An adult man shot and killed two female victims, then killed himself, in a parking lot outside Ames’ Cornerstone Church Thursday night, according to police and officials at the church.
“We are grieving deeply,” said a statement from Mark Vance, with the Salt Company youth ministry at Cornerstone Church. “Tonight, a tragic shooting occurred involving two young members of our Cornerstone Church community. It is believed that an adult male shot these two victims and then took his own life.”
The suspected shooter appeared to have died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound, Story County Sheriff Capt. Nicholas Lennie said. The ages of the female victims were not immediately known.
Lennie said several 911 calls came in at 6:51 p.m. as a program was going on at church. The church hosts a regular Thursday evening event for the Salt Company.
Officials said the shooting happened in the parking lot of the church as others were inside. Hours later there were still people inside the church as well as in the parking lot.
The statement from Vance said he was unable to give any details about what happened because of the ongoing investigation.
“We can say, however, that we are more than saddened by the events that transpired. Our hearts break for all involved, and we are praying for everyone affected, especially the family of the victims. Our Ministry staff are available to support all those impacted, and we will continue to fully cooperate with authorities as they complete their full investigation,” the statement said.
Law enforcement officials on Thursday did not release details about the weapon used in the shooting. Lennie said there was not an ongoing threat to the public.
“I wouldn’t say I’m shocked as law enforcement,” Lennie said. “We prepare and we train hard for this, but when it happens, it’s obviously chaotic until you get it under control.”
‘The Lord is near to the brokenhearted’
Law enforcement officials will hold a news conference on the shooting at 10:30 a.m. Friday, Lennie said.
“I would also like to take a moment to just extend our condolences to those involved, the victims involved, the families, the witnesses that were here at the church,” Lennie told reporters earlier Thursday evening. “And our hearts are with them as well at this time.”
Gov. Kim Reynolds said the shooting was an “act of senseless violence.”
“Tonight’s act of senseless violence took the lives of two innocent victims at their place of worship. Kevin and I grieve for the families who have suffered an unfathomable loss,” the governor said on Twitter. “And while the investigation continues and we learn more, we ask that Iowans pray for the victims and their families, the members of Cornerstone Church, and the entire Ames community.”
The church’s statement said: “We sincerely appreciate the responsiveness of the Story County Sheriff’s Department, Ames PD, and all Law Enforcement Officials who have handled this matter with exceptional professionalism and compassion. Please join us in praying for all affected and their families.”
It went on to quote Psalm 34:18, “‘The Lord is near to the brokenhearted’. Right now, we are brokenhearted and we need God to draw near to us.”
The church will hold a prayer service on Friday at 10 a.m. at the church, 56829 US HWY 30, Ames.
“All are welcome to attend in-person or join us online at cornerstonelife.com/live,” the statement said.
The shooting in Ames follows several high-profile mass shootings. Ten people were killed at a Buffalo, New York, grocery store on May 14. Twenty-one people — including 19 students — were killed at a Uvalde, Texas, school on May 24. And four people were killed at a Tulsa, Oklahoma, medical building Wednesday.
Earlier on Thursday, President Joe Biden called on Congress to pass sweeping gun control legislation.
Large church with roots at ISU
Ames, 30 miles north of Des Moines, is the center of a metro area of 126,195 and is the home of Iowa State University, the nation’s first land-grant institution of higher learning. It’s also home to major research facilities of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, as well as numerous ag-related industries, including Renewable Energy Group, a biodiesel company Chevron recently acquired for $3.15 billion.
Cornerstone Church, a megachurch with dozens of staff, is at the intersection of U.S. Highway 30 and Interstate 35 in Ames. The church sits just south of Lake Wesley.
The church is also framed by CrossRoad Baptist Church and the Iowa Department of Transportation Maintenance Garage. Beyond that are sprawling fields. Across the street from the church is the 3T’s All Star Sports Academy. To its west, on the other side of I-35, are DMACC Career Academy and Durham School Services, as well as a handful of businesses.
The church, according to its website, was founded in 1994 from a college ministry at ISU called The Salt Company, which is still the name of the church’s university ministry.
The Cornerstone website says it is now a “multigenerational church with a passion to reach the next generation of college students with the Gospel.”
The Salt Company’s website says that about 1,300 students gather to worship at Cornerstone every Thursday night during the school year.