Des Moines, Iowa — Two teenage students died Monday and a man was seriously injured in a shooting aimed at an alternative education program designed to keep at-risk youth out of trouble, police said. The injured man was identified as the founder of the program. He is a rapper who has abandoned his violent life and dedicated himself to supporting the youth of Des Moines.
Three people were arrested shortly after the shooting on an educational show called Starts Right Here, police said. Des Moines Mayor Frank Cowney identified the injured adult as William Holmes, stage name Will Keepes, and said the victims and those arrested were all teenagers.
“This affected a total of five families of teenagers affected by youth gun violence here in the capital in minutes Monday afternoon,” Cowney said. It’s a worrying phenomenon that has been happening in the past and has been a frequent occurrence in Des Moines.”
Cowney held a moment of silence for the victims. He said he spoke to their families. “But there is very little that can be said to ease their pain.
Starts Right Here is an educational program affiliated with the Des Moines School District. According to police, an ambulance was called to the school located in the business park just before 1:00 p.m. When the officers arrived, he found two students seriously injured and immediately sent cardiopulmonary arrest. started resuscitation. Two students died in hospital. The adult, who was later identified by the mayor as Keeps, was in a serious condition, and police said he was undergoing surgery on Monday night.
About 20 minutes after the shooting, police said they stopped a vehicle matching the description of a witness about 2 miles (3.22 km) away and detained the three. Police said one person fled the vehicle, but officers pursued him with a K-9.
“The incident was definitely targeted. It wasn’t random. There was nothing random about this,” Sgt. Paul Palizek said. However, the motive for the shooting was unclear, he said.
The Starts Right Here program to help at-risk youth in grades 9-12 was launched in 2021 by Keeps.
“This school is designed to help children who need it most,” said Palizek. Police did not disclose whether his teenager in custody was a student in the program.
According to the website of the Greater Des Moines Partnership, the region’s economic and community development organization, Keeps came to Des Moines from Chicago about 20 years ago and “lived in a world of gangs and violence” before finding solace through music. I was there.” .
According to the partnership, the Starts Right Here movement “aims to use arts, entertainment, music, hip-hop and other programs to encourage and educate young people living in disadvantaged and oppressive situations. It teaches literacy and also helps students improve their competencies by preparing them for job interviews, with the ultimate goal being the fear, intimidation, Breaking down the barriers of other harmful factors.”
According to the show’s website, one of Keeps’ songs, “Wake Up Iowa,” is a message that “violence and hate is not the Iowa way and will not end because we need to learn from other cities’ mistakes.” is sending Ravaged by violence and crime. ”
According to the school’s website, 70% of its students are minorities and it has 28 alumni since opening. According to the school district, the program always serves between her 40 and her 50 students. The district said no district employees were at the scene at the time of the shooting.
Interim Superintendent Matt Smith said in a statement: With the victims of this incident and their families and friends. ”
Gov. Kim Reynolds, who serves on Starts Right Here’s advisory board, said he was “shocked and saddened to hear about the shootings.” Des Moines Police Chief Dana Wingert is on the Starts Right Here committee, according to the program’s website.
“I have seen firsthand how hard Will Keepes and his staff are working to help at-risk children through this alternative education program,” Reynolds said in a statement. , my heart breaks for these children and their families.”
Nicole Krantz said her office near the school was cordoned off shortly after the shooting, and she saw people fleeing the building with police on foot and in patrol cars.
“I just saw a bunch of police cars coming out of nowhere,” Krantz told the Des Moines Register. “It’s scary. We’re all worried. Obviously we had a lockdown. We weren’t sure if they caught the man, so we stayed away from the window.” was told.”
According to Education Week, which tracks school shootings, this is the sixth time people have been injured or killed in a school shooting in the United States this year, but the first to result in a fatality. Yes. There were 51 school shootings with injuries or deaths last year, up from 150 since 2018, according to the website.
Another shooting outside a Des Moines high school last March killed a student and seriously injured two teenagers. Ten people, aged between 14 and 18 at the time of the shooting, were subsequently charged. Five of them have pleaded guilty to various charges related to the shooting.
Funk reported from Omaha, Nebraska. His Associated Press writer Jim Salter of O’Fallon, Missouri, and Heather Hollingsworth of Mission, Kansas contributed to this report.