A man has been arrested and charged with murder after a shooting at an education program for at-risk youth in Des Moines, Iowa, left two students dead and the program’s founder critically injured, authorities said in a press release.
At 12:53 pm Monday, police and fire personnel responded to a report of a shooting at 455 SW 5th Street, where the nonprofit, called Starts Right Here, is located, Des Moines police said in a news release.
They found the shooting victims, who were taken to hospitals. The names of the slain have not been released.
Preston Walls, 18, was charged with two counts of first-degree murder, attempted murder and criminal gang participation, police said in an updated statement.
“The suspects, and the two deceased victims, are known gang members, associated with opposing gangs, and evidence indicates that these crimes were committed as a result of an ongoing gang dispute,” the updated news release said. Des Moines Police did not provide further details describing these claims.
Police said Walls cut off a court-ordered GPS ankle monitor about 16 minutes before the shooting.
CNN was unable to determine whether Walls has currently retained legal counsel.
Police did not identify the injured person, but Des Moines Mayor Frank Cownie said he was Starts Right Here president and R&B hip hop artist Will Holmes, also known as “Will Keeps.” Police said he was in serious condition.
The shooting occurred after the suspect, who was armed with a 9mm handgun and an extended ammunition magazine, “entered a common area where the three victims were located,” the police statement said.
Holmes “attempted to escort Walls from the area. Walls pulled away from Holmes, pulled the handgun and began to shoot the two teenage victims. Holmes was standing nearby and was also shot. Walls then fled the scene on foot,” according to the newsletter.
Police received a description of a vehicle related to the shooting and conducted a traffic stop about 20 minutes after the shooting, two miles away, said Police Sgt. Paul Parizek said at a news conference.
Two people stayed in the vehicle and one got out and ran, Parizek said. Police found the suspect with a tracking dog, he said.
Police say they found a 9mm handgun nearby. “The ammunition magazine in the handgun has a capacity of 31 rounds, of which there are three,” according to the news release.
Two others remain in custody as police investigate the incident.
According to the Starts Right Here website, “Starts Right Here (SRH) is busy encouraging at-risk youth in Des Moines Public Schools and inspiring youth through speaking events. Will Keeps, President of SRH, plays powerful songs to inspire and speak the truth.”
Keeps is a rapper who grew up in Chicago and moved to Des Moines.
“I want to take a moment and address the horrific shooting this afternoon at Starts Right Here, the school program on Southwest 5th St. and a friend of the city, Will Keeps, who is recovering in hospital tonight, which is run by Cownie said in a video statement.
The mayor called the shooting “a story that repeats itself — a tragic story of young lives taken far too soon by gun violence.”
The Des Moines Public Schools website says SRH is partnering with the school district to help students in the district’s Options Academy credit recovery program and to support students who are no longer in a school building. SRH serves 40-50 DMPS students at any given time, the school district said.
Iowa Gov. said. Kim Reynolds, who is listed on the website’s advisory board, said she was “disturbed and saddened” by the shooting.
“I am shocked and saddened to hear about the shooting at Starts Right Here. I have seen firsthand how hard Will Keeps and his team work to help at-risk kids through this alternative education program. My heart breaks for them, these kids and their families. Kevin and I are praying for their safe recovery,” Reynolds said in a statement.