After two students were shot dead at an Iowa education center for at-risk youth, police suspect gang-related motivations. Two male students, 18 and 16, were fatally shot when a suspect pulled out a 9mm handgun and began firing, said a spokesperson for Des Moines Police, reports the Wall Street Journal. The gunfire broke out inside a common area used by the Starts Right Here education program. The organization’s president and founder William Holmes, a rapper who performs under the name Will Keeps, was hospitalized in the shooting. “The incident was definitely targeted, it was not random. There was nothing random about this,” Sgt. Paul Parizek said. He said the two student victims were affiliated with rival gangs. Police charged Des Moines resident Preston Walls, 18, with two counts of first-degree murder, along with attempted murder and gang participation. Two other suspects were in custody. First responders performed CPR on the victims at the scene. Students couldn't be saved after being taken to a hospital.
Des Moines police said Walls entered a common area at the Starts Right Here building. Holmes attempted to escort him out when Walls pulled away and began to shoot. Police responding to reports of gunfire saw a suspicious vehicle leaving the area and pulled it over 20 minutes later, roughly two miles from the education center. Two people stayed in the car while Walls ran from the vehicle. A police dog helped track him down. Walls was taken into custody and a 9mm handgun was found nearby. Its ammunition magazine had a capacity of 31 rounds and was found containing three. Starts Right Here works with at-risk youth in the Des Moines Public Schools. The nonprofit has Des Moines Police Department Chief Dana Wingert on its board of directors and Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds on its advisory board. “I’ve seen first-hand how hard Will Keeps and his staff work to help at-risk kids through this alternative education program. My heart breaks for them, these kids and their families,” said Reynolds.