are the ones insulting REAL VETS by even placing that murderer in the same class. Look around at the posts here Pal, you think we have no clue about combat stress? You defend some clown who walked around lying left and right about his service. It is YOU who badmouth REAL vets by using PTSD to justify a murderer who never saw combat. Read the posts. How much proof will you need to stop using a condition like PTSD to defend the actions of a wrench mechanic who murdered his best friend, a TRUE VET and HERO?
REAL Vet August 28, 2011 at 12:29 PM
The guy showed no remorse. He apologized, he cried about his sentencing, but did he REALLY ever apologize? NO! He tried to use the excuse to the very end that he was 'protecting his life"! Anyone who is really remorseful would take FULL responsibility for their actions. His parents asked for NO TIME! They jeered a grieving mother and her family! In spite of all the facts posted here using public military records and testimony by people who served, you still think this guy suffered mental disorder from combat? SO tell me Shaina, since you are about to marry into this family....is that something to defend? The guy is mentally ill, but it has nothing to do with his service. Your new extended family who asked for NO TIME to be served, who taunted and jeered the family who lost a real hero, seem to be no more remorseful than the murderer they raised. Do I feel sorry for Osburns family? No! Because anyone who would jeer and taunt the family of the man their son slaughtered are no better than he is. Had they stood and apologized, had they shown any remorse for the murdered man and his family I would say sure. BUt they SUPPORT him in this! And YOU get to marry into this wonderful brood! He choked and attacked WOMEN and blamed it on combat he never saw. Then he murdered his best friend, and to the end never took responsibility. Still lied through his teeth until the gavel dropped. So WHY should anyone defend someone who lied and acted cowardly like that? WHY?
never2late September 17, 2011 at 01:25 PM
It's sad because no one really knows what either of the boys were thinking. Both family's have suffered a loss even though the Gallenberg's loss was, sadly, far greater and much, much harder to live with. Although I'm sure Osburn's parents are also devastated knowing their only son has done such a thing. Who wouldn't be? It's not fair to take a swing at either of the parents here. They are both hurting. Of course, what does anyone expect? The service takes these young kids and turns them into mindless killing machines (even if they see minimal combat or none at all...they need to be ready) The PTSD happens, I believe, when they have miraculously survived whatever experiences they encounter over there and return home, often maimed both physically and mentally. Then, they receive minimal support to be able to reacclimate themselves into a society that really doesn't understand, and never really will, what they've been through because they've never done it themselves. Marine Raider One, tell us that you NEVER have messed up thoughts anymore or bad dreams about what you saw in combat. My father screamed in his sleep, after coming home, almost up till the time he died. It DOES affect you, I don't care what anyone says.
never2late September 17, 2011 at 01:38 PM
Oops sorry I guess I didn't fully read the above comments. I wasn't there but if what people are saying is true, I'm getting a bad taste in my mouth hearing that Osburn's family "taunted" the Gallenberg's in front of the courthouse. REALLY???!!??? That is horribly uncalled for! Any mother/family grieving for a son who was just mercifully sent away to prison to emerge 28 years later (when the victim's mother is standing there with no son at all) and yet condones harassment of that grieving family....has not an ounce of class or compassion.
REAL Vet September 17, 2011 at 01:41 PM
never 2slate: Actually we DO know what they were thinking from the eprsonal testimony of bot the killer and a woman who was there , plus the bartenders. Secondly, he NEVER saw combat at all. So PTSD CANNOT be factored in. Third: Osburn has been shown to be a complete liar. He worked on generators. He told his friends and family that he was Delta Force, that he was forced to kill women and children. He was too physically unfit for combat per his records. He was a simple wannabee who murdered his best friend. He murdered Zach out of jealousy, stupidity, and that was all. It was not just a 'mistake'. Zach was real combat vet. Well loved, unpretentious man. Osburn was a nazi wannabee from high school on. ALways tried to be something that he saw as a power position, like Special Forces. Zach was murdered because he tried to help this idiot that night. bartenders, friends, he actually saved a woman from getting choked by osbvurn, that is how this ebgan. he was trying to keep Osburn from doing something stupid and paid the ultimate price for helping someone in need. And how does his family react? They blame Zachs family! They blame the military thinking that Osburns lies were actually fact in spite of the evidence to the contrary by his own unit members and offical records. Don't pull that PSTD garbage, I suffered it for almost 30 years and KNOW what it is. And Osburn did NOT have it.
REAL Vet September 17, 2011 at 01:43 PM
Yes that is true. They walked behind her and her sisters making fake crying and whining sounds. THEN turned around and asked the judge to let him off with NO time served at all! They actually had to b e ORDERED to stay away from the grieving mother because of this.
never2late September 17, 2011 at 02:58 PM
@ Real Vet: May I suggest to you a wonderful program offered, free of charge, through the VA, called Guitars for Vets. You can read more at guitars4vets.org. Run by dedicated volunteers, it has been a wonderful help to those brave veterans who fought for our freedoms to be able to deal with PTSD though music therapy. All the best to you and, just in case you haven't heard it...THANK YOU!!
REAL Vet September 17, 2011 at 03:07 PM
Actually I took a trip some eyars back to my old 'stomping grounds' overseas. It stopped the nightmares for the most part. Though I appreciate the offer, I think for the best part its under control, with exception of somewhat snapping when someone corners or threatens me. Not sure that will ever go away, but it has improved. I have never attacked or harmed a woman or child however, so somewhere inside the limitations are set. Which is why I have a huge problem with Osburns history oft hat type of assault. I feel that any limitations would have been set in childhod by parents and family. And any family who acts like those people did, it is no surprise he was such a pathological liar and a bully. Most men who have seen comabt have a distaste for more bloodhsed and senseless killing. Only the few who were mentally ill prior are the ones who have those issues. But where he is going....he will have to deal with men much more hard and cruel than he ever dreamed of being. So Karma is in the works. I knew Zach. And if he wanted to harm Osburn it would have been done, but he had real self control as a man should. Osburn was never under any threat from him, and he knew it then and he knows it now. He was drunk and stupid and is simply not man enough to admit it.
Joanne Curley September 18, 2011 at 01:47 AM
Zach was a wonderful, beautiful boy! Our lives will never be the same, everything exciting, wonderful, happy will always have a blanket of sadness layed over it! I miss him more than anyone could ever understand!
Debra August 08, 2012 at 12:45 PM
Two years have passed, and still missing Zach so much. Love you Jo.
Jeff s February 14, 2013 at 09:15 AM
Jeff S Zach u r my best friend went from riding to school chasing the girls around wrestling in the front yard then to taking your mom cigs hiding in the garage Rafters to smoke em to going to have drinks at the bar I miss u Man U gave me hope made me look at life in a whole new prospective wanna thank u for every thing hope u got the bandana found the one u gave me when I lost mine on my bike love u bro


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