Walls sentenced to 65 years in prison for Starts Right Here shootings

Published 1/18/2024 4:19:31 PM

Preston M. Walls was sentenced to 65 years in prison Thursday for killing two students and injuring the founder of the Starts Right Here alternative school almost one year ago. 

A Polk County jury convicted Mr. Walls, 19, of West Des Moines of second-degree murder, voluntary manslaughter, and assault causing serious injury on Sept. 14. 

Walls shot Rashad Carr, 16, and Gionni Dameron, 18, at the alternative school program at 455 S.W. Fifth St. He also shot Will “Keeps” Holmes, Starts Right Here president and founder, who was injured in the hip and a finger in the incident on Jan. 23, 2023. 

Polk County District Judge Larry McLellan ordered Mr. Walls to serve the sentences consecutively, for a total of 65 years in prison, because there were three separate victims in the case. Under Iowa law, he must serve a minimum of 40 years of that term. He also must pay $150,000 in restitution to the heirs of both Mr. Dameron and Mr. Carr.  

Mr. Holmes told the court that he loved his students, including the defendant. 

“Preston, I wanted to be there for you,” Mr. Holmes said. “I had your back like there was no tomorrow and you know that. …. Why did you choose the place you love to do something like this?” 

Mr. Walls and his attorneys asked the judge to pronounce concurrent sentences in the case. The defendant told the judge and the victims’ families that he was “truly, truly sorry,” but that “I believe I would be dead if I hadn’t acted.”   

Members of the Dameron and Carr families disputed that in their victim impact statements. The mothers of both victims said their sons would never have harmed the defendant, and in some cases, stood up for him.  

“When you left that school that day, you know you would have been safe and sound,” said Dominique Carr, Mr. Carr’s mother.  

Mr. Walls’ mother and other family members testified to his character and said the death of his father and other events had a major impact on his life.  

The case was prosecuted by assistant county attorneys Dan Voogt and Stephanie Cox, with assistance by Lindsay Scott. The Polk County Attorney’s Office thanks the work of lead investigator Detective Jeffrey George and others at the Des Moines Police Department.