Police: 2 Students Killed, Man Seriously Injured in Des Moines Shooting

The Associated Press
By The Associated Press
January 23, 2023USshare
Police: 2 Students Killed, Man Seriously Injured in Des Moines Shooting
A law enforcement officer walks outside the Starts Right Here building in Des Moines, Iowa, on Jan. 23, 2023. (Charlie Neibergall/AP Photo)

DES MOINES, Iowa—Two teenage students were killed Monday and a man was seriously injured in what police said was a targeted shooting at an alternative educational program that was designed to keep at-risk youth away from trouble, police said. The injured man was identified as the program’s founder—a rapper who left a life of violence and was dedicated to helping youth in Des Moines.

Three people were arrested shortly after the shooting at the educational program called Starts Right Here, police said. Des Moines Mayor Frank Cownie identified the injured adult as William Holmes—who goes by the stage name Will Keeps—and said the victims and those arrested were all teenagers.

Cownie held a moment of silence for the victims. He said he spoke to their family members. “But there is little one can say that will lessen their pain. Nothing that can be said to bring them back, those who were killed so senselessly.”

Starts Right Here is an educational program affiliated with the Des Moines school district. Police said emergency crews were called to the school, which is in a business park, just before 1 p.m. Officers arrived to find two students critically injured, and they started CPR immediately. The two students died at a hospital. The adult, later identified by the mayor as Keeps, was in serious condition, and police said he was in surgery Monday evening.

About 20 minutes after the shooting, police said officers stopped a car that matched witnesses’ descriptions about 2 miles away and took three people into custody. Police said one person ran from the car, but officers tracked that person down with a K-9.

“The incident was definitely targeted. It was not random. There was nothing random about this,” Sgt. Paul Parizek said. But he said the motive for the shooting was unknown.

The Starts Right Here program, which helps at-risk youth in grades 9–12, was founded in 2021 by Keeps.

“The school is designed to pick up the slack and help the kids who need help the most,” Parizek said. Police did not say whether the teenagers in custody were students at the program.

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.

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 percent 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 district said no district employees were on site at the time of the shooting.

Gov. 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, according to the program’s website.

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

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