The principal of the rural Iowa high school where a 17-year-old student armed with two guns and a makeshift explosive device opened fire Thursday had tried to calm down and “distract” the school shooter so that other students could flee, his daughter has claimed.
Principal Dan Marburger’s daughter, Claire, said that when she heard about the shooting at Perry High School, she “instantly had a feeling my dad would be a victim as he would put himself in harm’s way for the benefit of the kids and staff.”
“It is absolutely zero surprise to hear he tried to approach and get Dylan down and distract him long enough for some students to get out of the cafeteria. That’s just dad,” she wrote on Facebook late Thursday.
The principal was among five people injured when Dylan Butler started shooting at around 7:37 a.m. as a breakfast program was taking place, according to Mitch Mortvedt, the assistant director of Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation.
An unidentified sixth-grader was killed in the rampage, after which Butler turned the gun on himself.
The principal is now in stable condition after undergoing surgery “all day” Thursday, Claire wrote as she described her father as an amazing person.
“He does anything for us kids, including driving seven hours round trip on school nights to catch my games at Decorah,” the Luther College graduate wrote, noting that her father would stay “long enough to slip me a $20, tell me I played well, give me a hug and head out.”
She said her father must be “devastated” by the shooting.
“He would be devastated about Dylan, devastated about the victims, devastated for the community, as every single community member is a victim to this tragedy,” Claire said of her father, who has been teaching in the school district for more than 20 years.
“It’s things like that he takes personally.”
Students who were on campus Thursday morning described the fear they felt as they heard gunshots ring out.
Rachael Kares, an 18-year-old senior, said she was practicing with the school’s jazz band at the time.
“We all just jumped,” she said. “My band teacher looked at us and yelled, ‘Run!’ So we ran.”
As Kares and her fellow students ran past the football field, she said, she heard additional shots as well as people yelling, “Get out! Get out!”
“At that moment I didn’t care about anything except getting out because I had to get home with my son,” the student said.
Others, though, were initially unsure of what was happening.
“I heard a couple of bangs, they weren’t loud. We saw loads of people run out. We thought it was a prank or something. We didn’t think it was real at first,” a student named Carlos told WHO 13.
“That’s when a bunch of cops started coming and we knew it was serious and we were told to leave. One of our teachers started screaming at us — that’s when we knew it was serious — he was telling us to ‘leave, leave, leave.’”
All evidence suggests Butler acted alone, Mortvedt said, noting that he made cryptic social media posts before the rampage.
Butler posted a TikTok of himself grimacing in what appeared to be a school bathroom stall as a blue duffle bag sat on the floor, captioned “now we wait,” according to a local newspaper.
The song “Stray Bullet” by KMFDM played in the background of the post, which features lyrics like “I’m your nightmare coming true, I am your worst enemy,” and “Stray bullet, from the barrel of love.”
The song had also been posted to the website of Eric Harris, one of the shooters who opened fire at Columbine High School outside Denver in 1999.
A motive for the mass shooting was not revealed by police, but community members said Butler had been bullied relentlessly throughout his life.
Sisters Yesenia Roeder and Khamya Hall, both 17, said alongside their mother, Alita, that Butler finally snapped after his younger sister started getting picked on, too.
School officials never intervened, which they said was “the last straw” for Butler.
“He was hurting. He got tired. He got tired of the bullying. He got tired of the harassment,” Yesenia said.
“Was it a smart idea to shoot up the school? No. God, no.”