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US gun violence: Two students dead, adult in critical condition after shooting in Des Moines

Two police officers investigate a fatal shooting incident at a youth outreach center in Des Moines, Iowa, as gun violence rages unabated across the United States.

Two students have died and an employee has been critically wounded in a shooting at a youth outreach center in Des Moines in the state of Iowa, as gun violence continues unabated across the United States.

According to police officials on Monday, officers responded to a report of a shooting at Starts Right Here, which runs a program for at-risk youths, and found three people wounded, two of them critically.

"Those two people, both students, are dead now at the hospital. The third person, who is an employee of the school, is in serious condition," said Sgt. Paul Parizek, a spokesman for the Des Moines Police Department.

He said he did not know the age of the deceased.

"I don't know if they're adults or teenagers or minor teenagers," said Parizek.

Police got a description of a vehicle related to the shooting and made a traffic stop about 20 minutes after the shooting, two miles away, Parizek said at a news conference, adding that the investigation continues.

“We’ve got two people dead, so we’re looking at the most serious charges,” he said.

The motive behind the shooting has not yet been released by police.

According to Parizek, the incident “was definitely targeted.” He added, “It was not random. There’s nothing random about this. It was certainly a targeted incident. But as far as getting motive, that is something that we are going to try and figure out.”

The website of Starts Right Here says 70 percent of the students it serves are minorities, and it has had 28 graduates since it started. The school district said the program serves 40 to 50 students at any given time.

The shooting was the sixth at a school in the US this year in which someone was injured or killed, but the first with fatalities, according to Education Week, which tracks school shootings. The website said there were 51 school shootings last year involving injuries or deaths, and there have been 150 since 2018. In the worst school shooting last year, 21 people were killed in an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas.

In a separate shooting outside a Des Moines high school last March, one student was killed and two other teens were badly injured. Ten people — who were all between the ages of 14 and 18 at the time of the shooting — were charged afterward. Five of them have pleaded guilty to various charges associated with the shooting.

The new incident also came after a massacre Saturday night in southern California in which 11 people were fatally shot at a dance hall by a 72-year-old Asian immigrant who later killed himself as police closed in.

Mass shootings are a major concern in the US, as domestic violence and gun violence have also risen during the last year.

The US experienced more than 600 mass shootings in 2022, nearly double the number recorded four years ago when there were 336, according to Washington-based Gun Violence Archive.

The rate of deaths caused by firearms is getting worse as the population of the US goes up. This is while firearm purchases rose to record levels in 2021 and 2022. The changing legal landscape for firearms comes as gun ownership continues to grow across the country.

Analysts see a link between bias-motivated gun violence and a rise in hate groups and toxic discourse in the United States targeting vulnerable, often marginalized population.

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