The day after a school shooting rocked a small Iowa community, more details are emerging, including the identity of the sixth grade student who was killed at Perry High School.
Officials on Friday also said that more people were injured than previously reported. In total, seven people were hurt in Thursday morning’s shooting, the Iowa Department of Public Safety said. That is up two from the previous count of five.
Ahmir Jolliff, 11, was killed by three gunshot wounds and his manner of death was ruled a homicide by the Iowa State Medical Examiner, officials said.
Perry High School principal Dan Marburger was among the three staff members and four students who were injured when a 17-year-old student opened fire.
The gunman, identified as Dylan Butler, died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound, officials said.
Marburger tried to calm down the shooter and “distract him” so students could flee, according to a Facebook post from his daughter, who said he was stable after getting shot.
The principal and two other students remain hospitalized, officials said. Marburger, who received multiple gunshot wounds, is in critical condition. The other victims have been treated and released, according to Iowa DPS.
“For those of you who have reached out regarding Dad, I am sorry I haven’t gotten back to you. Please don’t take it personally it has just been a day for us, for Dad, and for the community,” Marburger’s daughter, Claire Marburger, wrote. “Dad was in surgery all day, and is currently stable.”
Claire Marburger said that her father is known to be a “gentle giant” and an “amazing Dad and just amazing person.”
“He does anything for us kids, including driving 7 hrs round trip on school nights to catch my college games in Decorah. Stayed long enough to slip me a $20 tell me I played well, give me a hug, and head out,” she said.
When she heard the news that there was a shooting at the school, Claire Marburger said she “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.”
“It is absolutely zero surprise to hear he tried to approach and talk Dylan down and distract him long enough for some students to get out of the cafeteria,” she added. “That’s just Dad.”
Perry Superintendent Clark Wicks on Friday echoed Claire Marburger’s sentiments, calling Marburger a “hero” Friday.
“I know that it helped — the way that he approached the situation and it saved some lives. He did some actions that also saved lives,” Wicks said, adding that “we’re very proud of the way they handled it.”
The shooting happened around 7:37 a.m. before school had started. It was the first day back after winter break.
Not many students were on campus, but a breakfast program was taking place, said Mitch Mortvedt, the assistant director of the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation.
One parent recalled how her daughter ran for her life as gunfire erupted, while a student described hiding in a small room with three other students and a counselor.
Police said the shooter was armed with a pump-action shotgun and a small-caliber handgun. An “improvised explosive device” was also found.
Authorities have not released a motive, and the investigation continues.
Claire Marburger said in her post that her father is “devastated” about 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, its things like this that he takes personally,” she wrote.
Dan Marburger has worked at Perry schools for more than 20 years, according to his biography on the district’s website. In a personal message on the site, he quotes Maya Angelou.
“As you grow older, you will discover that you have two hands, one for helping yourself, the other for helping others,” the message reads.
Maria Torres, a Perry High School graduate, said Dan Marburger “was like family to me when I was in school” and she would seek him out for help.
“When I would go and talk to him, he would listen and everything,” she said in an interview that aired Friday on MSNBC.
“Everything that happened to me, I would always tell him,” Torres added.
Throughout his career, he has played an important role in helping students grieve after tragic accidents and losses. In 2005, he stood by the community after a 19-year-old former basketball player died from cancer, the Des Moines Register reported at the time.
Dan Marburger was quoted as calling the student the “heart of Perry” and said extra counselors were on hand to help provide support for students and staff.
In 2003, he supported students after a middle school student died when he was struck by a car driven by a 16-year-old sophomore.
Marburger has also helped Perry students grapple with other issues. In February 2016, for example, students from a rural Iowa high school chanted “Trump” as an anti-Latino epithet during a basketball game against Perry, which has a large number of Hispanic students.
Marburger told CNN that “inflamed rhetoric is happening and it’s OK. No one is stopping it. They see it in a presidential campaign and now it’s OK for everyone to say this. It’s almost a sense that you feel that you don’t belong in your own country.”
If you or someone you know is in crisis, call or text 988 to reach the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline or chat live at 988lifeline.org. You can also visit SpeakingOfSuicide.com/resources for additional support.