An off-duty sheriff's deputy went on a shooting rampage in Crandon, Wis. One possible motive: jealousy.
CRANDON, WIS. - Allen Flannery never thought such violence would strike his quiet hometown, where he's spent all 43 years of his life, but a phone call before dawn Sunday shattered that notion: Six young people shot.
"My wife and I panicked," said Flannery, who has six children, three of them in high school. His children were found safe, but six other teenagers and young adults were discovered dead after an off-duty sheriff's deputy went on a shooting rampage during a pizza party, police said Sunday. They were at a nearby duplex owned by a longtime friend of Flannery's.
The deputy was identified as Tyler Peterson, 20, who worked full time for the Forest County Sheriff's Office and part time as a Crandon police officer, said Police Chief John Dennee.
A Crandon church elder described the shooting as a "crime of passion" involving a young woman who was shot, and the mother of a slain 14-year-old girl said jealousy might have been a motive.
Peterson was killed 8 miles north of Crandon in Argonne, said Crandon Police Chief John Dennee. He would not elaborate.
Gary Bradley, mayor of this northern Wisconsin city of 1,961 residents, said a police sniper killed Peterson, but authorities would not confirm that.
"I was shocked," said Ashley Megeshick of nearby Mole Lake, who got to know Peterson from his work-related visits to the casino where she was employed. "He was laid back. He did not seem like the type of person who would go on a shooting rampage or murder somebody. He was just a reasonable kind of guy."
Peterson was not working at the time of the shooting, said Sheriff Keith Van Cleve.
Flannery said he checked on his children's whereabouts soon after receiving the call and later sent them to stay with their grandparents as police investigated the slayings in Crandon, which is about 200 miles east of Minneapolis-St. Paul in an area known for logging and outdoor activities.
All the victims were "run- of-the-mill, regular kids," Flannery said. "Real good kids."
The survivor was taken to a hospital in Marshfield, Dennee said.
A jealous boyfriend?
The shooting occurred during a pizza and movie party inside a white two-story duplex where the seven young people had gathered. 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.
Two of the victims each have a parent who works in the school district, one victim has a grandparent in the district and a handful of the victims' aunts and uncles work for the district, Peters said.
He did not know whether Peterson was a graduate of the 300-student high school.
"We never thought something like this could happen in Crandon, but yet it did," Peters said. "It's a tremendous tragedy for the community."
One of the dead was 14-year-old Lindsey Stahl, said her mother, Jenny Stahl, 39.
She said her daughter called Saturday night and asked whether she could sleep over at a friend's house. "I'm waiting for somebody to wake me up right now. This is a bad, bad dream," the weeping mother said. "All I heard is it was a jealous boyfriend and he went berserk. He took them all out."
A second victim was Bradley Schultz, 20, a third-year student at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee who was home to visit his friends, said his aunt, Sharon Pisarek.
"We still don't have many details, but from what they've told us, there was a girl next to him and he was covering her, protecting her," she said, sobbing. "He was loved by everybody. He was everybody's son. Senseless."
Dennis Satorius, who is retired and lives in Crandon, was among about two dozen people watching Green Bay Packers football at the Pack Em Inn on the town's main street about a block from the scene of the shootings.
"Crandon has always been known as the place with the world's best off-road raceway," he said. "Now it will be all about this. This terrible thing that's happened."
Looking around the bar, Satorius said, "They're all grieving. Just about everyone has a connection with some of the victims. Some of these kids were my granddaughter's friends. I saw them sing at Christmas plays. One of them was a twin. They were good kids. There is a huge dent in this town now."
Marci Franz, 35, who lives two houses south of the duplex, said several gunshots and squealing tires woke her. Her husband, David, 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."
About 150 people gathered at Praise Chapel Community Church in Crandon and waited anxiously for hours for police to confirm the victims' identities about 4 p.m., said Bud Evans, a church elder. Several of the victims' families were present, he said.
Evans said Peterson and a young woman who lived on the first floor of the duplex had ended a relationship, he said.
"People are just in shock," said Donna Leiskau, who answered the phone at the Church of God. "He was a good guy, a regular guy," she said of Peterson. Crandon, she said, is the type of town "where everybody pretty much knows everybody. We're all related."
School is canceled for all grade levels today. Guidance counselors and a school psychologist will be available at Praise Chapel for students and their family members.
The sheriff said he would meet with state Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen this morning to discuss the case. Dennee said the state Department of Criminal Investigation will investigate because the suspect was a deputy and officer.
A similar case happened in Minnesota on Dec. 27, 1992, at a bar just outside the Red Lake Indian Reservation near Bemidji. Delwyn Dudley, a 42-year-old off-duty Bureau of Indian Affairs officer killed two people before being shot and killed by authorities.