Police identified a 33-year-old gunman who killed his ex-girlfriend and another woman in an Iowa church parking lot before turning the weapon on himself: Had purchased 9mm ammunition just HOURS before shooting
A gunman has shot and killed two young women in the parking lot of a fundamentalist Christina church in Iowa – before turning the gun on himself.
The killer, Jonathan Lee Whitlatch, 33, of Boone, shot and killed his ex-girlfriend Eden Mariah Montag, 22, and her friend Vivien Renee Flores, 21, outside Cornerstone Church of Armes, near Des Moines, around 7pm Thursday. Both were students at Iowa State University.
Police classified the crime as a ‘domestic situation’ as Montag and Whitlatch had recently broken up.
He filled the women with a 9mm pistol and 9mm ammunition was found inside his car. The ammunition was purchased just hours before the shooting in Boone. Police also found an AR-15 in his home.
Whitlatch has been charged with harassments and impersonating a public official in Boone last week and may have had a restricting order that Eden filed, police said. The charges are said to have involved Eden.
The church released a heartbroken statement saying it was ‘saddened’ by what happened and confirmed those killed were young members but did not provide further details.
The attack was the latest deadly shooting to rock the US, following killings in New York, Texas, California and Oklahoma in recent weeks.
People console each other after the shooting outside Cornerstone Church on Thursday, June 2, in Ames, Iowa
People hugging and consoling one another after the shooting outside the Cornerstone Church in Ames, Iowa
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
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.
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 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
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.’
Children run to safety after escaping from a window during the mass shooting at Robb Elementary School, in Texas, where a Ramos killed nineteen children and two teachers
Mourners on Thursday place flowers on crosses with the names of children killed at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas
People gather outside Tops market on May 15, 2022, in Buffalo, New York, a day after a gunman opened fire at the store, killing 10 people
Police officers and emergency personnel responding to reports of a shooter at the St. Francis Hospital in Tulsa, Oklahoma, on June 1