By SCOTT MCFETRIDGE and JOSH FUNK (Associated Press)

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Two teenage students were killed and a man was seriously wounded Monday in what police said was a targeted shooting at an alternative education program designed to keep youth from getting into trouble. risk groups. The injured man was identified as the founder of the program, a rapper who left a life of gangs and violence to devote himself to helping youth in Des Moines.

Police said Monday that one person has been charged in connection with the shooting and two others remain in custody. Preston Walls, 18, of Des Moines, has been charged with two counts of murder and one count of attempted murder for the shooting at “It Starts Here.” He was also charged with participation in a criminal group.

Authorities said the shooting was the result of an ongoing gang feud. Police said Walls was under weapons supervision and removed the monitor from his ankle 16 minutes before the shooting.

“The incident was definitely targeted. It was no accident. There was nothing accidental about it,” Sgt. – said Paval Parizek.

Two Des Moines teenagers, an 18-year-old and a 16-year-old, were killed. William Holmes — the 49-year-old rapper who founded the program and goes by the name Will Keeps — was injured and underwent surgery Monday night.

Police said Walls and all three victims were at the school Monday when Walls entered the common area where Holmes and two students were. Police said Walls had a 9mm handgun with an extended magazine, although they did not say whether he was displaying the weapon.

Holmes tried to escort Walls away from the area, but Walls pulled away, “pulled out a handgun and began shooting both teenagers,” police said in a statement. Holmes was standing nearby and was also shot, after which Walls fled, police said.

Responding officers saw a suspicious vehicle leaving the area. Officers stopped the vehicle. But Walls escaped and was soon arrested. Police said a 9 mm handgun was found nearby. There were three ammunition magazines with a capacity of 31 cartridges.

Des Moines Mayor Frank Cowney said the people in the car with Wall were also teenagers.

“This brings a total of five families of teenagers affected by youth gun violence in a matter of minutes on Monday afternoon, right here in our capital city,” Cowney said at Monday’s City Council meeting. “This is a growing and troubling phenomenon in our country that we have seen all too often in the past and again today in the city of Des Moines.”

Kawni honored the fallen with a moment of silence. He said he had spoken to their family members. “But there is little that can be said to lessen their pain. There is nothing that can be said to bring them back, those who were killed so senselessly,” he said.

Walls has yet to appear in court. It was not immediately clear if he has an attorney representing him.

Police said emergency crews were called to the school, which is on a business park, shortly before 1 p.m. Officers arrived to find two critically injured students and immediately began CPR, but the two students died at the hospital.

Starts Right Here is an educational program that serves at-risk youth in grades 9-12 and is affiliated with the Des Moines School District.

“The school is meant to pick up the slack and help the kids who need it the most,” Parizek said.

The Greater Des Moines Partnership, an economic and community development organization in the region, says on its website that Kipps came to Des Moines about 20 years ago from Chicago, where he “lived in a world of gangs and violence” before finding treatment through music.

The partnership said the Start Right Here movement “seeks to encourage and educate young people living in disadvantaged and violent environments using arts, entertainment, music, hip-hop and other programs. It also teaches financial literacy and helps students prepare for interviews and improve their communication skills. The ultimate goal is to break down the barriers of fear, intimidation, and other harmful factors that lead to feeling disenfranchised, forgotten, and rejected.”

According to the program’s website, one of Keeps’ songs, “Wake Up Iowa,” sends the message that “violence and hate don’t belong in Iowa, and instead we need to learn from the mistakes of other cities so we don’t end up as a result, they will be ravaged by violence and crime.”

The school’s website says 70% of the students it serves are minorities, and 28 have graduated since its founding in 2021. The school district said the program serves 40 to 50 students at any given time. The county said no county employees were on the scene 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 that affects an organization that works closely with some of our students. We are still waiting to learn more details, but our thoughts are with all the victims of this incident, their families and friends.”

Gov. Kim Reynolds, who serves on Starts Right Here’s advisory board, said she was “shocked and saddened to hear about the shooting.” Des Moines Police Chief Dana Wingert is on the Start Here board, according to the program’s website.

“I have seen firsthand how Will Kipps and his staff go to great lengths to help at-risk children through this alternative education program,” Reynolds said in a statement. “My heart breaks for them, for these children and their families.”

Nicole Krantz said her office near the school was locked immediately after the shooting, and she saw someone running from the building with police on foot and in patrol cars in pursuit.

“We just saw a lot of police cars pouring in from everywhere,” Krantz told the Des Moines Register. “It’s terrible. We all worry. Obviously we closed. We were all told to stay away from the windows because we weren’t sure if the guy had been caught.”

The shooting was the sixth school shooting in the U.S. this year in which someone was injured or killed, but the first with a fatality, according to Education Week, which tracks school shootings. The website reports that there were 51 school shootings that resulted in injuries or deaths last year, and 150 since 2018. In the worst school shooting last year, 21 people were killed at an elementary school in Uwald, Texas.

Last March, a student was killed and two teenagers were seriously injured in a separate shooting near a Des Moines high school. Ten people, who were between 14 and 18 years old at the time of the shooting, were later charged. Five of them pleaded guilty to various charges related to the shooting.


Funk reported from Omaha, Nebraska. Associated Press writers Jim Salter in O’Phelan, Missouri, and Heather Hollingsworth in Mission, Kansas, contributed to this report.

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