DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — An 18-year-old man was charged with murder Monday in the killing of two teens at an alternative education program for at-risk youth in Des Moines.
Preston Walls of Des Moines was charged with two counts of murder and one count of attempted murder in Monday’s Starts Right Here shooting, police said. Two teenagers – an 18-year-old male and a 16-year-old male – were killed in the attack.
The program’s founder, William Holmes, 49, a rapper who goes by the stage name Will Keeps, was injured.
Walls was on supervised pretrial release on the weapons charge and removed the ankle bracelet 16 minutes before he went to school with the gun and confronted the two student victims, police said. Police said Walls and the two students both had gang ties and belonged to rival gangs.
This is a breaking news update. An early AP report follows.
DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Two teenage students were killed and a man was seriously injured Monday in what police said was an attempt to keep at-risk teens out of trouble. Targeted shootings of alternative education programs. The injured man was identified as the project’s founder — a rapper who escaped a life of violence and dedicated his life to helping Des Moines youth.
Three people were arrested shortly after the shooting at an education program called “Start Here,” police said. Des Moines Mayor Frank Cownie identified the injured adult as William Holmes, who goes by the stage name Will Keeps, and said the victim and Those arrested were all teenagers.
“In a matter of minutes on Monday afternoon, right here in our capital, five teenage families were impacted by youth gun violence,” Coney said. “It’s a worrying phenomenon that’s growing in our country, and we’ve seen it in Des Moines in the past and today.”
Connie observed a moment of silence for the victims. He said he spoke to their families. “But hardly anyone can say it will ease their pain. Nothing will bring them back, the ones who were killed so ignorantly.”
Start Here is an educational program affiliated with the Des Moines School District. Emergency services were called to the school, which is located in a business park, just before 1 p.m., police said. Police arrived and found the two students with serious injuries, and they immediately began CPR. Two students died in hospital. The adult, who was later identified by the mayor as Keeps, was in serious condition and police said he was undergoing surgery Monday night.
About 20 minutes after the shooting, police said they stopped a vehicle matching the description of witnesses about 2 miles (3.22 kilometers) away and took three people into custody. One person got out of the car, but officers tracked the person down with a K-9, police said.
“This incident was definitely targeted. It wasn’t random. There was nothing random about it,” Sgt. Paul Parisek said. But he said the motive for the shooting was unknown.
The Starts Right Here program was created by Keeps in 2021 to help at-risk youth in grades 9-12.
“The school was designed to pick up the pieces and help the kids most in need,” Parizek said. Police did not say whether the detained teens were students in the program.
The Greater Des Moines Partnership, the area’s economic and community development organization, said on its website that Keeps came to Des Moines from Chicago about 20 years ago, where he “lived in a world of gangs and violence” and then sought cure.
The Partnership says the Starts Right Here campaign “aims to encourage and educate young people living in disadvantaged and oppressive situations using art, entertainment, music, hip-hop and other programming. It also teaches financial literacy, helps students prepare for job interviews and improves Their communication skills. The ultimate goal is to break down the barriers of fear, intimidation and other disruptive factors that lead to feelings of disenfranchisement, forgetfulness and rejection.”
According to the program’s website, one of the Keeps’ songs, “Wake Up Iowa,” has the message: “Violence and hatred are not the Iowa way, and instead we need to learn from the mistakes of other cities, so we don’t will end to be ravaged by violence and crime.”
The school’s website says 70 percent of the students it serves are minorities, and it has graduated 28 since its inception. The district said the program serves 40 to 50 students at any given time. The district said no district employees were present at the time of the shooting.
Interim Superintendent Matt Smith said in a statement: “We are saddened to learn of another act of gun violence, especially one affecting an organization that works closely with some of our students. We are still waiting to learn more details, but we are in touch with Our thoughts are with all the victims of this incident, as well as their families and friends.”
Kim Reynolds, who serves on the governor’s Starts Right Here advisory board, said she was “shocked and saddened to hear about the shooting.” Des Moines Police Chief Dana Wingert is on the Starts Right Here board, according to the program’s website.
“I have seen firsthand how Will Keeps and his staff are working hard to help at-risk children through this alternative education program,” Reynolds said in a statement. “My heart goes out to them, these children and their families. broken.”
Nicole Krantz said her office near the school was cordoned off immediately after the shooting, and she saw people running from the building, followed by police on foot and in patrol cars.
“We just saw a lot of police cars pouring in from everywhere,” Kranz told the Des Moines Register. “It was horrible. We were all worried. Obviously, we went on lockdown. We were all told to stay out of the windows because we weren’t sure if they caught the guy,”
The shooting was the sixth incident at a U.S. school this year in which someone was injured or killed, but the first resulting in a fatality, according to Education Weekly, which tracks school shootings. There were 51 school shootings involving casualties last year and 150 since 2018, the website said.Last year’s deadliest school shooting left 21 dead An elementary school in Uvalde, Texas.
Last March, a student was killed and two other teens were seriously injured in another shooting outside a high school in Des Moines. Ten people, all between the ages of 14 and 18 at the time of the shooting, have since been charged. Five of them have pleaded guilty to multiple charges related to the shooting.
Funk reported from Omaha, Nebraska. Associated Press writers Jim Salter in O’Fallon, Missouri and Heather Hollingsworth in Mission, Kansas contributed to this report.