Youth program leader hurt in school shooting out of hospital

DES MOINES (AP) — The founder of an educational program for at-risk youth in Des Moines has been released from the hospital, his family said Monday, a week after he was wounded and two students were shot dead.

Will Keeps, 49, a former Chicago gang member who moved to Iowa and later founded the Starts Right Here program, is recovering at home, his family said in a statement.

“Will still has a long recovery ahead and will require additional procedures,” the statement said. “However, he is determined to get back to fulfilling the mission of Starts Right Here after he has taken the time needed to rest and heal.”

Students Gionni Dameron, 18, and Rashad Carr, 16, were killed in the shooting at the program, which provides help to students under a contract with Des Moines Public Schools.

Phil Roeder, a spokesman for the district, said classes had not resumed at Starts Right Here, which operates in a small business park on the edge of downtown. It wasn’t clear when it would reopen to students, and Roeder said Des Moines schools would resume academic aspects of the program Tuesday at a district location.

Police have charged Preston Walls, 18, and Bravon Michael Tukes, 19, both of Des Moines, with two counts of first-degree murder, one count of attempted murder and one count of criminal gang participation. Bail was set at $2.5 million for each.

Police say Walls, a Starts Right Here participant, entered a common area of the building Jan. 23 and opened fire before fleeing in a car driven by Tukes. The two belong to a gang and committed the shootings “in connection with that gang membership,” according to police.

Walls waived his preliminary hearing and is awaiting his arraignment, according to online court records. His attorney has declined to comment.

Tukes’ preliminary hearing is set for Feb. 7. He will be represented by the public defenders office, but a lawyer has not yet been named.

Copyright 2023 The Associated Press.