Authorities were trying to determine why a suspected gunman shot and killed a couple and their 6-year-old daughter while they were camping in a state park in eastern Iowa on Friday.
The couple and their daughter — identified as Tyler Schmidt, 42, Sarah Schmidt, 42, and Lula Schmidt, 6 — were found dead Friday morning in a tent in Maquoketa Caves State Park Campground. Their son, 9-year-old Arlo, survived the attack, Cedar Falls Mayor Rob Green said Saturday.
The suspected gunman, 23-year-old Anthony Orlando Sherwin, was found dead in the area. Authorities say he appears to have died to a self-inflected gunshot wound. No motive has been released and police say it doesn’t appear he had any prior relationship with the family, said Mitch Mortvedt, assistant director with the Iowa Department of Criminal Investigation
Police responded to reports of a shooting at the Maquoketa Caves State Park Campground before 6:30 a.m., said Mike Krapfl, special agent in charge of the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation, in a statement.
Officers responding found the family dead in their tent, Krapfl said.
Authorities searched the campground and discovered a man was missing from another campsite, Mortvedt said. As they searched, authorities found the body of a Nebraska man who they believe to be the gunman.
Sherwin “was known to be armed” Mortvedt said. Iowa allows people with permits to carry firearms virtually anywhere in the state. Officials did not say if Sherwin had a permit.
Mayor Green said he knew Sarah Schmidt through her work for the Cedar Falls Public Library and was “devastated.”
“Details will be forthcoming about services and other memorials, and I will ensure the community knows about this,” Green said in a Facebook post. “Please offer some extra grace to the Schmidts’ many friends, neighbors, and coworkers as we try to process this horrible tragedy.”
The campground was evacuated after the shooting. A children’s summer camp on site called Camp Shalom said in a Facebook post that parents had been notified and that it had established a pick-up site for campers. Camp Shalom officials said they have accounted for all campers.
In a statement, Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds said:
“I’m horrified by the shooting this morning at Maquoketa Caves State Park and devastated by the loss of three innocent lives. As we grieve this unimaginable tragedy, Kevin and I pray for the victims’ family members and the law enforcement officers who responded to the scene. We ask Iowans to do the same.”
One of Iowa’s gems for its accessibility, the Maquoketa Caves State Park has 13 caves.
The large, 1,100-foot Dancehall Cave is the longest wild cave open to the public in Iowa and easy to walk. Maquoketa Caves State Park is located about 180 miles east of Des Moines.
The park will remain closed through at least July 28, Iowa Department of Natural Resources spokesperson Tammie Krausman said.
Contributing: The Associated Press