An Air Force veteran fatally shot three people, including a father and his 11-year-old daughter, in a random, unprovoked attack Sunday night on a popular pedestrian bridge in Wisconsin, before killing himself.
Sergio Valencia Del Toro, 27, was angry after a fight with his fiancee about the end of their engagement, the Post Crescent reported.
Del Toro armed himself with two handguns and went to the Fox Cities Trestle Trail bridge in Menasha, where he opened fire on a family and a 31-year-old man. Police do not think he knew the victims.
Jon Stoffel, 33, of Neenah, Wisconsin, and his 11-year-old daughter, Olivia, were killed in the attack. Erin Stoffel, 32, the mother of Olivia and Jonathan’s wife, was shot three times and critically injured. The family’s two other children, a boy and girl ages 5 and 7, were not hurt.
Adam Bentdahl, of Appleton, Wisconsin, was also killed.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. After Fighting With His Fiancee, Del Toro Rode His Bike to the Popular Bridge
Police said at a press conference that Del Toro armed himself with two hand guns following the fight with his fiancee, Haylie Peterson, and then rode his bicycle to trail bridge, where the shooting occurred.
About 75 to 100 people were on the bridge when the gunfire broke out, according to police.
Del Toro rode his bike past other people before shooting at the victims. He didn’t say a word before opening fire with two handguns, a 9mm and a revolver, Police Chief Tim Styka said at the press conference.
Despite being wounded, Erin Stoffel was able to get her two youngest children, Ezra, 7, and Selah, 5, to safety, police said, taking them off the bridge. She told Ezra to run and get help, Styka said.
An unidentified man with a dog “gathered him in,” Winnebago County Coroner Barry Busby told the Post Crescent. “It was a little boy who helped save his mother’s life,” Busby said.
Dr. Ray Georgen, the director of trauma services at Theda Clark Medical Center. the hospital where, Stoffel was treated, said the boy helped emergency responders get to his mother quick enough to save her. Some people at the park thought the gun shots were fireworks.
Styka said the shooting could have been worse. Del Toro shot the Stoffels and Bentdahl with the pistol, before killing himself with the revolver. He had a holster on his right hip and ammunition on his left, along with camouflage pants.
Styka said the shooting spree could have been worse considering the weapons and ammunition Valencia del Toro had. Two handguns — a 9 mm semi-automatic pistol and a revolver — were fired, and Styka said at least six to 10 rounds were spent.
Styka said he had other weapons that were found at his home.
2. He & His Fiancee Were Engaged in 2014
Del Toro proposed to his fiancee in March 2014, according to a post on his Facebook page.
His fiancee, Haylie Peterson, who was photographed at the scene fainting after learning he had died, posted a message on Del Toro’s Facebook page after his death, and said he had been suffering from depression:
Sergio… my first true deep love.
Three years ago september I came back from Kyrgyzstan and was met with your wondrous gaze full of hope and laughter. I fell back in love instantly with a man I thought I had once lost forever.. one that forgave me for my faults and embraced all my crazy quirks. Beyond the love, we built a friendship that I believed could conquer mountains… I thought I had a life partner. Today, I along with too many others are in mourning, I lost someone I cared deeply for, I lost my partner, I lost my first true love, I lost a piece of my heart and soul I am not sure I will ever get back. You have forever changed me in many ways. To the man I knew before the depression, the happy-go-lucky, incredibly silly and inspiring man that captivated my entire essence in a blink of an eye, I love you so much and cherished our love, you taught me how to love and be loved. You taught me to always be myself no matter what, and to always be true to myself. You always reminded me of my worth and how much you loved me. Gone are possibilities of forever and the white picket fence, and on comes the next chapter. The one where I, along with all those in mourning pick up the pieces and try to overcome and heal.. I loved you.. to the moon and back. I don’t know where to go from here or what to do. I didn’t get to say goodbye.. This pain is overwhelming..
3. Del Toro Served in the Air Force & Had Recently Enlisted in the Army
Originally from Los Angeles, Del Toro served in the Air Force from 2009 to 2014, before receiving an early separation. According to his Facebook page, he was deployed overseas during his time in the military.
His last base was Travis Air Force Base in California.
Police said Del Toro has recently enlisted in the U.S. Army after also joining the National Guard following his time in the Air Force. He was set to head to basic training in June.
He had no prior criminal record and legally possessed the weapons used in the shooting.
4. He & His Fiancee Were Studying at a Wisconsin College
Del Toro was a second semester freshman at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh, the school told the New York Daily News.
He was studying criminal justice and had also been training with the Menasha Auxiliary Police, an unarmed, volunteer community policing team, according to the Post Crescent.
Haylie Peterson, Del Toro’s fiancee, talked to the Advance-Titan, the student newspaper at Wisconsin-Oshkosh, but declined to talk about what led to the shooting.
“It’s not the right time,” Peterson, who is also a student at the school, said. “I feel for the families. I am so sorry for their pain and loss. I will comment when everyone has had time to process and heal.”
She said what police and the media are saying is wrong. Police said they called off the wedding last week and had a fight before the shooting, but Peterson denied that.
“What’s going around isn’t true,” Peterson said. “We weren’t arguing and we weren’t broken up.”
Peterson has been cooperating with police. She said Del Toro wasn’t being treated for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, but was battling depression, and had been since he was younger.
“I still need time to wrap my head around it,” she said. “He was my future husband.”
5. A Fundraiser Has Been Set-Up to Help the Stoffel Family
A GoFundMe page has been set-up to help the Stoffel family, raising thousands of dollars.
The family loved the outdoors, Jim Campbell, Erin Stoffel’s brother told The Associated Press. He said they enjoyed camping, hiking and fishing together.
Erin Stoffel suffered wounds to her abdomen, thigh and hand, but is expected to survive after undergoing surgery.
“You can never underestimate the power of a mother to protect her children,” Dr. Ray Georgen, the director of trauma services at Theda Clark Medical Center told the Post Crescent. “To have three gunshot wounds and be able to get off that bridge and save two of her children is incredible. It’s an amazing story of heroism on her part and certainly of her children.”
Adam Bentdahl’s family said he was a kind and gentle person with a bright personality, according to The Associated Press.