An Appleton man and several members of a Neenah family were the victims of last night’s random shooting on a popular recreational trail. Police Chief Tim Styka said 27 year-old Sergio Valencia del Toro opened fire around 7:30, “unprovoked and at close range,” on the Trestle Trail in Menasha.
“unprovoked and at close range.” Valencia del Toro killed 33 year-old Jonathon Stoffel of Neenah and his 11 year-old daughter Olivia, and 31-year-old Adam Bentdal of Appleton. Stoffel’s 32 year-old wife Erin was wounded, and is in critical condition at an area hospital. Valencia del Toro then turned his weapon on himself.
During a Monday press conference, Styka said that Valencia del Tora, of Menasha, was a student at UW Oshkosh, and U.S. Air Force veteran who had recently enlisted in the Army and was due to report for basic training in June. In addition, he had recently begun training as a member of the Menasha police auxiliary unit.
Styka said Valencia del Toro had been in an argument with his girlfriend Sunday evening, and after she left he grabbed his guns and rode his bike to the Trestle Trail, a popular destination for bicyclists, walkers and anglers in adjacent Little Lake Buttes de Morts.
“Seventy-five to 100 people were in the area, and not minimize the loss of life we had by any means, but looking at the weapons he had, and the ammunition, it could have been a lot worse,” Styka said.
The lead surgeon at Theda Clark Medical Center said Erin Stoffel yelled for her two children to run for help. Doctor Ray Georgen said Stoffel remains in critical condition, after being shot in the abdomen, right thigh, and left hand. “You can never underestimate the power a mother to protect her children,” said Georgen. “To have three gun shot wounds and to be able to get off that bridge, is incredible.” Georgen said Erin Stoffel was within minutes of possibly dying when first responders got to her. “I’ve been here 25 years, and this type of random act just hasn’t happened in the past,” Georgen. said.
“It’s the end of innocence, but the Fox Valley definitely has a very strong spirit of resolve,” said Styka. “These things happen all over the place. It could happen on the Trestle Trail, it could happen in downtown Appleton, it could happen outside a Packers game.”
The Trestle Trail bridge and adjoining Fritse Park remain closed after the shootings. Town of Menasha parks director Michael Kading said he’s been in constant contact with police. Kading said 300,000 people use the Trestle Trail every year, and the community will have to find a way to move forward and reclaim it.