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Two students killed and a teacher injured in ‘targeted shooting’ in Iowa

Two students were killed on Monday and a teacher was injured in what police said was a targeted shooting at a school in Des Moines, Iowa, that is dedicated to helping at-risk youth. Three suspects were arrested.

The shooting was at an educational program called Starts Right Here that is affiliated with the Des Moines school district.

Police say emergency crews were called to the school, which is in a business park, just before 1pm ET. Officers arrived to find two students critically injured, and despite first aid they died at a hospital. The teacher who was injured was in serious condition on Monday afternoon.

About 20min after the shooting, police said officers stopped a car that matched witnesses’ descriptions about 2 miles away and took three suspects into custody.

“The incident was definitely targeted. It was not random. There was nothing random about this,” Sgt Paul Parizek said.

The Starts Right Here program, which helps at-risk youth in grades nine to 12, was founded in 2021 by Will Holmes, a rapper whose stage name is Will Keeps. He didn’t immediately respond to a message seeking comment on Monday.

“The school is designed to pick up 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 about 20 years ago from Chicago, where he “lived in a world of gangs and violence” before finding healing through music.

The partnership said the Starts Right Here movement “seeks to encourage and educate young people living in disadvantaged and oppressive circumstances using the arts, entertainment, music, hip hop and other programs. It also teaches financial literacy and helps students prepare for job interviews and improve their communication skills. The ultimate goal is to break down barriers of fear, intimidation and other damaging factors leading to a sense of being disenfranchised, forgotten and rejected.”

The school’s website says 70% of the students it serves are minorities, and it has had 28 graduates since it started. The school district said the program serves 40 to 50 students at any given time.

The Des Moines school district said in a statement: “We are saddened to learn of another act of gun violence, especially one that impacts an organization that works closely with some of our students. We are still waiting to learn more details, but our thoughts are with any victims of this incident and their families and friends.”

Governor 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 board.

“I’ve seen first-hand how hard Will Keeps and his staff works to help at-risk kids through this alternative education program,” Reynolds, a Republican, said in a statement. “My heart breaks for them.”

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