One student dead in Iowa school shooting, four other injuries

05 Jan 2024 07:00pm
Law enforcement officials patrol the Perry Middle School and High School complex during a shooting on Jan 4, 2024, in Perry, Iowa. - (Photo by Christian Monterrosa / AFP)
Law enforcement officials patrol the Perry Middle School and High School complex during a shooting on Jan 4, 2024, in Perry, Iowa. - (Photo by Christian Monterrosa / AFP)

PERRY - A teenager armed with a handgun and shotgun killed a fellow student and wounded five other people at a high school in the midwestern US state of Iowa on Thursday, authorities said.

The shooting at around 7.30am triggered a major police response as emergency vehicles and armed units rushed to Perry High School, where classes had not yet started for the day.

The victim who died was in sixth grade, meaning aged 11 or 12, and was likely in the high school for a breakfast program, said Mitch Mortvedt, assistant director of the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation.

Among those injured by the 17-year-old shooter were four other students and a school administrator, he added.

Responding authorities also found an improvised explosive device in the school, which they disabled.

"Officers immediately attempted to locate the source of the threat and quickly found what appeared to be the shooter with a self-inflicted gunshot wound," Mortvedt told reporters, without confirming media reports that the shooter was dead.

High school student Ava Augustus told a local TV station that she hid in a classroom during the shooting. She ran out after authorities told her the incident was over, and recalled seeing "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," she told the local NBC affiliate.

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The injuries sustained by the five wounded victims were not life-threatening, Mortvedt said.

CNN reported that Thursday was scheduled to be the first day of classes for the new semester, according to the school district's calendar. The school announced that classes Friday would be canceled and that counseling would be available for students.

Perry is about 35 miles (55 kilometers) from the state capital, Des Moines.

- Plagued by school shootings -

Another shooting was reported a day earlier, in a case where a 15-year-old allegedly shot a man outside a high school in Virginia. It was unclear if either were students.

According to a database maintained by news outlet Education Week, that makes the Perry incident the second school shooting so far this year, adding to the 182 recorded since 2018.

Gun violence is common in the United States, a country where there are more firearms than people, and where attempts to clamp down on their spread are always met with stiff political resistance.

The country has already recorded three mass shootings this year, according to the Gun Violence Archive, a nongovernmental organization that defines a mass shooting as four or more people wounded or killed.

Last year ended with a total of 656 such shootings.

School shootings in particular have become a totemic reminder of the country's political deadlock.

In May 2022, a man killed 19 students and two teachers at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas.

The Perry shooting comes less than two weeks before the Iowa caucus, the country's first contest kicking off the primary season for the 2024 presidential election.

Guns are likely to once again be a hot topic of debate this election cycle, though with little legislative action expected.

Republican candidate Vivek Ramaswamy posted a video on X, formerly Twitter, of him meeting two parents whose daughter was at Perry's nearby elementary school that day.

"Our purpose here was to pray and reflect, to make sure something like this never happens again," Ramaswamy said. - AFP