DES MOINES, Iowa — The founder of a Des Moines education non-profit is responding after a lawsuit was filed against him by the families of two students in the program who were shot and killed in January.

Will Keeps, founder and CEO of Starts Right Here, was also seriously injured in the January 23rd shooting that took the lives of Gionni Dameron, 18, and Rashad Carr, 16. The lawsuit by their families was filed earlier this month, accusing Keeps of failing to protect students.

Keeps provided a statement to WHO 13 in response to the filing of the lawsuit.

“I am surprised and deeply hurt that these families would sue me individually, and Starts Right Here. I am crushed that after being thanked for helping to save and change the lives’ of their sons that I am now their target. My focus is on our students – being shot did not distract me and neither will this lawsuit.”

Will Keeps, CEO of Starts Right Here

Two other teens, who were also participating in the Starts Right Here program, are charged in the shooting. Preston Walls, 18, is the accused gunman. Officials say he broke away as Keeps was escorting him from the building and that’s when the shooting began. Walls fled the scene in a car driven by Bravon Tukes, 19.

Walls and Tukes are both charged with two counts of first-degree murder, one count of attempted murder, and one count of criminal gang participation. Walls is scheduled to go trial in August and Tukes’ trial is set for October.