According to a police news release, Walls, 18, has been charged with first-degree murder (two counts), one count of attempted murder and one count of criminal gang participation. Police added that the deceased victims were males, ages 18 and 16.
William Holmes, a rapper known as “Will Keeps,” was the injured employee, police said, adding that he is the founder and CEO of the school. According to KCCI, the deceased victims are 18-year-old Gionni Dameron and 16-year-old Rashad Carr.
“Far too often, our community comes together to mourn the loss of life in our city,” Des Moines police wrote on their Facebook page.
“Today, we again all grieve together after a senseless tragedy at one of our educational centers. A safe space shattered by gunfire. Another day supporting families impacted as young lives are lost,” they wrote.
“The heartache, frustration, and determination of our first responders shows in their faces. As our resources are stretched, they continue to find more to give.”
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Preston Walls, a Gang Member, Possessed a Handgun With an Extended Ammunition Magazine, Police Say
In the news release, police wrote that Walls “was present, along with all three victims, at Starts Right Here. Walls had in his possession a 9mm handgun with an extended ammunition magazine.”
According to police, Walls “entered into a common area where all three victims were located and Holmes, the organization’s administrator, attempted to escort Walls from the area. Walls pulled away from Holmes, pulled the handgun and began to shoot both teenage victims.”
Holmes was standing nearby and was also shot, police wrote, adding that Walls then “fled the scene on foot.”
Police saw a suspicious vehicle leaving the area and stopped it, according to police, who say Walls fled from the vehicle. He was located a short time later and taken into custody without incident, according to the news release. A 9mm handgun was found nearby, it says. The ammunition magazine in the handgun has a capacity of 31 rounds and contained three, police wrote.
Walls and both deceased victims “are known gang members belonging to opposing gangs and evidence indicated that these crimes were committed as a result of an ongoing gang dispute,” wrote police.
At a news conference, Des Moines police Sgt. Paul Parizek said the call about the shootings came in to police on January 23, 2023, at 12:53 p.m. The initial caller stated that multiple people were shot and injured, Parizek said.
He said police found three people with gunshot injuries. Two of them were in very critical condition, and officers performed CPR, but both of those victims, who are students, were pronounced dead at the hospital.
Police work closely with the school, he said. It’s designed “to help kids who need help the most,” said Parizek. “It’s going to be a horrible impact on the community.”
Historically, the school has been a very successful operation, Parizek said, adding that the school deals with kids with severe challenges.
According to Parizek, the incident was “definitely targeted. It was not random.”
“Our thoughts and prayers are with the families hurt by today’s shooting, and we stand firm between danger and you, and with all who are dedicated to protecting the future of our community; our children,” police wrote in the Facebook statement.
2. Starts Right Here Wrote That the School Officials ‘Are Heartbroken & Angry’
Starts Right Here wrote in a statement on its Facebook page:
We are heartbroken and angry that two of our students were shot and killed yesterday afternoon. Will Keeps, founder and president of Starts Right Here, a nonprofit educational program, was also shot and is in surgery. Our prayers are with Will, and the families and friends of all those involved in this tragedy.
This is a tremendously painful time for our entire Starts Right Here community as our sole focus is to help at-risk youth reach their full potential. These actions are contrary to all that we stand for and point out more must be done. These two students had hope and a future that will never be realized. We can no longer say this type of violence doesn’t happen in Des Moines. Sadly, it does. However, it will not stop us from the work that we are called to do, and that work starts right here.
The school continued: “We thank the Des Moines Police Department and first responders for their swift action. We are fully cooperating with local authorities in their investigation. And, we ask for community support as we grieve for those who died and for all those forever impacted by this violence.”
They added: “Classes are cancelled for the remainder of the week. However, grief counselors will be at the Kurtz Building today (1000 Porter Avenue) to meet with students.”
3. William Holmes, Who Created the School, Is a Local Rapper
Starts Right Here “was founded by local rapper William Holmes (also known as “Will Keeps”), who saw a need in the community to create a place where at-risk youth in Des Moines could be served in a supportive and empowering environment that helps them reach their full potential,” Starts Right Here wrote in the Facebook statement.
“This is accomplished through programming that encompasses education, music, sports and other activities – all designed to help empower participants, while also provide purpose and hope for a better future. Will’s passion for helping youth through Starts Right Here has attracted the attention of many other business and community leaders, all of whom share the same vision as Will for youth in the community.”
Holmes’ Facebook page says, “Will Keeps is a rapper/R&B artist out of Des Moines, Iowa. Raised on Chicago’s South side.” His Facebook page is filled with motivational posts praising students from the school.
4. Preston Walls Cut Off a Court-Ordered GPS Monitor, Police Say
According to the police news release, Walls “cut off a court-ordered GPS angle monitor, a supervision pre-trial release condition following a weapons charge, approximately 16 minutes before the shooting.”
Court documents obtained by KCCI-TV accuse Walls, 18, of West Des Moines, of shooting each victim multiple times.
The article says court documents accuse Walls of having “chased down one of the victims and shot him repeatedly.”
According to KCCI, “Walls was on active probation for failure to affix a drug tax stamp and possession of a controlled substance. He was confirmed to be on pretrial release with supervision for interference with official acts — armed with a firearm and public intoxication.”
5. William Holmes Writes That He Overcame Sexual Abuse & Gang Involvement to Help At-Risk Kids
In his website biography, Holmes described his tough upbringing.
“He was born into a life where at age 7 he was sexually abused by his stepfather. At that time, his home was no longer a place that was safe and secure, a place where he no longer called ‘home,'” he wrote.
“Due to the sexual abuse, Will was left feeling confused, sad, angry and searching for answers over the next several years. In Will’s journey to find answers, he learned that what he really wanted was a loving father and mother that would protect him and love him unconditionally.”
The biography continues:
Just like many other young teenage boys in similar situations, they did not find that love in their own home, so they look for that love and protection in the form of a gang. Will found his ‘love’ and ‘protection’ with The Blackstones gang in Chicago. At an early age of 13, Will found himself living the lifestyle of a gang member. This lifestyle went from feeling powerful, cared for and protected to almost losing his life and seeing others die.
At age 15, he witnessed his friend being murdered by a rival gang and when the gun was pointed to his head, the gun jammed. Will was then beaten almost to death. The gang cut him with knives and beat him with a baseball bat. Will was left for dead. Gratefully, Will survived and this was the beginning of his journey to saving others’ lives.
Will moved to Des Moines in his 20’s and began a new life where he wanted to focus on his future and how he wanted to be remembered. He wanted to make a change for others so they don’t have to go through life without feeling cared for, loved, or being in a home where they can feel safe. His legacy started with giving back to his community and to youth who are faced with similar situations that he was in. He began mentoring youth on a daily basis as a team member of the ManUp Iowa program for at risk youth. Will found that his true God given abilities were helping others and empowering them to go down a better path…one he wishes he would have had the opportunity to go down when he was younger.
Will is busy inspiring at risk youth in the Des Moines Public Schools, motivating through speaking events, and performing his empowering songs. Among the songs that he has released over the last several years, his hit song ‘Wake Up Iowa’ is the song that means the most to him and the song he spent the most time on. Wake Up Iowa sends a message to people that violence and hate is not the Iowa way and instead we need to learn from other cities mistakes so we don’t end up being ravaged by violence and crime.
Many leaders around the city and state are becoming familiar with Will and his music, as well as his passion for helping youth and his overall huge heart and amazing spirit. He has been in the press countless times for his movement and is the first to ever have city officials in his music videos. Will has strong relationships and has been in collaboration with Governor Kim Reynolds, Police Chief Dana Wingert, and Pastor Al Perez.
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