Sergio Valencia del Toro walked up to a family of unarmed innocent Christians with their children and began conversing with them in Fox Cities, Wisconsin. Five minutes later he had shot them.
Police is confused. They find Islamic tattoos on Valencia del Toro. They find many Islamic quotes on his Facebook page, but nothing mentioning jihad although one quote describes the infidel, the unbeliever. Police finds Islamic texts in his home and over 1,000 rounds of ammunition. Sergio Valencia del Toro had other religious materials as well so police doesn’t know how to evaluate the findings. But no other religion calls for the murder of other people.
When you look at Sergio Valencia del Toro’s facebook page, which he registered under the name ‘Daniel Snowbean’, the few images he posts from non-Islamic sources are older than the larger volume of Allah quotes that decorate his facebook page. In one of the images on his FB accounts, closer to the date of the shooting, he posted an image of the Buddha replaced by the devil sitting on a lotus flower. Not exactly a friendly attitude towards Buddhism. As time passes his Islamic quotes keep increasing. There is nothing extreme by itself posted on facebook but he may have been aware that it’s not the wisest thing to do. The number of Islamic quotes, however, says that he spent a lot of time reading and studying Islam compared to any other content he quotes in his account.
On his YouTube page he posted a video of a Muslim cleric lecturing a Christian on the superiority of Islam. The video is titled ‘Christian takes down in tears after answer by Sheikh Yusuf Estes’.
The dot over the i is in the testimony of Valencia del Toro’s girlfriend who says her former boyfriend told her he “wanted to commit suicide by cop.” Don’t tell us the Wisconsin police needs more understanding after that! #Thick?
Police: Gunman had prior homicidal thoughts
Duke Behnke, Post-Crescent Media, June 11, 2015
- Sergio Valencia del Toro was diagnosed with adjustment disorder with depressed mood.
- Police found 1,000 rounds of ammunition in his home after the shooting.
- Investigators know of no reason why Valencia del Toro chose the Trestle Trail for his crime.
MENASHA – Sergio Valencia del Toro, the gunman in the May 3 Fox Cities Trestle Trail shootings, had suicidal and homicidal thoughts during his service in the Air Force, according to behavioral health records obtained by the FBI.
In a Nov. 6, 2014, risk assessment with a psychologist at the Veterans Affairs outpatient clinic in Appleton, Valencia del Toro recalled thinking in 2010, “If I’m gonna take myself out, I might as well take other people with me.”
In that same 2014 evaluation, Valencia del Toro acknowledged fleeting suicidal thoughts, but denied any current homicidal ideas, saying, “I don’t think I care enough about other people to want to kill them.”
Menasha police released the information Thursday to help the community better understand what caused the 27-year-old Menasha man to kill three people on the Trestle Trail, critically injure another and then fatally shoot himself in the head.
“What it tells us is the mindset was there,” said Aaron Zemlock, community liaison officer for the Menasha Police Department. “He had obviously thought, even though it may have been multiple years ago, about doing exactly what he did in the sense that when he got to the point where he was going to take himself out, he may not go alone.”
Records show Valencia del Toro reported seeing hallucinations and was diagnosed with adjustment disorder with depressed mood. He had 14 appointments with a therapist between 2010 and 2014, and for the most part was deemed a low risk, though he was hospitalized once. He left the Air Force in March 2014 and moved to Menasha.
Police were not aware of the behavioral health records before the shooting and needed the assistance of the FBI to obtain them.
“We do not have access to this information,” Zemlock said. “We couldn’t get it as a police agency. Only the feds could get it for us.”
Pieces to puzzle
Sergio Valencia del Toro has been an enigma to police since he shook the Fox Cities’ sense of security with a burst of gunfire on the bridge.
Investigators have spent more than five weeks looking into his relationships with his fiancee and ex-wife, his military background, his exploration of religions, and his mental state. They acknowledge that some questions may never be answered.
“The person who chose to do this is gone,” Zemlock said. “We don’t have the ability to talk to him.”
[The image of the Buddha has been replace by the devil in Valencia del Toro’s facebook account, registered as Daniel Snowbean]
Valencia del Toro armed himself with two handguns and biked to the Trestle Trail bridge after an argument with his fiancee, Haylie Peterson. He was on the bridge for at least 45 minutes and was talking to one of the victims for at least five minutes before he began shooting, police said.
Toxicology results revealed Valencia del Toro’s blood-alcohol level was 0.24 percent — three times the legal limit for driving. Peterson told investigators Valencia del Toro was fine when he drank a beer or two but was “a different person” when he drank liquor.
Peterson also characterized Valencia del Toro as a sociopath and said he planned to join the Army in June so he could kill people, according to police reports. She further stated she felt he would have had a death wish and would have wanted to commit “suicide by cop.”
Police found eight guns — handguns, shotguns and rifles — and more than 1,000 rounds of ammunition in his home after the shooting. That’s in addition to the weapons and ammunition he took to the bridge. The guns were legally possessed.
[Rushed to hospital: A man is carried away on a stretcher. Three men, including Valencia del Toro, died]
According to police, Valencia del Toro told Peterson earlier on May 3 that “he didn’t see a point in life anymore” if he didn’t have her and that “she was the only thing that made him happy.”
“It appears like things were falling apart in his relationship, and the argument between him and Haylie really was that last straw,” Zemlock said. “He made a decision at that point that he was going to do something.”
The search of his home uncovered no note or manifesto to indicate Valencia del Toro had planned a killing.
Day of shooting
Peterson told police that she and Valencia del Toro were discussing relationship issues throughout the afternoon and that he started to drink alcohol.
She said he tried to convince her to accompany him to the Trestle Trail bridge but that she declined and went out to eat with her family. It’s unknown whether Peterson would have been a target in that situation.
“It does beg the question, if he was trying so hard to get her out there,” Zemlock said. “It certainly is a possibility.”
Peterson left their house about 5 p.m. and had no contact with Valencia del Toro until paramedics wheeled him off the Trestle Trail on a stretcher at 8:10 p.m. He died at a hospital. The shooting occurred about 7:30 p.m.
[Valencia del Toro shot a Christian family after exchanging words with them “for about five minutes”, without any provocation on their part]
She told police she returned home after dinner and noticed he was gone. She learned of the shooting while talking to a neighbor, who was being paged to the Trestle Trail as a Town of Menasha firefighter. She went back into the house and noticed that firearms and Valencia del Toro’s bicycle were missing. She had a gut feeling he was involved based on his state of mind when she left him.
“I sensed it,” Peterson told Post-Crescent Media two days after the shooting. “I just had a bad feeling and went down there.”
Police know of no reason why Valencia del Toro chose the Trestle Trail as the scene of his crime.
“It could have happened anywhere,” Zemlock said. “It could have been Jefferson Park. It could have been downtown Appleton.”
Valencia del Toro was born in Guadalajara, Mexico, and moved to the Los Angeles area as a teenager.
He joined the Air Force and served as a cook in two noncombat deployments — one in Qatar and one in Iraq.
Valencia del Toro met Peterson in the Air Force, and they began dating in 2009. They broke up in 2010 but got back together in 2012. Police said Valencia del Toro left the Air Force in good standing and came to the Fox Valley with Peterson, who is from Menasha. He joined the Wisconsin National Guard and planned to enroll in the Army.
Peterson told police her fiance suffered from depression and had received treatment but stopped taking his medication the past few months.
In January, the VA denied Valencia del Toro’s request for disability benefits, determining his mental health issues were not related to his military service.
Police found journals of Arabic writings in Valencia del Toro’s home, Arabic tattoos on his body and various Islamic textbooks in a storage unit that he rented. The findings led police to question whether Valencia del Toro had any ties to Islamic extremists. His victims — Adam Bentdahl of Appleton, and Jonathan, Olivia and Erin Stoffel of Neenah — were Christians.
The FBI analyzed the information, plus Valencia del Toro’s computer and smartphone records, but found no connection to Islamic radicalism.
Instead, police believe the Arabic writings coincided with his conversion to Islam as part of his brief marriage to a woman of Middle Eastern descent while he was in California. The marriage preceded his engagement to Peterson and their move to Menasha.
Menasha police found a religious shrine in the home of Sergio Valencia del Toro that included figurines of the Nativity of Jesus, Ganesha (a Hindu god), Baphomet (a goat-headed figure) and Buddha. (Photo: Photo courtesy of the Menasha Police Department).
Zemlock said Valencia del Toro became a student of religion. Investigators found a shrine in his home that included figurines of the Nativity of Jesus, Ganesha (a Hindu god), Baphomet (a goat-headed figure) and Buddha.
Valencia del Toro had numerous tattoos, some of which were religious. His body art included a man praying over a book with the Alpha & Omega and Lamb of God, half of a Buddha face, a hamsa, Baphomet, a decorated skull, a rose, an infinity symbol, the Grim Reaper, the chemical symbol of THC, and an image of a girl with an AK-47 assault rifle.
“According to Haylie, his fiancee, he was trying to find a religion that fit for him,” Zemlock said. “He had a hard time wrapping his (head) around that blind faith concept, believing in a supreme being. He was getting frustrated.”
Peterson did not respond to email and Facebook requests for an interview for this story.
Valencia del Toro calls himself Daniel Snowbean on Facebook.