Iowa teen gets double murder conviction for school shooting

Des Moines, IA – A teenager in Iowa has been found guilty of second-degree murder and manslaughter in the deaths of two students at a Des Moines alternative school earlier this year. Preston Walls, 19, was initially charged with first-degree murder, but jurors ultimately convicted him of lesser charges. The verdict suggests that the jurors accepted Walls’ claim that he shot the students out of fear for his own life. The incident occurred at the Starts Right Here program on January 23, where Walls was charged in the deaths of Gionni Dameron, 18, and Rashad Carr, 16.

In addition to the murder charges, Walls was also found guilty of willful injury causing serious injury for shooting Will Keeps, a former Chicago gang member and rapper who started the Des Moines program for at-risk teens. However, Walls was acquitted of attempted murder in the shooting of Keeps. If Walls had been convicted of first-degree murder, he would have faced a mandatory life sentence. But with the second-degree murder and manslaughter convictions, he will be eligible for parole. Walls is set to be sentenced in November.

During the trial, defense attorneys acknowledged that Walls killed the two students and shot Keeps, but argued that he did so because he believed his own life was in danger. Walls claimed that he thought Dameron and Carr would attack him when he left school, as they had allegedly waited for him outside the school before. The defense also pointed out that Dameron was armed with a gun on the day of the shooting.

The families of Carr and Dameron have filed a lawsuit against the Starts Right Here program and Keeps, alleging that they failed to ensure the safety of the program. Despite the tragedy, the program reopened within weeks of the shooting and continues to operate with approximately 30 students this fall.

In a separate incident in Franklin County, Iowa, a man was fatally shot by a sheriff’s deputy after brandishing what was later determined to be a pellet gun. The man, identified as 30-year-old Matt Davis of Hampton, refused to drop the weapon during the confrontation. The incident highlights the challenges faced by law enforcement officers in assessing potential threats and responding accordingly.

The trial for another individual, Bravon Tukes, who is accused of picking up Walls after the shooting and driving away from the area, is scheduled to begin on October 2. Prosecutors have argued that Walls had affiliations with a gang that had ongoing disputes with a rival gang, of which Dameron and Carr were allegedly members. However, the families of the victims have disputed these claims.

As the community grapples with the aftermath of these tragic events, questions remain about the effectiveness of programs like Starts Right Here in providing a safe environment for at-risk teens. The outcome of the lawsuit filed by the families may shed further light on the responsibilities and obligations of such programs.