Families of Des Moines School Shooting Victims Sue Program, Founder

May 17, 2023

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) – The families of two teenagers shot to death in a Des Moines alternative high school have filed a lawsuit alleging the program and its founder were negligent in not keeping the premises safe.

The families of Rashad Carr, 16, and Gionni Dameron, 18, filed the lawsuit Monday against the program Starts Right Here and its founder Will Keeps.

Both teens were killed Jan. 23 in a shooting in the school, an educational program designed to keep at-risk youth out of trouble. Keeps, an activist and rapper whose given name is Will Holmes, also was shot and seriously injured but survived.

Student Preston Walls, 18, has been accused of the shooting, and police allege Bravon Tukes, 19, drove a getaway car. Both Walls and Tukes faces charges including two counts of first-degree murder.

Prosecutors have said in court filings that the shootings revolved around a dispute between rival gangs.

In the lawsuit, the families of Carr and Dameron argue that Keeps and the school knew of potential dangers but didn’t take needed steps to protect the two teens. At the time, Starts Right Here did not have security guards, but after the shootings the program reopened with guards and metal detectors.

The program has a contract with Des Moines schools to work with students who have struggled in their traditional high schools. The school is located at an office park on the edge of downtown Des Moines.

In a text message sent to Des Moines media outlets, Keeps said he was “surprised and deeply hurt” that the families would sue him.

“I am crushed that after being thanked for helping to save and change the lives of their sons that I am now their target,” Keeps said. ”My focus is on our students – being shot did not distract me and neither will this lawsuit.”

A trial for Walls is scheduled for Aug. 28, and Tukes’ trial is scheduled for Oct. 2.

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