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A gunman in Iowa fatally shot his ex-girlfriend and her friend during a home attack before turning the gun on himself, police have revealed.
Jonathan Lee Whitlatch, 33, was fatally shot, Eden Mariah Montang, 22, and Vivian Renee Flores, 21, in the parking lot in front of the Cornerstone Church of Armes near Des Moines, Sheriff Paul Fitzgerald said.
She shot them with a 9MM pistol after a fight with Montang, the local sheriff said at a news conference on Friday.
Whitlatch and Montang had recently separated and he had been harassing them here, police said. He had been accused on Tuesday of harassment and impersonation of a public official. Both charges were related to Montang, as well as a restraining order, police said.
The suspect was also awaiting trial on a s*xual assault charge stemming from an incident last October when he twice reached down a woman’s pants and attempted to penetrate her at a Cedar Falls nightclub, according to the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier. The alleged victim was not Montang or Flores.
The incident was caught on surveillance cameras. Whitlatch told authorities that he didn’t remember much of the incident because he had been drinking. Deposition interviews in the case were scheduled to begin later this month.
Nicholas Lennie, deputy chief of the Story County Sheriff’s Office, said they were aware of the charge. Fitzgerald added that he had posted bond in the domestic case and that he was due in court on June 10.
Authorities conducted a search of Whitlatch’s residence after the shooting and discovered ammunition for the 9MM pistol that had been purchased just an hour before 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 they both attended Iowa State University.
It was a program that both were encouraged to attend and that mixed students with high school students. 80 people attended, leading Fitzgerald to suggest that the shooting could have been much worse.
“He was there for a specific purpose, which he fulfilled,” the sheriff said.
Cornerstone Church released a statement confirming that the slain women were “young members of our community” but did not elaborate on the victims or the shooter, citing the ongoing police investigation.
“Our hearts break for everyone involved and we are praying for all those affected, especially the families of the victims,” the church said in the statement. The church also planned to hold a prayer service for the victims on Friday.
The attack occurred during Summer Salt, a program for college-age members, Lennie said.
It is estimated that around 1,300 students meet weekly for the program. Yesterday was the first meeting of the summer.
When officers arrived on the scene, they found all three dead, Lennie said, adding that he could not provide identities or reveal what their relationship might have been.
Vance declined to elaborate on the incident, citing the ongoing investigation.
Parishioners reportedly remained on the grounds and inside the church for hours after the shooting, and photos from the scene show groups of people embracing each other through tears.
In a tweet, Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds characterized the shooting as “senseless violence.”
Tonight’s senseless act of violence claimed the lives of two innocent victims at their place of worship. Kevin and I mourn the families who have suffered an unfathomable loss.’
The shooting is the latest in a series of mass shootings that have plagued the United States in recent weeks.
On May 14, an 18-year-old white supremacist, Payton Gendron, killed 10 people inside a supermarket in Buffalo, New York, with an assault rifle.
Then on May 24, another 18-year-old shooter killed 19 elementary students and two teachers at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas.
The following holiday weekend there were at least 14 ‘mass shootings’ in the US according to the Gun Violence Archive, an institute that tracks shootings in the country.
On June 1, Michael Louis, 45, shot four people to death at Saint Francis Hospital in Tulsa, Oklahoma. He was targeting a doctor that he blamed for his chronic back pain.
In a rare evening address 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 have lost.” For the children we can save. For the nation we love. Let’s meet the moment. Let’s finally do something.
Jonathan Lee Whitlatch Quick and Facts
- 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
- Whitlatch and Montang had recently broken up and Whitlatch had been harassing his ex-girlfriend. He had just been charged Tuesday with harassment and impersonation of a public official
- The suspect had also been awaiting trial on a charge of s*xual 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
- Fitzgerald added that he had posted bond 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 purchased just an hour prior to the shooting, as well as an AR-15 unrelated to the shooting