A Cedar Falls couple and their 6-year-old daughter were fatally shot while camping in an Iowa state park in a seemingly random attack by a Nebraska man, who later turned the gun on himself.
The couple leaves behind a 9-year-old son, according to the mayor of Cedar Falls. It was not immediately clear on Saturday whether the boy was with his family at the time of the attack on the Maquoketa Caves State Park Campground.
The Iowa Department of Public Safety identified the victims as Tyler Schmidt, 42; his 42-year-old wife, Sarah Schmidt; and their 6-year-old daughter, Lulu Schmidt. Their bodies were found early Friday in their tent at the campground about 150 miles east of Des Moines.
Authorities said the suspected gunman, 23-year-old Anthony Sherwin, was found dead in a wooded area of the park with a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
Mitch Mortvedt, deputy director of the Public Security Department’s criminal investigation division, told The Associated Press on Saturday that the motive for the attack was still unknown.
“We don’t know what led to this, what caused it,” he said, adding that “the investigation so far has not revealed any early interaction between the Schmidt family and him.”
Cedar Falls Mayor Rob Green, who said he is a neighbor of the Schmidts, posted on Facebook Friday that the couple’s 9-year-old son, Arlo, “survived the attack and is safe.” The post didn’t say whether Arlo was in the tent or camping when the shootings took place, and Green told the AP he didn’t have those details. Authorities would not immediately confirm the information in the mayor’s post or comment on the boy.
Sarah Schmidt worked at the Cedar Falls Public Library, which was closed Saturday following news of her death.
“Like many of you just hearing the news, I am devastated,” Green wrote on Facebook. “I knew Sarah well, and she and her family regularly walked here in the Sartori Park neighborhood. I worked with her this week on a public library technical presentation for 7/26.
“Their 9-year-old son Arlo survived the attack and is safe,” Green wrote. “I’ve notified neighbors, and for those of you who learned through this message, I’m so sorry.” He said he would share upcoming details on services and memorials.
By Saturday afternoon, more than $40,000 had poured into a GoFundMe page created for Arlo. The page, which says it was organized by a cousin, Beth Shapiro, said: “Arlo is a strong boy, surrounded by family and friends who support him as best he can.” The page says the fund will help Arlo now and help fund his future education.
The killings led to the evacuation of the park and campground, including a summer camp for children. After the evacuations, Sherwin was the only person missing, Mortvedt said.
He said that in the course of the investigation, authorities discovered that Sherwin was armed and that “that, of course, increased our consciousness.” Iowa allows licensed people to carry firearms virtually anywhere in the state. Officials did not say whether Sherwin was licensed and did not provide any information about the firearm used to kill the Schmidts.
The Des Moines Register reported that Sherwin was from La Vista, Nebraska. La Vista Police Chief Bob Lausten told the paper that Sherwin had lived in an apartment complex with his parents and that he had no criminal history.
Autopsies on Sherwin and the victims would be performed over the weekend, Mortvedt said, and more information would likely be released based on those findings.
The state park and campground were closed until further notice. The Department of Natural Resources said in an email to the AP that campers with reservations through Thursday would get their money back. All campers who were in the park but were not involved in the shooting were able to retrieve their belongings, the DNR said.