Des Moines School Staff May Have Prevented Rival Gang Incident in Hallways

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DES MOINES, Iowa — Early Friday afternoon a possible gang-related shootout shook the 400 block of Franklin Avenue sending an 18-year-old male to the hospital. “We know that there were at least five people shooting guns up there. A very dangerous situation,” said Des Moines Police Sgt. Paul Parizek.

As tragic as that sounds, Des Moines police say some of those same people behind the triggers were inside Des Moines North High School just an hour earlier around noon. Parizek said, “Non-students made their way into the building looking for a group of folks that they had a conflict with. There is evidence that this certainly was a gang-impacted incident.”

Des Moines Public Schools officials tell WHO 13 News the non-students were let in through a back door by a current student. They walked through the halls and cafeteria before staff quickly escorted them out. That action prevented any confrontation from happening on school grounds. “You can’t ignore the possibility that some of these weapons were in the school and this could have turned into a bad situation up there,” said Parizek.

It was a bad situation that was pushed from the school and just blocks south to Franklin Avenue. “Some North students followed them out and at that point everybody left school grounds. We do know that this was not some random shooting. This was connected to the conflict about an hour earlier at the school,” Parizek said.

As the investigation unfolds, police say some of the same people involved may have been present when a handgun accidentally was fired inside of a car early Saturday morning that killed 16-year-old Elijah Brown-Townsend, a Des Moines North student. Parizek said, “What we’ve learned is that there was at least one person involved Saturday morning that was involved Friday in that shootout.”

Schools across the country are often viewed as a safe space, but Des Moines police say when it comes to alleged gang activity, those connections play by a different set of rules. “That violence follows them and it doesn’t matter where you are. We’ve seen it historically in Des Moines where innocent people get caught in the crossfire,” said Parizek.

Elijah Brown-Townsend’s friend Thomas Ivy was arrested in the accidental shooting. Police still have not made any arrests in the shooting on Franklin Avenue.

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