After Iowa School Shooting, 'Grace' for the Shooter's Parents

Iowa teen killed a 6th grader, wounded 7 others before taking his own life
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jan 9, 2024 1:30 AM CST
After Iowa School Shooting, 'Grace' for the Shooter's Parents
Tape blocks all entrances at the Perry Middle School and High School building on Friday, Jan. 5, 2024, in Perry, Iowa. A day after a shooting sent bullets flying inside the small-town Iowa high school, leaving a sixth-grader dead and others wounded, the community of Perry is somber.   (AP Photo/Bryon Houlgrave)

The parents of the 17-year-old who killed a sixth-grader and wounded seven others in a shooting at his small-town Iowa high school last week said in a statement Monday that they "had no inkling he intended the horrible violence he was about to inflict." The shooter's parents said in the statement that they are cooperating with investigators as they try "to provide answers to the question of why our son committed this senseless crime," the AP reports. "As the minutes and hours have passed since the horrors our son ... inflicted on the victims, the Perry School and the community, we have been trying to make sense out of the senseless," Jack and Erin Butler said in the statement. "We are simply devastated and our grief for the deceased, his family, the wounded and their families is immeasurable."

Their son took his own life after killing one student and wounding Perry High School's principal, two other staff members, and four other students on the first day of classes after winter break, leaving some with significant injuries. The family of 11-year-old Ahmir Jolliff is planning to hold his funeral Thursday—one week after the shooting happened. Investigators have said they are reviewing reams of electronic and physical evidence they've gathered and are interviewing dozens of witnesses to better understand what happened and why. An FBI spokesperson said the agency didn't receive any tips or information concerning the gunman through its National Threat Operations Center before the shooting.

The Butlers said they were grateful for the "grace we have been shown in public and private" since the shooting. There has been an outpouring of support for the family, with some residents offering support on the town Facebook group and volunteers offering to bring them meals. In an interview with the AP Friday night, the first words Ahmir's mother, Erica Jolliff, said were mourning the boy who killed her son. "We send our condolences to the family of [the gunman], they're in our prayers and we're truly sorry for his loss as well," she said.

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Even those not directly affected either knew someone with a child at the school or were close to the shooter's family. His father is director of the city's airport after serving as its public works director for years, where he won praise helping clean up Perry after a devastating wind storm in 2020. His mother has also owned a small business and served on a city development board. (The principal, who was wounded, reportedly tried to distract the shooter.)

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