MAQUOKETA, Iowa – Three family members were found shot dead Friday morning at a campground in Maquoketa Caves State Park in Iowa and the suspect in the murders, a 23-year-old man, was found about a mile away with a self-injured gunshot wound, authorities said.
The Iowa Department of Public Safety identified the man as Anthony Orlando Sherwin and said it believed he was from Nebraska. The department said there was no longer a threat to the public and the park would be closed until further notice.
Mike Krapfl, a special agent with the department’s Criminal Investigations Division, said Mr Sherwin was not staying with the victims. Mitch Mortvedt, deputy director of the division, said investigators did not believe there was a relationship between the victims and Mr Sherwin.
Mr. Mortvedt said authorities would not release the precise relationships between the victims or any other information about them until family members are notified. The motive for the killings was unclear.
Friday’s killings were the latest in a series of high-profile shootings across the United States, including one in May at a Buffalo supermarket that left 10 dead, another in May at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas , which killed 19 children and two teachers and another shooting this month at a July 4 celebration in Highland Park, Illinois, which left seven people dead.
Authorities received a call about a shooting just before 6:30 a.m. on Friday and found three people shot dead, Krapfl said. They were able to account for everyone at the campsite except Mr Sherwin, whose body was later found west of the park, Mr Krapfl said.
The campsite was evacuated along with a nearby children’s camp, Camp Shalom, authorities said. All campers and staff were taken care of and safe, the Christian Camp said in a Facebook post.
The camp runs a number of summer programs for people with disabilities, including children, families and adults, of “various denominations” of Christianity, according to its website.
Beth Sallak, executive assistant at Camp Shalom, said the program director was notified at 9:13 a.m. of an active shooter situation at the Maquoketa Caves, located a mile and a half from the camp. Staff members had initially prepared to cash out the camp, but “shifted gears” and loaded campers onto two buses which evacuated them to a nearby play area.
“This is the world we live in,” Ms Sallak said. “So we have to train for things like that, and they handled it all incredibly well.”
Governor Kim Reynolds said in a statement Friday that she was “horrified by the shooting” and “devastated by the loss of three innocent lives.”
Maquoketa Caves State Park covers 370 acres approximately 60 miles east of Cedar Rapids, Iowa. The state Department of Natural Resources describes the park on its website as “a popular destination for picnickers and hikers.” A six-mile hiking trail connects the park’s 13 caves, including Dancehall Cave, which is 1,100 feet long, according to the site.
“It’s a great place to visit,” Ms. Sallak said. “Till today.”
John Peragine reported from Maquoketa, Iowa, and Jesus Jiménez, Claire Fahy and Vimal Patel from New York.