Two students were killed and an adult employee injured Monday in what police said was a targeted shooting at a Des Moines school dedicated to helping at-risk youth, and three suspects were arrested afterwards.
The filming was during an educational program called Starts Right Here that is affiliated with the Des Moines school district.
Police say emergency services were called to the school, which is located in a business park, just before 1pm. Officers found two seriously injured students and immediately began CPR. The two students died in a hospital. The adult school staff member who was injured is in serious condition and underwent surgery Monday afternoon.
About 20 minutes after the shooting, officers stopped a car that matched witnesses’ descriptions about two miles away and took three suspects into custody. Police said one of the suspects ran out of the car, but officers using a K-9 were able to track that person down.
“The incident was definitely targeted. It wasn’t random. There was nothing arbitrary about this,’ Sgt. said Paul Parisek.
The Starts Right Here Program, which helps at-risk youth in grades 9-12, was founded in 2021 by Will Holmes, a rapper whose stage name is Will Keeps. He did not immediately respond to a message asking for comment on Monday.
“The school is designed to take the slack and help the kids who need help the most,” Parizek said.
The Greater Des Moines Partnership, the economic and community development organization for the region, says 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” before finding healing through music.
The partnership said the Starts Right Here movement “aims to encourage and educate young people living in underserved and oppressive circumstances through arts, entertainment, music, hip-hop and other programs. It also teaches financial literacy and helps students prepare for prepare for job interviews and improve their communication skills. The ultimate goal is to break barriers of fear, intimidation and other harmful factors that lead to a feeling of disenfranchisement, forgetting and rejection.”
The school’s website says 70% of the students it serves are minorities, and there have been 28 graduates since its inception. The school district said the program serves 40 to 50 students at any one time. The district said no district employees were on the scene at the time of the shooting.
The Des Moines school district said in a statement: “We are saddened to hear of another act of gun violence, especially one that affects an organization that works closely with some of our students. We are still awaiting more details, but our thoughts are with all the victims of this incident and their families and friends.”
Gov. Kim Reynolds, who serves on an advisory board for Starts Right Here, said she was “shocked and saddened to hear about the shooting”. Des Moines Police Chief Dana Wingert is on the Starts Right Here sign.
“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, these children and their families. Kevin and I are praying for a safe recovery.”
Nicole Krantz said her office near the school was locked down immediately after the shooting and she saw someone run out of the building as police chased him on foot and in patrol cars.
“We just saw a lot of police cars pouring in from all over,” Krantz told the Des Moines Register. “It’s terrifying. We are all concerned. Of course we locked. We were all told to stay away from the windows because we weren’t sure if they had caught the man.