REVEALED: Jilted lover, 33, shot dead his Iowa State University student ex-girlfriend, 22, and her friend, 21, before killing himself in parking lot outside Christian church
A gunman in Iowa shot dead his ex-girlfriend and her friend during a domestic attack before turning the gun on himself, police have revealed.
Jonathan Lee Whitlatch, 33, fatally shot, Eden Mariah Montang, 22, and Vivian Renee Flores, 21, in the parking lot outside Cornerstone Church of Armes, near Des Moines, Sheriff Paul Fitzgerald said.
He blasted them with a 9MM pistol following a fallout with Montang, the local sheriff said at a Friday press conference.
The attack was the latest deadly shooting to rock the US, following killings in New York, Texas, California and Oklahoma in recent weeks.
Whitlatch and Montang had recently broken up and he had been harassing here, cops said. He had been charged Tuesday with harassment and impersonation of a public official. Both of these charges were related to Montang as well as a restraining order, police said.
The suspect had also been awaiting trial on a charge of sexual abuse stemming from an incident last October when he twice put his hand down a woman’s pants and attempted to penetrate her at a nightclub in Cedar Falls, according to the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier. The alleged victim was not Montang nor Flores.
The incident was caught on surveillance cameras. Whitlatch told authorities he didn’t remember much about the incident because he’d been drinking. Deposition interviews in the case were scheduled to start later this month.
Nicholas Lennie, chief deputy of the Story County Sheriff’s Office, said that they were aware of the charge. Fitzgerald added that he had posted bond in the domestic case and was due to appear in court on June 10.
Authorities conducted a search of Whitlatch’s residence after the shooting and discover ammo for the 9MM pistol that had been purchased just an hour prior to the shooting, as well as an AR-15 unrelated to the attack.
Montang and Flores were attending a bible study at Cornerstone Church in Ames, where both went to Iowa State University.
The church held a service to pray for the victims on Friday morning, with several members embracing each other while unable to hold back tears.
It was a program both were encouraged to attend that co-mingled students with high schoolers. There were 80 people in attendance which led Fitzgerald to suggest that the shooting could have been much worse.
‘He was there for a specific purpose, which he accomplished,’ the sheriff said.
People mourn in the Cornerstone Church parking lot Friday morning, June 3, 2022 in Ames, Iowa
The church held a service to pray for the victims on Friday morning, with several members embracing each other while unable to hold back tears
Story Country Sheriff Paul Fitzgerald, right, and Story County Chief Deputy Nicholas Lennie provide more information about the shooting at Ames’ Cornerstone Church
Jonathan Lee Whitlatch, 33, fatally shot, Eden Mariah Montang, 22, and Vivian Renee Flores, 21, in the parking lot outside Cornerstone Church of Armes, near Des Moines, Sheriff Paul Fitzgerald said
Whitlatch and Montang had recently broken up and he had been harassing here, cops said. He had been charged Tuesday with harassment and impersonation of a public official. Both of these charges were related to Montang as well as a restraining order, police said
People embrace outside the Cornerstone Church after the shooting on Thursday. Two members of the church were killed by a gunman in the parking lot
People console each other after the shooting outside Cornerstone Church on Thursday, June 2, in Ames, Iowa
The attack came during the Summer Salt, a program for college-aged members, said Nicholas Lennie, chief deputy of the Story County Sheriff’s Office. Pictured: Mourners after the attack
Cornerstone Church released a statement confirming that the women killed were ‘young members of our community,’ but did not give other details about the victims or shooter, citing the ongoing police investigation.
‘Our hearts break for all involved, and we are praying for everyone affected, especially the family of the victims,’ the church said in the statement. The church also planned to hold a prayer service for the victims Friday.
The attack came during the Summer Salt, a program for college-aged members, said Lennie.
It is estimated that around 1,300 students gather weekly for the program. Yesterday was the first meeting of the summer.
When deputies arrived on scene they found all three dead, Lennie said, adding he could not provide identities nor disclose what the relationship between them may have been.
‘This appears to be an isolated, single-shooter incident,’ Lennie said. Lennie told the Des Moines Register that he was ‘shocked’ by the shooting a member of ‘law enforcement.’
‘We prepare and we train hard for this, but when it happens, it’s obviously chaotic until you get it under control,’ he told the Des Moines Register.
‘I would also like to take a moment to just extend our condolences to those involved, the victims involved, the families, the witnesses that were here at the church.’
DailyMail.com has attempted to contact the Sherriff’s Office and church for comment.
The church said it was ‘saddened’ by the event in a statement on its Facebook page, writing: ‘Our hearts break for all involved, and we are praying for everyone affected, especially the family of the victims.
The Salt Company, which hosts the weekly program, said: ‘We are grieving deeply. Tonight, a tragic shooting occurred involving two young members of our Cornerstone Church community. It is believed that an adult male shot these two victims and then took his own life.’
The shooting took place at Cornerstone Church of Armes (pictured), near Des Moines
The church said it was ‘saddened’ and ‘heartbroken’ about the event in a statement
Vance declined to give further details about the incident, citing the ongoing investigation.
Churchgoers reportedly remained on the grounds and inside the church for hours after the shooting, and photos from the scene show groups of people hugging one another in tears.
In a tweet, Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds characterized the shooting as ‘senseless violence.’
‘Tonight’s act of senseless violence took the lives of two innocent victims at their place of worship. Kevin and I grieve for the families who have suffered an unfathomable loss.’
The shooting is the latest in a string of mass-shootings that have plagued the US in recent weeks.
On May 14, an 18-year old white supremacist, Payton Gendron, murdered 10 people inside a supermarket in Buffalo, New York, with an assault rifle.
Then on May 24, another 18-year-old shooter murdered 19 elementary school students and two teachers at the Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas.
The following holiday weekend there were at least 14 ‘mass shootings’ across the US according to the Gun Violence Archive, an institute tracking shootings in the country.
On June 1, 45-year old Michael Louis shot four people dead at the Saint Francis Hospital in Tulsa, Oklahoma. He was targeting a doctor he blamed for his chronic back pain.
In a rare evening address on Thursday, President Biden characterized American communities as ‘killing fields,’ while calling for a ban on assault weapons.
‘Enough, enough. It’s time for each of us to do our part,’ the president said, ‘For the children we’ve lost. For the children we can save. For the nation we love. Let’s meet the moment. Let us finally do something.’