Police are investigating a possible gang-related motive after two students were fatally shot at an Iowa education center for at-risk youth.
Two male students, an 18-year-old and a 16-year-old, were fatally shot when the suspect pulled out a 9mm handgun and began firing just before 1 p.m. local time, a Des Moines police spokesman said.
The shooting happened in a common area used by the Starts Right Here education program in Des Moines. The organization’s president and founder, William Holmes, a rapper who performs under the name Will Keeps, was injured in the shooting and remains hospitalized in critical condition.
“The incident was definitely targeted, it wasn’t random. There was nothing random about it,” said Sgt. Paul Parizek.
He said Mr. Walls and the two student victims were affiliated with rival gangs.
Police later charged 18-year-old Des Moines resident Preston Walls with attempted murder and two counts of first-degree murder with gang participation. It is not clear who is acting as Mr. Walls’ attorney.
Two more accused are in custody.
Mr. According to Parizek, first responders performed CPR on the victim at the scene. He said the students were brought to a local hospital but could not be saved.
The Des Moines incident comes after a mass shooting in California over the weekend that left 11 people dead and nine others injured. Police are looking at a troubled romantic relationship as a possible motive for the state’s deadliest mass shooting in years. Over the weekend, more than 10 people were injured in a nightclub shooting in Baton Rouge, La.
Des Moines police said Mr. Walls entered a common area at the Starts Right Here building where the three victims were. Mr. As Holmes tried to escort him from the area, Mr. Walls pulled away and began shooting, Des Moines police said.
Police responding to reports of shots fired saw a suspicious vehicle leaving the area. The automobile was pulled over about 20 minutes later, approximately 2 miles from the education center, police said.
The other two remained in the car while Mr. Walls fled the vehicle. A police dog helped track him down, Mr. Parizek said. Mr Walls was taken into custody and a 9mm handgun was found nearby. Its ammunition magazine had a capacity of 31 rounds and contained three, police said.
The Starts Right Here website said it works with at-risk youth in Des Moines public schools. The nonprofit has Des Moines Police Department Chief Dana Wingert on its board of directors and Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds on its advisory board.
“I have seen firsthand how hard Will Keeps and his staff work to help at-risk children through this alternative education program. My heart breaks for them, for these children and their families,” Ms. Reynolds, a Republican, said in a statement.
The program deals with children “with various challenges that many of us can’t wrap our brains around,” Mr. Parizek said.
Write to Talal Ansari at [email protected]
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Appearing in the print edition on January 24, 2023, ‘Shooting Kills Two Students in Iowa.’