Two students were killed Monday and a teacher wounded in what police said was a targeted shooting at a Des Moines school that is dedicated to helping at-risk youth. Three suspects were later detained. The shooting occurred at an educational program called Starts Right Here, affiliated with the Des Moines school district.
Police say emergency crews were called to the school, which is located in a business park, just before 1pm local time. Officers arrived to find two seriously injured students, and began CPR immediately. Both students died at the hospital. The injured professor is in serious condition and will undergo surgery this Monday afternoon.
About 20 minutes after the shooting, police said officers stopped a car matching witness descriptions about two miles away and took three suspects into custody. Police said one of the suspects fled the car, but officers using a K-9 were able to track that person down. “The incident had a clear objective. It was not random. There was nothing random,” said Sergeant Paul Parizek, in statements collected by the Associated Press.
The Starts Right Here program, which helps at-risk youth in grades 9-12, was founded by Will Holmes, a rapper who goes by the stage name Will Keeps. “The school is designed to help the children who need it most,” Parizek explained.
The Greater Des Moines Partnership, the region’s community and economic development organization, says on its website that Keeps came to Des Moines about 20 years ago from Chicago, where he “lived in a world of gangs and violence” before finding healing through music.
According to the association, the Starts Right Here movement “seeks to encourage and educate young people living in disadvantaged and oppressive circumstances using the arts, entertainment, music, hip hop and other programs.” It also teaches financial literacy and helps students prepare for job interviews and improve their communication skills. The ultimate goal is to break down the barriers of fear, intimidation, and other detrimental factors that lead to feelings of being disenfranchised, forgotten, and rejected.” The school’s website says that 70% of the students it serves are minorities.
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Gov. Kim Reynolds, who is on a Starts Right Here advisory board, said she was “shocked and saddened to learn of the shooting.” Des Moines Police Chief Dana Wingert is on the board of Starts Right Here.
“I have seen firsthand how hard Will Keeps and his staff work to help at-risk children through this alternative education program,” Reynolds said in a statement. “My heart breaks for them, for these children and for their families. Kevin and I are praying that they make a safe recovery.”
Nicole Krantz has noted that her office near the school was put on lockdown immediately after the shooting, and she saw someone running from the building with police in pursuit on foot and in patrol cars. “We just saw a bunch of police cars coming in from everywhere,” Krantz told the Des Moines Register. “It’s frightening. We are all worried. Obviously, we have closed the doors. They told us all to stay away from the windows because we weren’t sure if they had caught the guy.”
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