An off-duty sheriff’s deputy went on a shooting rampage at a home in northern Wisconsin early Sunday, killing three high school students and three recent graduates before authorities fatally shot him, officials said. Another victim was in critical condition.
The suspect was 20 years old and worked full-time as a Forest County deputy sheriff and part-time as a Crandon police officer, Sheriff Keith Van Cleve said. The deputy was not working at the time of the shooting, he said.
The survivor was hospitalized in nearby Marshfield, said Police Chief John Dennee. A Crandon police officer who fired back was treated for minor injuries and released.
Gary Bradley, mayor of the city of about 2,000, said earlier Sunday that the suspect had been brought down by a sniper, but Van Cleve would not confirm that officers shot the suspect.
It wasn’t immediately clear what the gunman’s motive was, but the mother of a 14-year-old victim said the suspect may have been a jealous boyfriend. The shooting occurred in a white, two-story duplex about a block from downtown Crandon.
Three of the victims were Crandon High School students, said schools Superintendent Richard Peters. The other three had graduated from the high school within the past three years.
The sheriff did not release the deputy’s name, but Peters identified him as Tyler Peterson, also a graduate of the 300-student high school.
“There is probably nobody in Crandon who is not affected by this,” Peterson said, adding that students would be especially affected. “They are going to wake up in shock and disbelief and a lot of pain.”
One of the dead was 14-year-old Lindsey Stahl, said her mother, Jenny Stahl, 39.
She said her daughter called her Saturday night and asked whether she could sleep over at a friend’s house. Jenny Stahl agreed.
“I’m waiting for somebody to wake me up right now. This is a bad, bad dream,” the weeping mother said. “All I heard it was a jealous boyfriend and he went berserk. He took them all out.”
Karly Johnson, 16, said that she knew the gunman and that he had helped her in a tech education class.
“He graduated with my brother,” she said. “He was nice. He was an average guy. Normal. You wouldn’t think he could do that.”
Marci Franz, 35, who lives two houses south of the duplex, said gunshots awoke her.
“I heard probably five or six shots, a short pause and then five or six more,” she said. “I wasn’t sure if it was gunfire initially. I thought some kids were messing around and hitting a nearby metal building.”
Then she heard eight louder shots and tires squealing, she said.
“I was just about to get up and call it in, and I heard sirens,” she said. “There’s never been a tragedy like this here. There’s been individual incidents, but nothing of this magnitude.”
Her husband, David Franz, 36, said it was hard to accept that someone in law enforcement committed such an act.
“The first statement we said to each other was, how did he get through the system?” David Franz said. “How do they know somebody’s background, especially that young? It is disturbing, to say the least.”
The sheriff said he would meet with state Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen on Monday morning to discuss the case. Dennee said the state Department of Criminal Investigation will handle the case because the suspect was a deputy and officer.
The Crandon School District called off classes Monday.
The community, about 225 miles north of Milwaukee in an area known for logging and outdoor activities, is facing a trying time but is pulling together, Bradley said.
“We are a strong community. We always have been,” he said. “This is agonizing, but we will prevail.”