Teen gunman, sixth grader killed and five injured: What we know about the Iowa school shooting

Gunfire erupted at Perry High School on a Thursday morning, leaving a child and the suspected gunman dead

Martha McHardy
Sunday 07 January 2024 15:50 GMT
One victim shot dead, five injured in Iowa school shooting, police confirm

At least one person is dead and five others are injured after a 17-year-old student allegedly opened fire at Perry High School in Iowa.

Dylan Butler, 17, was named as the gunman, who opened fire on the school as students returned after their Christmas break on 4 January.

One sixth-grader was killed and five others were injured, including Perry High School principal Dan Marburger.

Mitch Mortvedt, the state investigation division’s assistant director, said one person was in critical condition but the injuries didn’t appear to be life-threatening. The other victims are in stable condition.

Butler, a former student at the school, was found dead on the scene. An Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation official said he died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

The teenager’s motive for the attack is now under investigation.

Here’s all we know so far:

The shooting

The suspected shooter opened fire in the school around 7.37am local time on 4 January, just as students were preparing to return for the first day of their second semester.

Within minutes law enforcement was notified of an active shooter situation in the high school, which is located approximately 30 miles from Des Moines. Upon arrival, police officers found students and faculty either sheltering in place or fleeing the school.

At least one person is dead and five others are injured after a 17-year-old student opened fire at Perry High School in Iowa on Thursday morning (Copyright 2024 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

Officers identified several gunshot victims and searched for the suspected shooter.

Mr Mortvedt, an assistant director with the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation, said officers “quickly found what appeared to be the shooter with a self-inflicted gunshot wound”.

He added that the shooter was found holding a pump-action shotgun and a small-caliber handgun.

Authorities also found a “pretty rudimentary” improvised explosive device in the school but were able to render it safe.

One sixth grader was killed in the shooting, while five other people were injured, including the school’s principal.

Three gunshot victims were taken by ambulance to the Iowa Methodist Medical Centre in Des Moines, a spokesperson for its health system said.

Other patients were transported to a second hospital in Des Moines, a spokesperson for MercyOne Des Moines Medical Centre County Sheriff Adam Infante said Butler opened fire before the opening bell, when “very few students and faculty” were in the building.

Who is the suspect?

Police identified 17-year-old Dylan Butler as the gunman who opened fire on Perry High School.

Butler was a former student at the school, authorities said.

The teenager, who authorities said acted alone, was described as a quiet person who had been relentlessly bullied for years by his former classmates.

Iowa school shooter Dylan Butler’s final TikTok post (Dylan Butler/TikTok)

They added that the bullying had escalated recently, when his younger sister started getting picked on, too. Officials at the school didn’t intervene, they said, and that was “the last straw” for the shooter.

“He was hurting. He got tired. He got tired of the bullying. He got tired of the harassment,” 17-year-old Yesenia Roeder Hall said.

State officials said the teenager’s motive for the attack is now under investigation, with authorities looking into “a number of social media posts” he made around the time of the shooting, The Des Moines Register reported.

Moments before the shooting, Butler allegedly posted a final chilling video on TikTok captioned: “Now we wait”.

In the video, Butler posed in a bathroom stall at the school with a blue duffle bag at his feet.

It was accompanied by the song “Stray Bullet” by the German band KMFDM, also used on the personal website of Eric Harris, one of the shooters involved in the 1999 Columbine High School massacre.

Investigators also found pictures on his social media accounts showing the 17-year-old posing with firearms.

A law enforcement official said federal and state investigators were interviewing Butler’s friends and analysing his online footprint, including posts on TikTok and Reddit.


Following the shooting, local residents gathered for a vigil at Wiese Park in Perry and held candles as they listened to pastors from many faiths and heard a message of hope in both English and Spanish.

Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds released a statement describing the shooting as a “senseless tragedy” that has “shaken our entire state to the core”.

“Our hearts are heavy today and our prayers are with the Perry community,” she said.

Community members gather in Wiese Park for a candlelight vigil (Getty Images)

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre also addressed the shooting at a press conference, calling it “tragic” and “senseless”.

“We’re just a couple of days into the new year and we’re talking about another shooting, and that is heart-wrenching and that is heart-breaking,” Ms Jean-Pierre told reporters. “When will enough be enough?”

Meanwhile, Vivek Ramaswamy, who is one of several Republican presidential candidates campaigning in Iowa ahead of the state’s Republican presidential caucuses later this month, also reacted to the shooting.

Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds speaks during a news conference following a shooting at Perry High School (Copyright 2024 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

“We pray for the victims of the tragic high school shooting in Perry, Iowa,” Mr Ramaswamy said. “I happened to be there today right after it happened, we canceled our event and converted it to a prayer & open conversation. Strikingly, the first two people who spoke to us each said they ‘weren’t surprised’ & that it was just a matter of time before something like this happened. We have a psychological sickness at the core of our country right now.”

A White House official said President Joe Biden has been briefed on the shooting.

Calls for gun control in Iowa

As of July 2021, Iowa does not require a permit to purchase a handgun or carry a firearm in public, though it mandates a background check for a person buying a handgun without a permit.

In light of the shooting, the White House urged Congress to pass gun control legislation that would enact universal background checks, ban assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, require safe storage of firearms and pass a national red flag law.

President Biden signed major gun safety legislation passed by Congress into law in 2022, the first legislation of its kind in 30 years.

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre addressed the shooting at a press conference (Reuters)

The legislation included enhanced background checks for gun buyers between 18 and 21 years old and closed the “boyfriend” loophole, a gap in American gun legislation that allowed physically abusive ex-romantic partners and stalkers with previous convictions or restraining orders to access guns.

“It took 30 years to get that bipartisan legislation done, and the president obviously signed it. But we need more. It is not enough. That’s what we believe. It’s just not enough,” Ms Jean-Pierre said.

“Our students and teachers deserve to know that their schools are safe spaces and to focus on learning, not duck and cover drills. More must be done to keep our schools and communities safe.”

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