3 killed, including gunman, in shooting at Iowa church

June 3 (UPI) -- A man shot and killed two people before turning the weapon on himself in the parking lot of an Iowa church, officials and police said.

The shooting occurred at the Cornerstone Church of Ames, a town of some 66,000 people about 30 miles north of Des Moines.


In a Friday afternoon news conference, Story County Sheriff Paul Fitzgerald identified the shooter as Jonathan Lee Whitlatch, 32, of Boone, Iowa. The victims were Eden Montang, 22, and Vivian Flores, 21.

Fitzgerald said Whitlatch and Montang had been in a romantic relationship that recently ended.

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The sheriff's office said dispatchers received multiple 911 calls around 6:51 p.m. Thursday about a man shooting two people outside the church.

Montang, Flores and a third woman were in the parking lot of the church, walking toward the building when Whitlatch arrived in a vehicle. Fitzgerald said Whitlatch exited his vehicle with a 9 mm handgun, shot two of the three women before shooting himself.

The sheriff said authorities arrested Whitlatch in Boone on Tuesday after an interaction with Montang. He was charged with harassment and impersonating a public official.


"We are more than saddened by the events that transpired," church officials said in a statement on Facebook. "Our hearts break for all involved, and we are praying for everyone affected, especially the family of the victims."

The church said its staff will be offering support to those in need and it will cooperate with authorities during the investigation.

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds said she is grieving for the families.

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"Tonight's act of senseless violence took the lives of two innocent victims at their place of worship," she tweeted. "And while the investigation continues and we learn more, we ask that Iowans pray for the victims and their families, the members of Cornerstone Church and the entire Ames community."

Iowa State University also issued a statement of condolence, stating it was aware members of its campus attend services at the facility and are members of the church.

"This is a tragic loss and our condolences are with the families and friends of the victims," it said. "As we wait to learn more about what happened, we ask that everyone extend care and compassion to one another."

The shooting follows several high-profile mass shootings throughout the country in the past few weeks, including a shooting at a Uvalde, Texas, elementary school last week that left 19 students and two teachers dead and an attack at a Buffalo, N.Y., supermarket that killed 10 people on May 14.


In response to the recent shootings, U.S. President Joe Biden earlier Thursday called for a national ban on assault weapons.

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