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1 killed, 5 injured by Iowa school shooter on the first day after winter break

Hundreds of people gathered for a candlelight prayer vigil tonight at a park where, hours earlier, students had been brought to reunite with their families after the shooting at Perry High School.

school shooting perry iowa mourners pray vigil candlelightCommunity members gather for a candlelight vigil at Wiese Park in Perry, Iowa, on Thursday.Jamie Kelter Davis for NBC

Bundled up against freezing temperatures, they listened to pastors from many faiths and heard a message of hope in both English and Spanish.

Sisters Yesenia Roeder and Khamya Hall, both 17, said alongside their mother, Alita, that the 17-year-old classmate who police identified as the shooter had been bullied relentlessly since elementary school. That escalated recently, they said, when his younger sister started getting picked on, too. Officials at the school didn’t intervene, they said, and that was “the last straw” for the shooter.

“He was hurting. He got tired. He got tired of the bullying. He got tired of the harassment,” Yesenia Roeder Hall, 17, said. “Was it a smart idea to shoot up the school? No. God, no.”

D’Sheka Maggitt, 35, whose sons, Phillip Gray and Trent Maggitt, attend Perry High School, said the two left home at 7:22 a.m. to catch the school bus, and about 15 minutes later Trent texted her saying that there had been a shooting at the school.

Naturally, she said, she panicked, grabbed her keys and sped to the school.

“Before I could get to the school, I had already seen 10 to 15 police and sheriff’s cars flying in the direction of the school,” she said, adding that this prompted her to put her emergency lights on and drive even faster.

When she arrived, the entrance to the school was blocked off. She said that little information was being provided.

Maggitt could not reach her sons by phone for some time. When she did, she learned that Trent, who is 15, had already entered the school when the shooting started. He told her that he had heard four or five rounds fired and then “everyone started running.”

Phillip, 14, said that when he got off the bus, he heard three shots. He said he turned around and heard his bus driver yelling for the students to get back on. He did. As the driver drove off, he said he saw his friend, a 10th grader, being carried by a teacher outside the school.

“He had blood on the side of his hip and he was limping while the teacher was holding him,” Phillip said.

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds said the shooting “strikes to the heart of everything that we hold dear.”

Gov. Kim Reynolds speaks outside of the Perry Middle School and High School complex where six people were shot today in Perry, Iowa.Gov. Kim Reynolds speaks outside of the Perry Middle School and High School complex where six people were shot today in Perry, Iowa. Jamie Kelter Davis for NBC News

“Our hearts are heavy today and our prayers are with the Perry community,” Reynolds said at an afternoon news conference. “This senseless tragedy has shaken our entire state to the core.”

A sixth grader was killed and five other people were injured during this morning’s shooting at Perry High School, officials said at an afternoon briefing.

The child who was killed was a student at Perry Middle School, said Mitch Mortvedt, the assistant director of the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation.

Four other students were injured as well as a school administrator, and they are being treated at area hospitals, he said.

Mortvedt said one of the injured victims was in critical condition with what appeared to be non-life-threatening injuries.

The shooting happened before school had started and not many students were on campus, but there was a breakfast program taking place, he said, adding that there may have been students of different grades in the school at that time.

Authorities identified the shooter as a 17-year-old student at the high school.

Dylan Butler appeared to have acted alone and was armed with a pump action shotgun and a small-caliber handgun, Mitch Mortvedt, the assistant director of the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation, said at an afternoon news conference.

Police continue to look into a motive for the shooting, he said. Mortvedt said that officers at the scene found what appeared to be the shooter with a self-inflicted gunshot wound. 

Officers also located an improvised explosive device at the scene, which Mortvedt described as “rudimentary.”

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis offered his support for Iowa after the school shooting at Perry High School on Thursday, but said that dealing with such shootings “is more of a local and state issue,” declining to suggest any changes to federal law he’d support that would make them less frequent.

The Republican presidential candidate touted efforts in Florida to keep schools safe in a joint interview with NBC News and The Des Moines Register.

“We obviously, you know, have a responsibility to create safe environments. The federal government is probably not going to be leading that effort,” DeSantis said.

“I think it is more of a local and state issue,” he added. “But we’ve shown how it’s done in Florida. The things that we’ve done have been very, very effective.”

Read the full story here.

The chair of the Iowa Democratic Party said in a statement that students “should be able to focus on creating brighter futures for themselves while they are in their classrooms, not looking for escape routes, hiding places, or fearing for their safety.”

“I am so sad and so sorry that the Perry community is living this nightmare that has happened far too often across our country,” Chair Rita Hart said in a statement this afternoon.

“The Perry community deserves better. Iowa deserves better,” she said.

Monica M. Gonzalez’s daughter was grabbing breakfast at the Perry High School cafeteria this morning when the gunman opened fire. Gonzalez’s daughter immediately fled the area. She was sprinting down a hallway when a teacher appeared, opened up a side door and yelled, “Run!”

Gonzalez’s daughter kept running until she reached the nearby National Guard Armory, where Perry students had been trained to shelter in the event of a mass shooting. The girl hid behind the building “because she was worried if the shooter got out of the school that he’d be running to their safe spot, too,” Gonzalez said.

Gonzalez said she was shaken and “shocked” over the events of the day, though she expressed gratitude to the teacher who opened the door for her daughter. “All I can say is thank u, thank u and thank u for getting her to someplace safe,” Gonzalez wrote in a Facebook group for members of the community.

Parent Jody Kurth said she received a text message from her daughter about a shooting at the high school.

“It was absolutely horrifying. One of the worst moments of my entire life,” she said, getting emotional.

Both of her children are safe.

“But the best phone call I got was saying that they were OK,” she said.

Kurth moved to the area seven years ago and said she never imagined something like this happening in their community.

“It’s overwhelming,” she said. “The pain in your heart, it’s overwhelming.”

Multiple patients from the shooting at Perry High School are being treated at Iowa Methodist Medical Center and the MercyOne Des Moines Medical Center, the Polk County Medical Coordination Center said in a statement this afternoon.

All families of the victims have been reunited, the statement said.

The center said that it sent emergency personnel, ambulances and helicopters to the scene of the shooting. 

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds said on the social media platform X today that “our hearts are broken by this senseless tragedy” and that “our prayers are with the students, teachers & families of the Perry Community.”

“I have been in contact with law enforcement agencies & am continuing to monitor the situation. I will be joining their press conference today,” she wrote.

The next news conference is scheduled to begin at 4 p.m. ET.

Perry Community School District will be closed on Friday.

Counseling services will be available at the public library for people in need from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, Perry High School said in a Facebook post.

Des Moines Area Community College said the Perry VanKirk Center will be closed through the weekend. Campuses will remain open.

“Our thoughts are with Perry community, staff, and students affected by today’s tragic shooting,” the school said on X. “We’re providing resources to those affected.”

A Perry High School student described hiding in a small room with three other students and a counselor after gunfire erupted before the start of classes this morning.

Student Ava Augustus said through tears that people were calling their parents and friends when they heard, “He’s down, you can go out.”

“I run and you can just see glass everywhere, blood on the floor,” she said, her voice breaking. “I get to my car and they’re taking a girl out of the auditorium who had been shot in her leg.”

Attorney General Merrick Garland has been briefed on the shooting, according to a spokesperson with the Department of Justice.

“Agents from the FBI Omaha Des Moines resident agency are on the scene and are assisting, and ATF has responded to the active shooter at the high school,” the spokesperson said.

Sen. Chuck Grassley said the “appalling violence” at Perry High School “is heartbreaking.”

The Republican senator thanked law enforcement and school officials for their quick response “to protect students” and “restore safety.”

“The Perry community is strong,” he said in a post on X.

UnityPoint Health system said it had two patients, both of whom sustained gunshot wounds. But the health care system did not give further details on their conditions.

UnityPoint Health said it was expecting a joint news release from all the hospitals involved as they’re all in coordination.

Rep. Zach Nunn said he is “beyond angry” after a gunman opened fire at Perry High School.

“My heart, and my commitment to holding those accountable, is with the community of Perry. We have a duty to protect our children, families, and educators,” he said in a statement.

Nunn, a Republican who represents Iowa’s 3rd Congressional District, added that he will continue to monitor the situation and that the “school is now secure.”

“We will not rest until there is full accountability for this heinous act of violence,” he said.

Dallas County Sheriff Adam Infante said that school had not yet started when the shooting began.

“Luckily, so there were very few students and faculty in the building, which I think contributed to a good outcome in that sense,” he said at a news briefing.

Around 7:37 a.m. local time, authorities were alerted to an active shooter situation at the high school, he said. An officer first arrived within seven minutes and found multiple gunshot victims. 

It’s not immediately clear how many people were injured and what the extent of their injuries are, he told reporters.

The shooter has been identified, but the sheriff declined to release further details.

“There is no further danger to the public. The community is safe,” he said. “We’re just now working backwards trying to figure out everything that happened.” 

A Perry High School student described hearing “a couple of bangs” and seeing “a bunch of kids running” on the morning of the school shooting, but thought it was a prank. 

But then a friend said “that there was a shooter with a gun,” the student, identified only as Carlos, told NBC News. “Then we got scared but again, we thought it was like a prank or something.”

The shooter is dead from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound and may have been a student, according to multiple law enforcement officials briefed on the matter.

Three others were injured, including two students and an administrator, the officials said.

One of the injuries may be fatal but the investigation is ongoing, the officials said.

President Joe Biden is tracking the latest on the Iowa shooting, a White House official said, adding that senior staff have been in touch with the Iowa governor’s office.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives has responded to the active shooter incident at Perry High School, the ATF’s Kansas City Field Division said in a post on social media.

Agents from the FBI Omaha Des Moines resident agency are at the shooting scene and assisting the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation, the lead agency.

Victims from Perry High School are being taken to MercyOne Des Moines Medical Center, a hospital spokesperson said.

The hospital dispatched ambulances and helicopters to the shooting scene.

It was not immediately clear how many patients were headed to MercyOne.

“We cannot comment on the number of patients, patient statuses or names,” the hospital said in a subsequent statement.

Parent Erica Jolliff told The Associated Press that her daughter, a ninth grader at the school, reported getting rushed from the school grounds at around 7:45 a.m. 

Jolliff was distraught and looking for her son Amir, a sixth grader, one hour later, according to the AP. 

“I just want to know that he’s safe and OK,” she said. “They won’t tell me nothing.”

The first reports about a possible active shooter at the high school came in around 7:40 a.m. local time, according to NBC affiliate WHO of Des Moines, Iowa.

The middle school was cleared around 8:25 a.m., the news station reported, and a second team cleared the high school by 8:27 a.m.

As a result of the situation, the elementary school was evacuated and dismissed by 8:32 a.m.

Police respond to Perry High School.Police respond to Perry High School in Perry, Iowa, on Thursday.Andrew Harnik / AP

Republican presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy posted on the social media site X, formerly known as Twitter.

“Pray for the community in Perry, Iowa this morning,” he wrote.

Ramaswamy was hosting a campaign event in Perry on Thursday.

The shooting comes days before the Iowa caucuses, which will kick off the 2024 Republican presidential primary process on Jan. 15.

A spokesperson for the Perry Police Department confirmed there is an active shooting at the high school. No further details were immediately available.

A news conference is scheduled for 11 a.m. ET.

Police respond to Perry High School in Perry, IowaPolice respond to an active shooter situation at Perry High School in Perry, Iowa, on Thursday. Andrew Harnik / APPolice respond to Perry High School in Perry, IowaPolice respond to an active shooter situation at Perry High School in Perry, Iowa, on Thursday. Andrew Harnik / AP

Linda Andorf, board president for the Perry Community School District, said news of today’s shooting is “terrible.”

“It is horrendously awful,” she said. “People need to figure out their life. This is just disgusting. It’s terrible.”

Multiple law enforcement vehicles, including what appeared to be police and state troopers with flashing lights, were lined up outside Perry High School in Iowa.

Additional vehicles, including an ambulance, could be seen coming and going this morning.

Today is the beginning of the second semester for the Perry Community School District following the winter break.

Perry High School is part of the Perry Community School District, which is about 25 miles northwest of Des Moines. It serves around 1,785 students, according to its website.

Perry High School in Perry Iowa.Perry High School in Perry, Iowa.Google Maps

The Dallas County Sheriff’s Office confirmed the shooting investigation but said no other information is available at this time.

The Dallas County Sheriff’s Office confirmed that there is an active shooter investigation at Perry High School in Perry, Iowa.

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