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Killing rampage details emerge

Times Staff Writer

The 20-year-old off-duty police officer who gunned down six young people later shot himself three times during a confrontation with law enforcement, once in the right temple, police said Tuesday.

They also released a chilling timeline and grim details of Tyler Peterson pursuing his victims through his former girlfriend’s house, killing one girl as she hid in a closet.

This town of nearly 2,000 about 120 miles south of Lake Superior was no closer to understanding why Peterson, a well-liked hometown son known for his friendly demeanor and love of sports, went on a killing spree Sunday.

Those who were killed either were attending or were recent graduates of Crandon High School, Peterson’s alma mater.

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During a news conference, Wisconsin Atty. Gen. J.B. Van Hollen described what happened around 2:30 a.m. Sunday as the group celebrated a victorious homecoming football game.

Peterson stopped by the two-story duplex home of his ex-girlfriend Jordanne Murray, 18, where she was eating pizza and watching movies with friends. The house is about a block from the town’s police station.

Peterson accused her of dating someone else. The pair argued. Peterson left, but minutes later he broke down the door carrying a police-issued AR-15 rifle.

“He didn’t speak. He simply opened fire,” Van Hollen said.

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In the chaos that followed, Peterson shot the first three victims -- Aaron Smith and Bradley Schultz, both 20, and Lindsey Stahl, 14 -- in the living room as they sat on the couch or stood in front of it.

Murray was killed in the kitchen. Katrina McCorkle, 17, had run into a bedroom. She was killed in front of a closet where Lianna Thomas, also 17, was hiding. Peterson then shot Thomas.

Returning to the kitchen, Peterson shot Charles Neitzel, 21, in the leg. Neitzel fell, then struggled to stand while pleading for his friend to stop. Peterson shot him two more times, Van Hollen said. Neitzel lay still. He was listed in serious condition at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Marshfield.

Peterson left the residence. Outside, he fired at a Crandon police officer responding to the gunshots and then fled, driving aimlessly and calling in false reports about his location.

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He eventually stopped at a friend’s home in the woods of Argonne, about 7 miles to the north.

In conversations with friends and law enforcement, he confessed to the crimes but refused to surrender to police, who had surrounded the cabin.

Peterson died in those woods.

Peterson was shot four times: He was struck in his left bicep by a bullet from a long-range, high-powered rifle. The other three shots were apparently self-inflicted. Two of those gunshot wounds entered under his chin; the fatal third, at the right side of his head. All three appear to have come from Peterson’s .40-caliber Glock pistol.

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As investigators perform an autopsy on Peterson and as nearby communities hold candlelight vigils for the victims, many residents here were reluctant to talk.

Some fled from television camera crews or begged reporters to leave town and let them grieve privately. Others criticized the Police Department for not requiring psychological tests of prospective officers.

“He was so young, too young, to do the job,” said Kendal Maertz, 50, who was a member of the town’s volunteer fire department for 18 years. “I hate watching the news now. It’s like a horror movie, only we’re the cast.”

Still, the chance to see evidence from that night drew Maertz and dozens of other residents to the Forest County sheriff’s office Tuesday.

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In the parking lot, officials displayed police Officer Greg Carter’s vehicle. Carter, 21, joined the police force at the same time as Peterson.

The mourners slowly walked around the silver Ford Crown Victoria, snapping pictures of the three bullet holes in the driver’s side windshield with their cellphone cameras.

Today, students in this rural community will return to classes. The school district’s staff includes two parents and a grandparent of the victims, according to officials.

“I’m torn about going back,” said Malora Walentowski, 16, who worked with Stahl and Murray at a restaurant. “I can’t wait to see everyone. And I can’t imagine how sad everyone’s going to be. We all want to talk about it -- and we don’t.”

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p.j.huffstutter@latimes.com


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