Suspect arrested in Des Moines shooting that left 2 students dead, founder of education program in serious condition, police say
By Andi Babineau and Kara Devlin, CNN
A man was arrested and charged with murder after a shooting at an educational program for at-risk youth in Des Moines, Iowa, left two students dead and the program’s founder seriously injured, authorities said in a press release.
At 12:53 p.m. Monday, police and fire personnel responded to a report of a shooting at 455 SW 5th Street, which houses the non-profit, called Starts Right Here, Des Moines police said in a news release.
They found the shooting victims, who were taken to hospitals. The names of the slain were not released.
Preston Walls, 18, was charged with two counts of first-degree murder, attempted murder and criminal gang participation, police said in an updated statement.
“Walls, and both deceased victims, are known gang members, belonging to opposing gangs, and evidence indicates that that these crimes were committed as a result of an ongoing gang dispute,” the updated news release said. Des Moines Police provided no further details outlining these claims.
Police said Walls cut off a court-ordered GPS ankle monitor approximately 16 minutes prior to the shooting.
CNN has been unable to determine if Walls has retained legal counsel at this time.
Police didn’t identify the injured person but Des Moines Mayor Frank Cownie said it was Starts Right Here program president and R&B hip hop artist Will Holmes, also known as “Will Keeps.” Police said he was in serious condition.
The shooting occurred after the suspect, who had a 9mm handgun with an extended ammunition magazine, “entered into a common area where all three victims were located,” the police statement said.
Holmes “attempted to escort Walls from the area. Walls pulled away from Holmes, pulled the handgun and began to shoot both teenage victims. Holmes was standing nearby and was also shot. Walls then fled the scene on foot,” according to the news release.
Police got a description of a vehicle related to the shooting and made a traffic stop about 20 minutes after the shooting, two miles away, Police Sgt. Paul Parizek said at a news conference.
Two people stayed in the vehicle and one got out and ran, Parizek said. Police found the suspect with a tracking dog, he said.
Police say they found a 9mm handgun nearby. “The ammunition magazine in the handgun has a capacity of 31 rounds, and contained three,” according to the news release.
Two additional people remain in custody as police investigate the incident.
According to Starts Right Here’s website, “Starts Right Here (SRH) is busy inspiring at-risk youth in the Des Moines Public Schools and motivating youth through speaking events. Will Keeps, SRH President, performs empowering songs to inspire and speak the truth.”
Keeps is a rapper who grew up in Chicago and moved to Des Moines.
“I want to take a moment and address the horrific shooting this afternoon at Starts Right Here, the school program on Southwest 5th St. and it is run by a friend of the city, Will Keeps, who is recovering tonight in the hospital,” Cownie said in a video statement.
The mayor called the shooting a “story that repeats itself—the tragic story of young lives taken far too soon by gun violence.”
The Des Moines Public Schools website says SRH partners with the school district to help students in the district’s Options Academy credit recovery program and to support students who are no longer in a school building. SRH serves 40-50 DMPS students at any given time, the school district said.
Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds, who is listed on the website’s advisory board, said she is “shocked and saddened” about the shooting.
“I am shocked and saddened to hear about the shooting at Starts Right Here. I’ve seen first-hand how hard Will Keeps and his staff works to help at-risk kids through this alternative education program. My heart breaks for them, these kids and their families. Kevin and I are praying for their safe recovery,” Reynolds said in a statement.
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