DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — A filming during an educational program in Des Moines which killed two students and injured the organization’s founder should be understood as “tragic, sad and unnecessary,” the city’s police chief said Wednesday.
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 help from the organization. Will Keeps, the founder of the program designed to help teenagers who failed in traditional schools, was injured in the shooting and remained in hospital on Wednesday.
Police have charged Preston Walls, 18, a participant in the program, with two counts of first degree murder, one count of attempted murder and one count of involvement in a criminal gang. Walls is being held in Polk County Jail on $1 million bail and will next appear in court on Feb. 3.
Des Moines Police Chief Dana Wingert released a statement in which he noted that such shootings have “become increasingly common across the country, and our community is no different.”
Wingert said the public must be wary of accepting gun violence as normal.
“The tragic loss of two young lives at the hands of gun violence, with a third person seriously injured, is something we should never accept as ‘normal’ or ‘acceptable,'” Wingert said. than as tragic, sad and unnecessary every time.”
The shooting in an educational program “took this disturbing 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 Monks Register that Carr was a talented rapper and was close to Dameron, calling them both a “backbone” for friends in need.
“You couldn’t sit in a room with them two and not smile, not crack a joke,” Brown said. “You could feel their love when they hugged you or shook your hand.”
Garrette Boone, who coached Carr on a Des Moines youth soccer team and also knew Dameron, said the two teenagers were focused on their families.
“They knew the purpose of the family and they embellished it, and they loved it, they spread it among their friends,” Boone told the Register. “And that’s what I loved about those boys because no matter what the outside was saying, or what was happening on Facebook, or whatever…they were always…making sure that their family was taken care of.”
Dameron’s father, Gary Dameron, 37, also told the AP that his son is “family oriented.”
“He just had one of those personalities that when he walked into the room everyone was gravitating towards him,” Dameron said.
Police said Carr and Dameron as well as Walls were involved in gangs, but relatives and friends of those killed said that was not true.
Trisha Ahmed in Washington, DC, contributed to this report.