Teen kills 6th grader, wounds 5 others and takes own life in Iowa high school shooting

Dylan Butler, a 17-year-old student, unleashed terror at Perry High School, armed with a shotgun and a handgun

By AP

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People leave the McCreary Community Building after being reunited following a shooting at Perry High School. — AP
People leave the McCreary Community Building after being reunited following a shooting at Perry High School. — AP

Published: Fri 5 Jan 2024, 8:20 PM

Last updated: Fri 5 Jan 2024, 8:22 PM

A teen armed with a shotgun and a handgun unleashed terror at an Iowa high school on the first day of classes in the new year, authorities said, killing a sixth grader and wounding five others as people hunkered down in classrooms, barricaded offices and fled the barrage of bullets.

The suspect, a 17-year-old student at the school in Perry, died of what investigators believe was a self-inflicted gunshot wound, an Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation official said. An administrator, later identified by his alma mater as Perry High School Principal Dan Marburger, was among those wounded Thursday as students returned from winter break.

Authorities identified the shooter as Dylan Butler but provided no information about a possible motive. Two friends and their mother who spoke with The Associated Press said Butler was a quiet person who had been bullied for years.

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Authorities said Butler had a pump-action shotgun and a small-caliber handgun. Mitch Mortvedt, the state investigation division's assistant director, said during a news conference that authorities also found a “pretty rudimentary” improvised explosive device and rendered it safe.

Law enforcement officials walks past the Perry Middle School entrance following a shooting at the nearby Perry High School. — AP
Law enforcement officials walks past the Perry Middle School entrance following a shooting at the nearby Perry High School. — AP

A law enforcement official briefed on the investigation said federal and state investigators were interviewing Butler’s friends and analysing Butler’s social media profiles, including posts on TikTok and Reddit.

Shortly before Thursday’s shooting, Butler posted a photo on TikTok inside the bathroom of Perry High School, the official said. The photo was captioned “now we wait” and the song “Stray Bullet” by the German band KMFDM accompanied it. Investigators have also found other photos Butler posted posing with firearms, according to the official, who was not authorised to publicly discuss details of the investigation and spoke to AP on condition of anonymity.

Sisters Yesenia Roeder and Khamya Hall, both 17, said alongside their mother, Alita, that Butler was bullied relentlessly since elementary school, but it escalated recently when his younger sister started getting picked on, too.

Local residents pray during a candlelight vigil following a shooting at Perry High School. — AP
Local residents pray during a candlelight vigil following a shooting at Perry High School. — AP

“He was hurting. He got tired. He got tired of the bullying. He got tired of the harassment," Yesenia Roeder Hall said. "Was it a smart idea to shoot up the school? No. God, no.”

Calls to Perry Community Schools' Superintendent Clark Wicks, as well as school board members, were unanswered on Thursday, and an emailed request for comment was not immediately returned.

Police arrived within minutes after an active shooter was reported at 7.37am on Thursday, authorities said.

Police respond to Perry High School in Perry, Iowa. — AP
Police respond to Perry High School in Perry, Iowa. — AP

Perry High School senior Ava Augustus was awaiting a counsellor in a school office when she heard three shots. Unable to flee through a small window, she and others barricaded the door and were ready to throw things if necessary.

“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.”

Three gunshot victims were treated at Iowa Methodist Medical Center in Des Moines, a spokesperson said. Others were taken to a second hospital, a spokesperson for MercyOne Des Moines Medical Centre confirmed.

Mortvedt said one person was in critical condition but the injuries didn't appear to be life-threatening, and the others were stable.

In a Facebook post, Marburger's daughter said he was in “surgery all day, and is currently stable.”

Claire Marburger called her father a “gentle giant” who would want more attention on the other victims and their families, and less on himself.

On Thursday night, hundreds of people gathered for a candlelight prayer vigil at a park where hours earlier, students had been brought to reunite with their families after the shooting. Bundled up against freezing temperatures, they listened to clergy from many faiths and heard a message of hope in both English and Spanish.

A post on the high school's Facebook page said it would be closed Friday and counselling services would be available for students, faculty and others in the community.

“This senseless tragedy has shaken our entire state to its core,” Gov. Kim Reynolds said.

In Washington, President Joe Biden and US Attorney General Merrick Garland were briefed on the shooting.

Mass shootings across the US have long brought calls for stricter gun laws from gun safety advocates, and Thursday's did within hours. But the idea has been a non-starter for many Republicans, particularly in rural, GOP-leaning states like Iowa, which will hold its first-in-the-nation presidential caucuses January 15.


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