Police say multiple people have been shot at a school in Iowa; suspect is dead

The shooting occurred in the backdrop of the Iowa caucuses and not far from where Republican presidential candidates were campaigning

By AP

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A man and children leave the McCreary Community Building after being reunited following a shooting at Perry High School on Thursday. — AP
A man and children leave the McCreary Community Building after being reunited following a shooting at Perry High School on Thursday. — AP

Published: Thu 4 Jan 2024, 10:46 PM

Multiple people were shot inside a small-town Iowa high school early on Thursday as students prepared to start their first day of classes after their annual winter break, authorities said.

The suspect in the shooting in Perry, Iowa, has died of what investigators believe is a self-inflicted gunshot wound, a law enforcement official told The Associated Press. The official was not authorised to publicly discuss details of the investigation and spoke to The AP on condition of anonymity.

The official also said that at least one of the victims is a school administrator.

Two gunshot victims were taken by ambulance to Iowa Methodist Medical Center in the state capital of Des Moines, a health system spokesperson said. Some other patients were transported to a second hospital in Des Moines, a spokesperson for MercyOne Des Moines Medical Center confirmed, declining to comment on the number of patients or their statuses.

The state capital is about 64km southeast of Perry, which has about 8,000 residents.

High school senior Ava Augustus said she was in a counselor's office, waiting for hers to arrive, when she heard three shots. She and other people barricaded the door, preparing to throw things if necessary, with a window being too small for an escape.

“And then we hear ‘He’s down. You can go out,’” Augustus said through tears. ”And I run and you can just see glass everywhere, blood on the floor. I get to my car and they’re taking a girl out of the auditorium who had been shot in her leg.”

In Washington, US Attorney General Merrick Garland was briefed on the shooting. FBI agents from the Omaha-Des Moines office are assisting with the investigation led by the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation.

The shooting occurred in the backdrop of the Iowa caucuses and not far from where Republican presidential candidates were campaigning. GOP candidate Vivek Ramaswamy had a campaign event scheduled in Perry at 9 a.m. about a 1 1/2 miles (2.41 kilometers) from the high school but canceled it to have a prayer and intimate discussion, a spokesperson said.

Ramaswamy said the shooting is a sign of a “psychological sickness” in the country.

As of July 2021, Iowa does not require a permit to purchase a handgun or carry a firearm in public, though it mandates a background check for a person buying a handgun without a permit.

An active shooter was reported at 7:37 a.m. Thursday morning and officers arrived seven minutes later, Dallas County Adam Infante said. He added during a news conference that officers located multiple people with injuries, but couldn't confirm how many there were or their conditions.

An enormous number of emergency vehicles surrounded the building that houses both the town's middle school and high school.

Zander Shelley, 15, was in a hallway waiting for the school day to start when he heard gunshots and dashed into a classroom, according to his father, Kevin Shelley. Zander was grazed twice and hid in the classroom before texting his father at 7:36 a.m.

Kevin Shelley, who drives a garbage truck, told his boss he had to run. “It was the most scared I’ve been in my entire life,” he said.

Rachael Kares, an 18-year-old senior, was wrapping up jazz band practice when she and her bandmates heard what she described as four gunshots, spaced apart.

“We all just jumped,” Kares said. “My band teacher looked at us and yelled, ‘Run!’ So we ran.”

Kares and many others from the school ran out past the football field, as she heard people yelling, “Get out! Get out!” She said she heard additional shots as she ran, but didn’t know how many. She was more concerned about getting home to her 3-year-old son.

“At that moment I didn’t care about anything except getting out because I had to get home with my son,” she said.

Erica Jolliff said that her daughter, a ninth grader, reported getting rushed from the school grounds at 7:45 am. Distraught, Jolliff was still looking for her son Amir, a sixth grader, one hour later.

“I just want to know that he’s safe and OK,” Jolliff said. “They won’t tell me nothing.”

The high school is part of the 1,785-student Perry Community School District. The town of Perry is more diverse than Iowa as a whole, with census figures showing that 31% of the residents are Hispanic, compared to less than 7% for the state. Those figures also show that nearly 19% of the town's residents were born outside the U.S.

Phone messages left with the Perry School Board’s president and vice president, and an email message left with Superintendent Clark Wicks, were not immediately returned.


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