2 college students murdered outside Iowa church; gunman shot himself

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Getty Images

A gunman shot dead two Iowa State University students as they were going to a church in Ames to attend a college ministry event. One of the victims and the shooter served in the Iowa Army National Guard and were part of the same unit, according to the latest details shared by the Story County Sheriff’s Office.

The victims of the shooting that occurred Thursday night at the parking lot of Cornerstone Church have been identified as 22-year-old Eden Mariah Montang and 21-year-old Vivian Renee Flore, KWWL reported.

The shooter, 33-year-old Jonathan Lee Whitlatch, of Boone, Iowa, and who was carrying a 9mm pistol, died from a self-sustained gunshot wound to the head, it said, adding that about 80 other students were at the church when the shooting occurred.

Whitlatch fired “several rounds” at Flores and Montang and another woman who was with them and managed to find “a position of safety,” We Are Iowa reported, adding that Montang and Flores were fatally injured.

Citing a Friday press conference by the sheriff's office, the news portal said Whitlatch and Montang were previously in a relationship.

The Iowa National Guard said Montang and Whitlatch both served in the Iowa Army National Guard but were not in active duty status during the shooting, according to KIMT3 News.

Montang joined the Guard in August 2019 and served as a mortuary affairs specialist with Detachment 1, Headquarters Support Company, 248th Aviation Support Battalion in Boone. And Whitlatch joined the Guard in September 2015 and served with the same detachment.

Maj. Gen. Ben Corell, adjutant general of the Iowa National Guard, was quoted as saying: “We are devastated by this tragic news. Our hearts are with all who are impacted, including the victims' families, Ames, Iowa State and Cornerstone Church communities, friends, and fellow service members. While working to support those affected, we will continue to cooperate with law enforcement as the investigation continues.”

Whitlatch was scheduled to appear in a court hearing next week on a charge of harassing Montang. Whitlatch called a business in Ames several times identifying himself as a police officer to “report” Montang.

As per a criminal complaint filed last November, Whitlatch was also charged with “Assault with Intent to Commit Sexual Abuse” in Cedar Falls, and jailed, KWWL said.

On its Facebook page, the church said, “We are more than saddened by the events that transpired. Our hearts break for all involved, and we are praying for everyone affected, especially the family of the victims.”

It also quoted Psalm 34:18, which says, “The Lord is near to the brokenhearted.”

“Right now, we are brokenhearted,” the church said, “and we need God to draw near to us.”

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