Who is Preston Walls? Teen charged over Des Moines school shooting

Preston Walls (Image via Tradwife2/Twitter)
Preston Walls (Image via Tradwife2/Twitter)

Preston Walls, an 18-year-old Des Moines resident, was arrested on Monday, January 23, 2023, after opening fire at the Starts Right Here center, a nonprofit dedicated to assisting at-risk youth. The attack killed two teenagers and seriously injured the organization's founder, who is still in critical condition.

Authorities have not released the victims' names, but they have stated that Preston Walls entered the nonprofit's common area, where the three deceased teenagers were, and opened fire on them after the organization's founder attempted to remove Walls from the premises. They have classified the incident as a "targeted" gang-related attack.

Providing brief details on the attack, police said that the deceased teenage victims and the suspect were part of rival gangs who were involved in a gang dispute that culminated with the deadly attack at the non-profit center.

Although authorities have not yet released any new information about the attack, including any information about the alleged gang, the Des Moines Register was able to piece together some information about the suspect after perusing court records and learning that Walls had a criminal history. Walls has a criminal history that includes drug and weapon charges, as evidenced by public filings.

Preston Walls removed a GPS ankle monitor minutes before he shot the students at the non-profit center

Minutes before Preston Walls walked into the Starts Right Here nonprofit and killed two teenagers, he reportedly removed a GPS ankle monitor, part of a pretrial release condition stemming from a weapons charge, police said in a statement.

According to a news release, Preston Walls, who was previously charged with drug and weapon possession, got rid of an ankle monitor sixteen minutes before shooting two teenagers due to a gang dispute between rival gang members. Authorities said:

“Walls, and both deceased victims, are known gang members, belonging to opposing gangs, and evidence indicates that these crimes were committed as a result of an ongoing gang dispute.”

Following the incident, Walls allegedly fled the scene in a car with two other people and was tracked by a K-9 officer to the 1300 block of River Vista Drive.

Police then detained the suspect, along with the two other people in the car, who were later released without charges. However, the suspect was booked into the Polk County Jail and charged with two counts of first-degree murder, attempted murder and criminal gang participation.

Des Moines Mayor Frank Cownie released a video statement addressing the incident and said:

“I want to take a moment and address the horrific shooting this afternoon at Starts Right Here, the school program on Southwest 5th St. and it is run by a friend of the city, Will Keeps, who is recovering tonight in the hospital.”

Starts Right Here (SRH), a non-profit organization was started by R&B artist William Holmes to empower and motivate at-risk youth unable to attend school. The school works in partnership with Des Moines Public Schools to help students in the district’s Options Academy credit recovery program.

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Edited by Vinay Agrawal
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