NATIONAL NEWS

Trial starting for suspect in Des Moines school shooting that killed 2 students

Aug 27, 2023, 9:50 PM | Updated: Aug 28, 2023, 2:20 pm

FILE - This booking photo provided by the Polk County, Iowa, Jail shows Preston Walls. A trial will...

FILE - This booking photo provided by the Polk County, Iowa, Jail shows Preston Walls. A trial will begin this week for Walls, the first of two teens charged with murder in a shooting at a Des Moines alternative school that left two students dead and the program's founder injured. Jury selection is scheduled to start Monday, Aug. 28, 2023, in the trial of Walls, who is charged with two counts of first-degree murder, attempted murder and criminal gang participation. (Polk County Jail via AP, File)
Credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS

(Polk County Jail via AP, File)

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — A trial began this week for the first of two teens charged with murder in a shooting at a Des Moines alternative school that left two students dead and the program’s founder injured.

Jury selection started Monday in the trial of Preston Walls, 19, who is charged with two counts of first-degree murder, attempted murder and criminal gang participation. Bravon Tukes, 19, is set to stand trial on the same charges on Oct. 2.

Students Gionni Dameron, 18, and Rashad Carr, 16, died in the Jan. 23 shooting at Starts Right Here, an alternative program for at-risk students affiliated with the Des Moines public schools. Will Keeps, the founder of the school, suffered serious injuries in the shooting but has recovered.

THE SHOOTING

The shooting happened midday at the school, located in a small office park on the edge of downtown Des Moines.

According to court documents, Walls was armed with a handgun when he entered the school, which he also attended. The documents say Keeps tried to stop Walls but the teenager broke free and shot Dameron, Carr and Keeps, then ran from the building to a waiting car driven by Tukes.

The three victims were taken to a hospital, where the two teens died.

Prosecutors said in court documents that the shooting stemmed from a gang dispute and noted Carr had posted a video on YouTube of himself rapping that noted the police shooting death of Tukes’ half-brother. The two were members of rival gangs, prosecutors said.

Family members have denied that Carr and Dameron were gang members.

Prosecutors, as well as attorneys representing Walls, declined to comment about the upcoming trial.

TRIALS SEPARATED

Prosecutors had planned a single trial for Walls and Tukes but a judge separated the proceedings in April so one of the teens could testify in defense of the other.

A judge agreed to a request by Tukes’ attorneys to separate the trials, noting Walls had said Tukes wasn’t involved in the shooting. They want Walls to testify in Tukes’ defense.

Police arrested Walls within minutes of the shooting. They arrested Tukes several days later.

Both were being held at the Polk County Jail.

Walls’ trial is expected to last 10 days.

WHAT HAS HAPPENED TO KEEPS AND THE SCHOOL?

The school reopened about a month after the shooting. Another group of students began attending the program this week as Des Moines schools opened for the fall.

A district spokesman says the program has 30 students.

The school now has enhanced security, including guards and metal detectors.

Keeps recently announced he had written a memoir that describes growing up in Chicago and joining a gang, then starting anew in Des Moines, where he became known as a rapper and community activist. He launched Starts Right Here in 2021 and has received vocal support from the mayor, business leaders, the police department and Gov. Kim Reynolds.

The book will be released in October.

After the shooting, the victims’ families filed a lawsuit against Starts Right Here and Keeps, accusing them of failing to protect students. A civil trial is scheduled for Sept. 23, 2024.

In an interview about a month after the shooting, Keeps said he remained troubled by the loss of three students — Dameron and Carr who died, as well as the potential life imprisonment of Walls.

“You had three young men who actually were doing better, and that street life, that street mindset took it all away,” Keeps said. “I lost three kids that day.”

National News

FILE - Buildings and homes are flooded in the aftermath of Hurricane Laura near Lake Charles, La., ...

Associated Press

Data shows hurricanes and earthquakes grab headlines but inland counties top disaster list

Floyd County keeps flooding and the federal government keeps coming to the rescue. In July 2022, at least 40 people died and 300 homes were damaged when the eastern Kentucky county flooded. It was the 13th time in 12 years that the rural county was declared a federal disaster. These are disasters so costly that […]

2 hours ago

Senate Majority leader Chuck Schumer, D-NY, left, talks with Senate Minority leader Mitch McConnell...

Associated Press

Senate to consider bills that aim to protect children and teenagers online

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Senate will consider legislation this week that aims to protect children from dangerous online content, moving forward with what could become the first sweeping new regulation of the tech industry in decades. Majority Leader Chuck Schumer is set to announce Tuesday that he will bring the bipartisan bill up in the […]

3 hours ago

Death row inmate Taberon Honie leaves the Utah Board of Pardons commutation hearing Monday, July 22...

Associated Press

Attorneys for state of Utah ask parole board to keep death sentence for man convicted in 1998 murder

Attorneys for the state of Utah are expected on Tuesday to urge a parole board to deny a death row inmate’s request for his life to be spared ahead of his scheduled Aug. 8 execution. Representatives of the 49-year-old victim, Claudia Benn, were scheduled to testify before both sides deliver their closing arguments during the […]

3 hours ago

FILE - Entertainer and activist Jon Stewart speaks at the Capitol in Washington, May 26, 2021. Stew...

Associated Press

Jon Stewart pushes VA to help veterans sickened after post-9/11 exposure to uranium

WASHINGTON (AP) — Comedian Jon Stewart is pressing the Biden administration to fix a loophole in a massive veterans aid bill that left out some of the first U.S. troops who responded after the Sept. 11 attacks and got sick after deploying to a base contaminated with dangerous levels of uranium. Special operations forces deployed […]

3 hours ago

FILE - Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu chairs a cabinet meeting at the Kirya military bas...

Associated Press

Netanyahu is in Washington at a fraught time for Israel and the US. What to know about his visit

WASHINGTON (AP) — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s visit to Washington this week is looming as a fraught one between the two allies, coming at a moment of extreme political flux in the United States, and wariness among American leaders about Netanyahu’s history of interjecting himself into U.S. domestic politics. The main purpose of Netanyahu’s […]

3 hours ago

FILE - President Joe Biden sits in the Oval Office of the White House, Feb. 9, 2024, in Washington....

Associated Press

Biden aims for more achievements despite the bane of lame-duck presidents: diminished relevance

REHOBOTH BEACH, Del. (AP) — President Joe Biden says he’s “determined to get as much done” as he possibly can in his final six months in the White House as he tries to beat back a defining force that his lame-duck predecessors struggled to vanquish: diminished relevance. Biden hopes to keep the spigot flowing with […]

3 hours ago

Trial starting for suspect in Des Moines school shooting that killed 2 students