DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — A shooting at a Des Moines educational program that left two students dead and the organization’s founder wounded should be understood as “tragic, sad and senseless,” the Iowa police chief said Wednesday. town.
Monday’s shooting at the Starts Right Here education program killed two teenagers, Gionni Dameron, 18, and Rashad Carr, 16, who were trying to rebuild their lives with the organization’s help. Will Keeps, the founder of the program designed to help teens who have been unsuccessful in traditional schools, was injured in the shooting and remained hospitalized Wednesday.
Police charged 18-year-old Preston Walls, a participant on the show, with two counts of first-degree murder, one count of attempted murder and one count of criminal gang involvement. Walls is being held in the Polk County Jail on $1 million bond and will appear in court on February 3.
Des Moines Police Chief Dana Wingert issued a statement noting that such shootings “have become increasingly common across the country, and our community is no different.”
Wingert said the public should avoid accepting gun violence as normal.
“The tragic loss of two young lives at the hands of gun violence, with a third seriously injured, is something we should never accept as ‘normal’ or ‘acceptable,’ Wingert said. “It can only be seen as tragic and sad and pointless every time.”
The shooting at an educational program “brought this worrying 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 Record that Carr was a talented rapper and was close with Dameron, calling them both a “backbone” for friends in need.
“You couldn’t sit in a room with the two of them and not smile, not make a joke,” Brown said. “You could feel their love when they hugged you or when they shook your hand.”
Garrette Boone, who coached Carr on a Des Moines youth soccer team and also knew Dameron, said both teens were focused on their families.
“They knew the purpose of the family and they embellished it, and they loved it, they spread it to their friends,” Boone told the Register. “And that’s what I loved about those kids because no matter what the outside said, or what happened on Facebook, or whatever… they were always… making sure they took care of their family.”
Dameron’s father, Gary Dameron, 37, also told the AP that his son was “family oriented.”
“He just had one of those personalities that when he walked into the room, everyone was drawn to him,” Dameron said.
Police said Carr and Dameron, as well as Walls, were involved in gangs, but family members and friends of those killed said that was not true.
Trisha Ahmed in Washington, DC, contributed to this report.
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