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Sheriff: Man kills 2 women, self outside Iowa church

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Posted at 11:42 AM, Jun 03, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-03 15:41:23-04

Authorities in Iowa say three people, including the alleged gunman, are dead after a shooting outside a church in Ames.

During a press conference on Friday, Story County Sheriff Paul Fitzgerald said that 33-year-old Johnathan Lee Whitlatch fatally shot 22-year-old Eden Montag and 21-year-old Vivian Flores outside Cornerstone Church around 7 p.m. Thursday.

Fitzgerald said that the two women were students at Iowa State and were at the church for a weekly service.

According to investigators, Whitlatch drove up to the church in a pickup truck and fired several rounds with a 9 mm handgun, fatally striking Montag and Flores.

The agency said after shooting the two women, Whitlatch then shot himself.

Fitzgerald said a third woman was with Montag and Flores but managed to escape to safety. She did not suffer any injuries.

Investigators believe Whitlatch intended to kill Montag after the two had recently broken up.

"This shooting was a result of a domestic situation between the shooter and Eden Montag," Fitzgerald said. "The shooting is classified as a targeted act of violence."

Following the shooting, investigators searched Whitlatch's truck. Inside they found 9 mm ammunition and a West Des Moines store receipt that showed Whitlatch purchased the ammunition an hour before the shooting, the Associated Press reported.

Whitlatch was arrested in Boone County on May 31 on counts of harassment and impersonating a police officer, which was directly related to Montag, Fitzgerald said.

He was released on bond the same day he was arrested.

He was scheduled to appear in court on June 10.

The shooting in Iowa comes after several mass shootings were reported in recent weeks.

In Tulsa, a man killed four people on Wednesday at a medical office building. Last week, a gunman killed 19 students and two teachers at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, and on May 14, a man killed 10 people at a supermarket in Buffalo, New York.