Police chief calls Iowa school shooting ‘sad and pointless’

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — A shooting at a Des Moines education program that killed two students and injured the organization’s founder should be taken as “tragic, sad and senseless,” the city’s police chief said Wednesday.

Monday’s shooting at the Starts Right Here education program killed two teenagers – 18-year-old Gionni Dameron and 16-year-old Rashad Carr – who were trying to rebuild their lives with help from the organization. Will Keeps, the founder of the program designed to help teenagers who have been unsuccessful in traditional schools, was injured in the shooting and remained hospitalized on Wednesday.

Police charged 18-year-old Preston Walls, a program participant, with two counts of first-degree murder, attempted murder and participation in a criminal gang. Walls is being held in the Polk County Jail on $1 million bail and will next appear in court on February 3.

Des Moines Police Chief Dana Wingert released a statement noting that such shootings “are becoming more common across the country and our community is no different.”

Wingert said the public must be wary of accepting gun violence as normal.

“The tragic loss of two young lives at gunpoint with a seriously injured third party is something we should never accept as ‘normal’ or ‘acceptable,'” Wingert said. “It can only be seen as tragic, sad and pointless every time.”

The shooting at an education program “has taken this troubling trend to a new level,” Wingert said.

Friends described Carr as a loyal friend who wanted to finish high school and pursue a career in music.

JahZire Brown, a longtime friend, told the Des Moines Register that Carr was a talented rapper and was close to Dameron, calling them both a “backbone” to friends in need.

“You couldn’t sit in the room with those two and not crack a smile, crack a joke,” Brown said. “You could feel their love when they hugged you or shook your hand.”

Garrette Boone, who coached Carr on a Des Moines youth soccer team and also knew Dameron, said both teenagers are focused on their families.

“They knew the purpose of family and they embellished that, and they loved that, they spread that among their friends,” Boone told the Register. “And that’s what I loved about these guys because no matter what the outside world said or what happened on Facebook or whatever … they always … made sure their family was taken care of.”

Dameron’s father, Gary Dameron, 37, also told the AP his son is “family-oriented.”

“He just had one of those personalities that when he walked into the room, everyone was kind of drawn to him,” Dameron said.

Police said Carr and Dameron and Walls were involved in gangs, but relatives and friends of those killed said that was not true.


Trisha Ahmed in Washington, DC contributed to this report.