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Iowa principal who risked his life to protect students during a high school shooting has died

DES MOINES, Iowa — An Iowa principal who put himself in harm’s way to protect students during a school shooting earlier this month died Sunday, a funeral home confirmed.

Caldwell Parrish Funeral Home & Crematory confirmed the death of Perry High School Principal Dan Marburger after the family announced it on a GoFundMe page.

Marburger was critically injured during the Jan. 4 attack, which began in the school’s cafeteria as students were gathering for breakfast before class.

An 11-year-old middle school student was killed in the shooting, and six other people were injured.

The 17-year-old student who opened fire also died of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot.

The day after the shooting, the state Department of Public Safety said Marburger “acted selflessly and placed himself in harm’s way in an apparent effort to protect his students.”

News of Marburger’s death was first posted on a GoFundMe page for his family. The post, by Marburger’s wife, Elizabeth, said he died at about 8 a.m. Sunday, and said: “Dan lost his battle. He fought hard and gave us 10 days that we will treasure forever.”

Perry High School Principal Dan Marburger has passed away after being critically injured in a shooting at his school on Jan. 4, 2024. Facebook / Claire Marburger
Police officers at the scene of the school shooting in Perry, Iowa. AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, file

The news that Marburger died triggered a flood of support on the Perry Facebook page with nearly 200 people posting condolences within the first hour after it was posted.

In a Facebook post on the night of the shooting, the principal’s daughter, Claire Marburger, called her father a “gentle giant” and said it wasn’t surprising that her father tried to protect his students.

“As I heard of a gunman, I instantly had a feeling my Dad would be a victim as he would put himself in harms way for the benefit of the kids and his staff,” his daughter wrote. “That’s just Dad.”

Marburger had been principal since 1995.

Marburger was shot while attempting to distract the shooter and protect students. Allison Ullmann/The Perry Chief / USA TODAY NETWORK
Marburger had been the Perry High School principal since 1995. Facebook / Claire Marburger

Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation spokesman Mitch Mortvedt said after the shooting that Marburger did some “pretty significant things” to protect others, but didn’t release details.

Perry Superintendent Clark Wicks said Marburger was a “hero” who intervened with the teenage gunman so students could escape.

An 11-year-old sixth grader, Ahmir Jolliff, was killed in the shooting. Authorities said he was shot three times.

The shooting happened just after 7:30 a.m. on Jan. 4, shortly before classes were set to begin on the first day back after winter break.

Ahmir Jolliff, 11, was killed in the shooting. Erica Jolliff via AP

Mortvedt said the shooting started in the cafeteria, where students from several grades were eating breakfast, then spilled outside the cafeteria but was contained to the north end of the school.

Authorities said the suspect, identified as Dylan Butler, had a pump-action shotgun and a small-caliber handgun.

Mortvedt told The Associated Press that authorities also found a “pretty rudimentary” improvised explosive device in Butler’s belongings, and that experts advised “it was something that they needed to disarm.” It was rendered safe.

A law enforcement official briefed on the investigation said federal and state investigators were interviewing Butler’s friends and analyzing Butler’s social media profiles, including posts on TikTok and Reddit. However, authorities have provided no information about a possible motive.

The shooter was identified as 17-year-old student Dylan Butler. Dylan Butler/Facebook

Shortly before Thursday’s shooting, Butler posted a photo on TikTok inside the bathroom of Perry High School, the official said.

The photo was captioned “now we wait” and the song “Stray Bullet” by the German band KMFDM accompanied it. Investigators also have found posted photos of Butler posing with firearms, according to the official, who was not authorized to publicly discuss details of the investigation and spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity.

Investigators are still working to get a “good grasp of who Dylan was,” and the parents have been cooperating, Mortvedt said.

Butler posted a photo on TikTok of himself in a bathroom in the school before the shooting. Tooktoomuch/Tiktok

The investigation will include Butler’s background along with the “environment of the school,” he said.

Friends of Butler told the AP he had been bullied, but Wicks would not discuss that and said the school district takes bullying seriously.

Perry has about 8,000 residents and is about 40 miles northwest of Des Moines, on the edge of the state capital’s metropolitan area.

Students protesting for stricter gun control laws after the shooting in Perry High School at the Iowa state capitol building in Des Moines on Jan. 8, 2024. Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images

It is home to a large pork-processing plant and low-slung, single-story homes spread among trees now shorn of their leaves by winter.

The high school is part of the 1,785-student Perry Community School District. Perry is more diverse than Iowa as a whole.

Census figures show 31% of its residents are Hispanic, compared with less than 7% statewide.

Those figures also show nearly 19% of the town’s residents were born outside the U.S.

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Written by SaleemBaloch

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