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APPLETON – A solemn procession brought the body of a fallen firefighter — Mitchell F. Lundgaard — back to Appleton Thursday following an overnight shooting that left a police officer and a by-stander wounded and the suspected gunman dead.  

Lundgaard, a 14-year veteran of the Appleton Fire Department, was shot after paramedics responded to the downtown transit center late Wednesday afternoon for a medical emergency.

“The first responders provided initial medical assistance to the male on the bus,” according to a statement from the fire department. “The male eventually left the bus and started walking towards the library. While attending to the male, believed to be from the Wausau area, the incident escalated into shots being fired.”

Appleton police chief Todd Thomas said the man displayed a handgun and shots were exchanged between him and police officers.

The statement doesn’t say what caused the incident to escalate, but does reveal that the 47-year-old man was also taken to a local hospital where he died of his injuries. It doesn’t specify how the man died.

Lundgaard was struck by the gunfire, along with a female bystander and an Appleton police officer. The police officer was released from the hospital Thursday and the woman remains in the hospital, but is in stable condition.

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Officials held a news conference Thursday to discuss Wednesday’s downtown Appleton shooting that left a firefighter dead, three others injured.
USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin

Many overpasses across Interstate 41 were occupied by fire trucks and other emergency vehicles as the procession carried the firefighter’s body to an Appleton funeral home following an autopsy in Milwaukee.

“Everybody needs to come out and show their support and respect for the police and the firefighters,” said Andrew Ratzlaff, an Appleton resident, who was standing along College Avenue as the procession approached. “This is just a horrible, horrible tragedy.”

The procession from the Milwaukee County Medical Examiner’s Office arrived in downtown Appleton at about 12:45 p.m. Thursday. 

 Jeanne Vanden Voogaard waited for the procession with her 4-year-old granddaughter.

“We just think that they need our support,” she said. “They’re always being judged on what they do and we feel they do a lot of good for us.”

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The Appleton Fire Department, along with Gold Cross Ambulance, provides emergency medical services in Appleton. All members of the fire department are trained as either first responders or paramedics, as is the case at many fire departments in Wisconsin.

The CORE, a church in downtown Appleton — not far from where the shooting took place — plans to host a vigil from 8 to 8:30 p.m. at 222 W. Franklin St.

Support pours in

Gov. Tony Evers released a statement Thursday on Twitter in which he said he and wife, Kathy, “send our deepest sympathies to the family, friends (and) colleagues of the firefighter who lost their life last night.”

“We stand with our brave first responders … as they mourn this loss,” Evers said.

Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul also released a brief statement. 

“My condolences to the family and friends of the brave firefighter who lost his life in Appleton yesterday,” Kaul said. “May everyone affected by this tragedy find peace.”

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First responders led a funeral procession on Thursday for the Appleton firefighter who was killed in a shooting on Wednesday.
Jake Prinsen, Appleton Post-Crescent

More: Four people, including police officer, firefighter, injured in shooting at Valley Transit Center in Appleton

The Appleton Public Library tweeted Thursday morning that it would be closed until further notice. Valley Transit re-opened the transit center Thursday afternoon.

‘Hostile situation’

Appleton resident Danielle Morris lives near the transit center and saw what she described as a commotion.

“It sounded like real loud firecrackers, like consistent ‘pow pow pow,’ and I was thinking it was too loud for fireworks, so I looked out the window,” Morris said. “It seemed like a hostile situation.”

Another witness, Annika Leon, heard the gunshots on her way home from work. She stopped her car and saw officers arrive. 

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“We’re seeing … police coming up and rushing the scene, and then I see a bunch of police crouched down, kind of hiding behind a car with the guns, and they’re all pointing at them,” Leon said.

Jason Hammond, a manager at Tropical Smoothie Cafe in downtown Appleton, said he heard a total of between 15 and 20 shots ring out Wednesday afternoon. 

“There were people hunkered down by the church over here, hiding from the shooting,” he said. “It was crazy.”

Craig Persha, co-owner of Apollon, a Greek and and Mediterranean restaurant across the street from the Appleton Public Library, was standing outside his business Thursday morning looking at the scene of Wednesday’s shooting.

Persha was working at his restaurant Wednesday night when the shooting took place.

“We didn’t hear the gunshots, but we saw the ambulance coming and the cops coming,” he said.

Patrick Murray, owner of Murray Photo and Video Inc. in downtown Appleton, said the incident made him more aware of his surroundings as he left work Wednesday night.

“Well, it’s the shock of reality of where we are in today’s world,” he said. “Any town is not too small for things to happen.”

Josh Arthurs, a U.S. military veteran, stood outside the transit center Thursday morning holding a U.S. flag and sign that read “We stand with Appleton fire and police.” 

Arthurs served eight years in the military, including three years in Afghanistan, he said.

“I lost some brothers overseas so I know what it’s like to have that feeling,” he said. “Obviously, every situation is different, but I know it’s not easy.” 

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Police give an update on the shooting at the Valley Transit Center in downtown Appleton.
Appleton Post-Crescent

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Police arrive at scene of a shooting at the transit center in Appleton on the corner of Franklin and Oneida on Wednesday, May 15, 2019.
Ricardo Arguello, USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin

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