Update 1:15 p.m. EST: On Tuesday, a spokesperson at the hospital where Erin Stoffel is being cared for said she didn't intend to imply her husband had said anything before he died in a random shooting Sunday in Wisconsin. Her sister-in-law, who had written the update on the GoFundMe page, saying his last words were to forgive the shooter, had said Erin nodded her head, as if indicating her husband had said this. Instead, her head shaking was to indicate she was too overwhelmed to communicate, the Appleton Post- Crescent reported.
The update posted Monday on the funding website that had said Jonathan Stoffel had spoken before he died was removed, and Julia Soffel, his sister, contacted the newspaper to clarify.
It was a warm Sunday evening when the Stoffel family was walking through a Menasha, Wisconsin, park. The kind of evening that couldn't be spent inside despite it being a school night.
But classes wouldn't be held Monday at the school where the Stoffel children go. The family was at the wrong place at the wrong time crossing a bridge in Fritse Park.
According to the Wisconsin Journal Sentinel, Valencia del Toro wielding two handguns opened fire, killing Jonathan Stoffel, his 11-year-old daughter Olivia and Adam Bentdahl, a 31-year-old man. Though the younger two Stoffel children were not hit, their 32-year-old mother, Erin Stoffel, suffered several gunshot wounds and was in critical condition Monday.
The eldest of the Stoffel children, 11-year-old Olivia, was killed in the random attack along with her father. The children's mother, Erin, was shot three times and is in the hospital in critical condition. (Image source: WJMT-TV)
Del Toro then turned the gun on himself.
What prompted such a random act of violence? The Appleton Post-Crescent reported Menasha Police Chief Tim Styka citing relationship issues. Del Toro's girlfriend had called off their wedding a week before.
In a GoFundMe page set up for the Stoffel family, which has already raised more than $70,000 of its $120,000 funding goal within a day, Erin Stoffel, communicating on a dry erase board due to a breathing tube, said her husband's last words were to "forgive the shooter.
"We truly love because Christ first loved us. This was the heart of a man who walked the talk — his dying breath and last wish was only that his wife forgive the gunmen," the update on the GoFundMe page stated.
According to the Post-Crescent, del Toro, who was a member of the volunteer Menasha Auxiliary Police and recently enlisted in the U.S. Army, did not speak to victims before he opened fire.
After the shooting and despite her injuries at the time, the newspaper reported, Erin Stoffel managed to get off the bridge with her 7-year-old son and 5-year-old daughter, telling her son to run for help.
"It was a little boy who helped save his mother's life," Winnebago County Coroner Barry Busby told the Post-Crescent.
This post on the park's Facebook page shows the bridge where the tragic shooting took place.
"You can never underestimate the power of a mother to protect her children," Dr. Ray Georgen with the Theda Clark Medical Center added. "To have three gunshot wounds and be able to get off that bridge and save two of her children is incredible. It's an amazing story of heroism on her part and certainly of her children."
Watch this report from WTMJ-TV for more on the community's shock after the incident:
The police department on Facebook called it "a senseless act and one that honestly could occur anywhere by anyone."