On the January 4, 2024, a 17-year-old student, identified as Dylan Butler, opened fire at Perry High School, Iowa. The incident occurred just as students were returning to school after the winter break, resulting in the death of a sixth-grader and injuries to five others, including the school principal, Dan Marburger. The suspect was later found dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
Perry, a small town with about 8,000 residents, is located approximately 40 miles northwest of Des Moines. It is known for its pork-processing plant where residents live in low-slung, single-story homes.
The high school and middle school, where the shooting occurred, are interconnected on the east edge of town.
The shooting took place on the first day back to school after the winter break. The suspect, armed with a pump-action shotgun and a small-caliber handgun, entered the school before classes had started.
Students and faculty found themselves in a life threatening situation as they barricaded themselves in offices, classrooms, and fled in panic.
A sixth-grader lost their life, and five others, including Principal Dan Marburger, sustained injuries. The suspect, Dylan Butler, was later found dead with a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
Authorities also discovered a rudimentary improvised explosive device on Butler’s person, which was safely rendered inactive.
While investigators are still determining the motive behind the shooting, friends of the suspect claim that Butler had been a victim of bullying for years.
Two friends and their mother revealed that the bullying had escalated when Butler’s younger sister also became a target. They stated that Butler’s parents had brought the issue to the school.
With authorities looking into TikTok and Reddit profiles. A photo posted on TikTok from inside the school’s bathroom just before the incident was captioned “now we wait” and accompanied by the song “Stray Bullet” by the German band KMFDM.
Investigators have also found other photos of Butler posing with firearms on his social media. A candlelight prayer vigil was held in a local park, where people gathered to mourn, share prayers, and express solidarity.
Hundreds of people, bundled up against freezing temperatures, listened to messages of hope from various faith leaders in both English and Spanish.
Perry High School senior Ava Augustus shared her experience of barricading in an office and described the aftermath as she saw glass everywhere and blood on the floor. The mental and emotional toll on the students, faculty, and their families is immeasurable.
Three gunshot victims were treated at Iowa Methodist Medical Center in Des Moines, with one person in critical condition. The injuries of the other victims were deemed stable.
The shooting has reignited the debate on gun control in the United States. In Iowa, as of July 2021, there is no requirement for a permit to purchase a handgun or carry a firearm in public, although a background check is mandated for handgun purchases without a permit.
Calls for stricter gun laws have emerged once again, but resistance from many Republicans, particularly in rural states like Iowa, has hindered progress in enacting gun control measures.
Survivors of such incidents often face long-term psychological impacts. The mental health of students, the effects of bullying, and the need for preventive measures become a discussion.
The shooting comes just days before the Iowa caucuses, an event in the presidential election cycle. Candidates, including Republican Vivek Ramaswamy, had campaign events scheduled in Perry but were compelled to cancel or modify them in response to the shooting.