AMES, Iowa — A gunman opened fire in the parking lot of an Iowa church on Thursday, killing two women who were students at Iowa State University, authorities said. The alleged gunman was also killed.
According to the Story County Sheriff’s Office, the shooting occurred at the Cornerstone Church in Ames at about 7 p.m. CDT, WHO-TV reported.
Update 9:56 a.m. EDT June 4: Story County Sheriff Paul Fitzgerald identified the two women killed in the shooting as Eden Moriah Montang, 22, of Boone, and Vivian Renee Flores, 21, of West Des Moines, KCCI-TV reported. Fitzgerald identified the shooter as 33-year-old Johnathan Lee Whitlatch, according to the television station.
Fitzgerald called the shooting a targeted attack by Whitlatch, the Des Moines Register reported. Whitlach and Montang had a relationship that had recently ended, Fitzgerald told reporters during a news conference on Friday. Whitlach’s fatal wound was apparently self-inflicted, the sheriff said.
“There was over 80 students in the auditorium at Bible study, and if he’d have found his way inside the church with that intent, it would’ve been much more tragic than what we had today,” Fitzgerald said. “He went right into action when he got there from all indications. I think that’s pretty evident that he was there for that purpose.”
Montang was a senior in the College of Human Sciences at Iowa State University, and Flores was a junior in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, according to a statement signed by Iowa State President Wendy Wintersteen and other university officials.
“We all know this is a very tragic event for our community, but I think also nationwide as we experience the violent incidents nationwide it only seems to increase,” Capt. Nicholas Lennie said during the news conference. “The only thing I would like to maybe reiterate and put out there again is expressing our condolences, and our hearts go out to all those affected by this incident. We ask for your thoughts and prayers to be extended out to them, and to provide them with some privacy as they process this.”
Original report: The church was hosting a Salt Company Kickoff event for college-age people to worship together, according to the television station.
Capt. Nicholas Lennie of the sheriff’s office told the Des Moines Register that several calls were placed to 911 dispatchers at about 6:51 p.m. CDT.
The sheriff’s office said the suspected shooter was a man, WHO reported. It was not immediately clear if the shooter was killed by authorities or whether his fatal wound was self-inflicted.
According to the sheriff’s office, an investigation is ongoing and there is no threat to the public, KGAN-TV reported.
According to its website, Cornerstone Church was founded in 1994 as a college ministry at Iowa State University called The Salt Company.
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