Iowa shooting: Two teenagers killed in Des Moines

Founder of alternative educational programme seriously injured in what police called a targeted attack

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Two teenagers were killed at an alternative educational programme designed to keep at-risk youths away from trouble in the US state of Iowa on Monday.

A man was seriously injured in what police said was a targeted shooting. The injured man was identified as the programme’s founder — a rapper who left a life of gangs and violence and has been dedicated to helping young people in Des Moines.

Police said on Monday that one man had been charged over the shooting and two others were in custody.

Preston Walls, 18, of Des Moines, was charged with two counts of murder and one count of attempted murder over the shooting at the Starts Right Here programme. He was also charged with being in a criminal gang.

Authorities said the shooting was the result of a gang dispute. Police said Walls was on supervised release for a weapons charge and had removed his ankle monitor 16 minutes before the shooting.

Will Holmes, a rapper who goes by the stage name Will Keeps, founder of Starts Right Here. AP

“The incident was definitely targeted. It was not random. There was nothing random about this,” Sgt Paul Parizek said.

Two Des Moines teenagers aged 16 and 18 were killed.

William Holmes, 49, the rapper who founded the programme and goes by the stage name Will Keeps, was injured and was in surgery on Monday evening.

Police said Walls and all three victims were at the school on Monday. Walls is accused of entering a common area where Mr Holmes and the two teenagers were. Police said he was carrying a 9mm handgun with an extended ammunition magazine, though they did not specify if he was displaying the weapon.

'Alarming phenomenon'

Des Moines Mayor Frank Cownie said: “That brings a total of five families of teenagers affected by youth gun violence in a matter of minutes on a Monday afternoon, right here in our capital city.

“This is a growing and alarming phenomenon in our country, and one we’ve seen too often in the past and again today in the city of Des Moines.

“But there is little one can say that will lessen their pain. Nothing that can be said to bring them back, those who were killed so senselessly.”

Police said emergency crews were called to the school, which is in a business park, just before 1pm. Officers arrived to find two pupils critically injured and started CPR immediately, but they died at a hospital.

Starts Right Here is an educational programme that helps at-risk youths in years nine to 12 and is affiliated with the Des Moines school district.

Governor Kim Reynolds, who serves on an advisory board for Starts Right Here, said she was “shocked and saddened to hear about the shooting”. Des Moines Police Chief Dana Wingert is also on the board, according to the programme’s website.

“I’ve seen first-hand how hard Will Keeps and his staff works to help at-risk kids through this alternative education programme,” Reynolds said. “My heart breaks for them, these kids and their families.”

The shooting was the sixth at a school in the US this year but the first with fatalities, said Education Week, which tracks school shootings.

The website said there were 51 school shootings last year involving injuries or deaths and there have been 150 since 2018. In the worst school shooting last year, 21 people were killed at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas.

In a separate shooting outside a Des Moines high school last March, one pupil was killed and two other teenagers were badly injured. Ten people — who were all between the ages of 14 and 18 at the time of the shooting — were charged. Five of them have pleaded guilty to various charges associated with the shooting.

Updated: January 24, 2023, 3:07 PM
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