Sixth-grade student dead, five others hurt in shooting at Perry, Iowa high school; suspect is dead
PERRY, Iowa (AP) — Police in Perry, Iowa, say multiple people were shot at the city’s high school Thursday, early on students’ first day back in classes after their annual winter break.
Law enforcement responded to calls of an active shooter situation at 7:37 a.m. Once inside the facility, authorities found several people with injuries and found the shooter with a self-inflicted gunshot wound. As additional officers responded, they searched the facility and found an improvised explosive device. Authorities rendered it safe.
Police say the shooting was contained within the high school.
Iowa’s Division of Criminal Investigation says the shooter was 17-year-old Dylan Butler, a student at Perry High School. Authorities say he was armed with a pump-action shotgun and a small caliber handgun. They say he also made several social media posts around the time of the incident. They say evidence shows he worked alone.
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The one person who died in the attack on Thursday morning was a sixth-grade student who attended Perry Middle School. The other five are being treated at area hospitals, four of which are students, and a fifth is a school administrator. One of the victims was in critical, but not believed to be life-threatening condition as of around 2 p.m. and the other four were in stable condition.
Roughly 150 officers from various agencies responded within an hour of the shooting.
Two gunshot victims were taken by ambulance to Iowa Methodist Medical Center in the state capital of Des Moines, about 40 miles (64 kilometers) southeast of Perry, a community of about 8,000 people. Dallas County Sheriff Adam Infante said the shooting occurred before school was set to start, so there were few students and faculty in Perry High School.
Governor Kim Reynolds spoke first at the press conference, addressing the community of Perry and the state.
“Our hearts are heavy today and our prayers are with the Perry community,” said the Governor.
She went on to say the full resources of the state will be available to the school, families, and community.
Vigils are planned for 6 p.m. at New Day Assembly of God, Perry United Methodist Church and Wiese Park in Perry, with another at 7 p.m. at Crossroads Church.
Law enforcement is planning to hold another press conference with more details at around 3 p.m., and Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds is expected to be there.
In a message to ABC News, a local Perry community member said a prayer vigil will be held at 6 p.m. Thursday at Wiese Park.
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High school senior Ava Augustus said she was in a counselor’s office, waiting for hers to arrive, when she heard three shots. She and other people barricaded the door, preparing to throw things if necessary, with a window being too small for an escape.
“And then we hear ‘He’s down. You can go out,’” Augustus said through tears. “And I run and you can just see glass everywhere, blood on the floor. I get to my car and they’re taking a girl out of the auditorium who had been shot in her leg.”
In Washington, U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland was briefed on the shooting. FBI agents from the Omaha-Des Moines office are assisting with the investigation led by the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation.
The shooting occurred in the backdrop of the Iowa caucuses and not far from where Republican presidential candidates were campaigning. GOP candidate Vivek Ramaswamy had a campaign event scheduled in Perry at 9 a.m. about a 1 1/2 miles (2.41 kilometers) from the high school but canceled it to have a prayer and intimate discussion, a spokesperson said.
Ramaswamy said the shooting is a sign of a “psychological sickness” in the country.
As of July 2021, Iowa does not require a permit to purchase a handgun or carry a firearm in public, though it mandates a background check for a person buying a handgun without a permit.
An active shooter was reported at 7:37 a.m. Thursday morning, and officers arrived seven minutes later, Infante said. He added during a news conference that officers located multiple people with injuries, but couldn’t confirm how many there were or their conditions. A spokesperson for UnityPoint Health, which operates the Des Moines hospital, confirmed the two gunshot victims arriving there.
An enormous number of emergency vehicles surrounded the building that houses both the town’s middle school and high school.
Zander Shelley, 15, was in a hallway waiting for the school day to start when he heard gunshots and dashed into a classroom, according to his father, Kevin Shelley. Zander was grazed twice and hid in the classroom before texting his father at 7:36 a.m.
Kevin Shelley, who drives a garbage truck, told his boss he had to run. “It was the most scared I’ve been in my entire life,” he said.
Rachael Kares, an 18-year-old senior, was wrapping up jazz band practice when she and her bandmates heard what she described as four gunshots, spaced apart.
“We all just jumped,” Kares said. “My band teacher looked at us and yelled, ‘Run!’ So we ran.”
Kares and many others from the school ran out past the football field, as she heard people yelling, “Get out! Get out!” She said she heard additional shots as she ran, but didn’t know how many. She was more concerned about getting home to her 3-year-old son.
“At that moment I didn’t care about anything except getting out because I had to get home with my son,” she said.
FBI agents from the Omaha-Des Moines office were on scene to help with the investigation led by the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation.
“There are a bunch of speculative numbers floating around,” said Dirk Cavanaugh, Perry’s mayor. “We have no confirmed numbers of who was involved yet.”
Erica Jolliff said that her daughter, a ninth grader, reported getting rushed from the school grounds at 7:45 am. Distraught, Jolliff was still looking for her son Amir, a sixth grader, one hour later.
“I just want to know that he’s safe and OK,” Jolliff said. “They won’t tell me nothing.”
Jasmine Augustine, 18, was at the high school shortly after everything happened Thursday morning. She said she was dropping off a friend at the high school and his brother, who goes to the town’s elementary school about a mile (1.61 kilometers) away.
“I was at Casey’s convenience store and saw one car speed by. I thought it was just someone getting pulled over,” she said.
Augustine said that when she pulled in at the high school, someone told her there was an active shooter “and then we hurried up and left.”
“After that, there’s just tons and tons and tons of cops who came,” said Augustine, whose sister attends the high school but wasn’t near what happened. Jasmine and her dad picked up her sister from the armory afterward.
The high school is part of the 1,785-student Perry Community School District. The town of Perry is more diverse than Iowa as a whole, with census figures showing that 31% of the residents are Hispanic, compared to less than 7% for the state. Those figures also show that nearly 19% of the town’s residents were born outside the U.S.
The shooting occurred in the backdrop of the Iowa caucuses and not far from where Republican candidates were campaigning.
Phone messages left with the Perry School Board’s president and vice president, and an email message left with Superintendent Clark Wicks, were not immediately returned.
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