SOMERSET, Wis. (FOX 9) - Police say a 52-year-old man from Prior Lake, Minnesota went on a stabbing spree while tubing on the Apple River in Wisconsin on Saturday afternoon, killing a 17-year-old boy, who was also from Minnesota, and critically injuring four other people.
The suspect was not previously known to local law enforcement and is currently in custody at the St. Croix County Jail, pending charges, according to St. Croix County Sheriff Scott Knudson.
The four injured victims, a 24-year-old woman from Burnsville, a 20-year-old and 22-year-old male from Luck Wisconsin, and a 22-year-old male from Elk River, are in stable condition. Their injuries range from serious to critical with stab wounds to their torsos and chest areas, Knudson said in a press release Sunday.
Investigators believe that both the suspect and the victims were tubing on the river when the incident occurred.
How law enforcement and EMS responded
Knudson said that people started calling 911 to report the stabbings at about 3:45 p.m. Emergency responders arrived to find that five people were wounded and that the suspect had fled the scene, which was by milepost nine on Highway 3564, near Sunrise Bridge and the area that used to be Sunrise Park.
With the help of a group of tubers who were on the river, deputies began administering first aid and evacuating the victims. Knudson said that two were airlifted to Regions Hospital, with the others traveling by ambulance. Paramedics took the 17-year-old to Lakeview Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
Witnesses helped lead deputies to the suspect, who had fled about three-quarters of a mile upstream, and they arrested him roughly an hour and a half after the incident began, Knudson said.
Asked to describe the scene, Knudson replied: "Chaotic. Scary. I'm sure that anybody that witnessed this will never forget it. So it is a tragedy."
Knudson said investigators were still searching for the knife the suspect allegedly used. A news helicopter filmed a group of four deputies, who were accompanied by a police dog, wading into the water late Saturday afternoon. As a police drone flew overhead, another group of officers searched further downstream, picking through tall grass and discarded tires that had been dumped by the river bank.
Resident recalls helping distraught father
Kat Fenton is an artist and musician who has lived in the area for 25 years. Her family owns property at Sunside part, near where the incident occurred. On Saturday afternoon, she was in her driveway when she saw a car speeding down the street. When she waved at the driver to slow down, he stopped. Then, she noticed he had blood on his shirt and was crying.
He told her his son had been stabbed and was one of the survivors who had been airlifted to Regions Hospital. She got in the passenger seat and led him to where law enforcement was gathered near the scene.
"I knew I needed to help him... So at that point, I got in and I touched his arm and I just said.'I'll get you through this. I'll. I'll show you where you need to go," she said.
She was in disbelief that this happened by the river, where people often go cool off and enjoy summer days.
"I've never seen anything like this… This is not okay. People just come here to have fun," she said.