Parents of Iowa teenager who killed 1, wounded 7 in shooting say they had no idea his plan

The parents of the 17-year-old who killed a sixth grader and wounded seven others in a high school shooting in his small Iowa town last week said in a statement Monday that they “had no idea he intended the horrific violence he was about to inflict.”

Dylan Butler’s parents said in the statement that they are cooperating with investigators as they try to “find answers to why our son committed this senseless crime.”

“As the minutes and hours have passed since the horrors our son Dylan inflicted on the victims, the Perry School and the community, we are trying to make sense out of the senselessness,” Jack and Erin Butler said in the statement. “We are simply devastated and our grief for the deceased, his family, the injured and their families is immeasurable.”

Dylan Butler then took his own life kills one student and injures Perry High School principal, two other staff and four other students on the first day of school after winter break, leaving some with serious injuries. The family of 11-year-old Ahmir Jolliff plans to hold his funeral on Thursday – one week after the shooting.

Investigators said they are reviewing reams of electronic and physical evidence they collected and interviewing dozens of witnesses to better understand what happened and why. The Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation, which is taking the lead in this case, did not release any updates on the shooting Monday.

An FBI spokesman said the agency had not received any tips or information about Dylan Butler through its National Threat Operations Center before the shooting.

Also on Monday, several hundred students and other protesters marched in front of the State Capitol in Des Moines about 40 miles (64 kilometers) from Perry to push for stricter gun control laws in the state.

The Butlers said they were grateful for the “grace that was shown to us publicly and privately” after the shooting. There has been an outpouring of support for the family, with some residents offering support on the town’s Facebook group and volunteers offering to bring them food.

Boy Scouts in town spent the weekend collecting teddy bears to give to students at Perry Elementary School, while residents eagerly ordered “Perry Stong” T-shirts, car stickers and yard signs as they raised money to pay the medical needs of shooting victims. At the same time, Dylan’s family is also remembered. Even from the family of the murdered student.

In an interview with The Associated Press on Friday night, the first words Ahmir’s mother, Erica Jolliffe, said were mourning the boy who killed her son.

“We send our condolences to Dylan’s family, they are in our prayers and we are also truly sorry for his loss,” she said

Erin Owen, who is the administrator of the city’s Facebook page and organized a fundraiser for the victims, said there has been some opposition in the community to the show of support for the Butler family, but most people have accepted it.

“I think there might be a narrow tunnel vision at first. And then when the community kind of gets involved and gives it a different perspective, it’s more widely accepted.” She emphasized, “They are also suffering a loss.”

Families of school shooters are often the villains, questioned for signs they may have missed that something was wrong.

In Michigan, the parents of a teenager who killed four students at Oxford High School are facing manslaughter charges. James and Jennifer Crumbley are accused of providing a gun to Ethan Crumbley at home and neglecting his mental health needs.

And in the 2012 Sandy Hook school massacre, Nancy Lanza, who legally purchased guns found at the crime scene, is usually excluded from the death toll. Her son, Adam Lanza, killed her before fatally shooting 20 first-graders and six teachers.

One problem is the growing movement to deny mass murderers notoriety after their deaths, limiting the use of their names and images so that posthumous fame will not be a motivating factor for future killings.

Owen thinks this is more pragmatic than some broader statement about forgiveness. Perry has about 8,000 residents, making it small enough that most people have been touched in some way, and she said the town has seen other tragic child deaths in recent years, preparing the community to respond to this tragedy.

Even those not directly affected either knew someone with a child at the school or were close to Dylan’s family. His father is the city’s airport director after serving for years as its public works director, where he won praise for helping clean up Perry after a devastating storm in 2020. His mother also owns a small business and served on the board of urban development.

“Everybody in town knows them and they’re the sweetest people and everybody’s suffering, so everybody’s at least trying to come together on common ground,” said Audie Sorber, who has signed up to bring food next Monday.

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Funk reported from Omaha, Nebraska, Hollingsworth contributed to this report from Mission, Kansas, and Nicholas Riccardi contributed from Des Moines, Iowa.

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