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Iowa jurors clear man charged with murder in shooting deaths of 2 students

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Jurors on Friday cleared an Iowa man charged with murder in the shooting deaths of two students at a Des Moines alternative school, a month after another man was convicted for his role in the killings.

Bravon Tukes, 20, was acquitted of two counts of first-degree murder and single counts of attempted murder, criminal gang participation and willful injury causing serious injury, according to the Des Moines Register.

The decision came about a month after jurors found Preston Walls, 19, guilty of second-degree murder, manslaughter and willful injury causing serious injury for his role in the Jan. 23 shooting at the Starts Right Here program. Prosecutors also had sought to convict Walls of first-degree murder.

As the judge read the not guilty guilty verdicts, Tukes hugged one of his attorneys.

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The shooting at the alternative school on the edge of downtown Des Moines killed Gionni Dameron, 18, and Rashad Carr, 16. Will Keeps, a former Chicago gang member and rapper who started the program for at-risk teens, was injured in the shooting when he tried to intervene.

Prosecutors argued the shootings were prompted by a dispute between members of different gangs.

Walls admitted to the shooting but said he brought a gun to the school and shot the other students because they had threatened him and he feared for his life.

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Tukes, who had driven Walls away after the shooting, argued in his trial that he had not planned the shooting. Walls testified during Tukes’ trial and supported the claim that his friend didn’t have a role in the shootings.

Polk County Attorney Kimberly Graham said in a statement that she disagreed with the verdict.

“We believe the evidence was clear that Mr. Tukes conspired with fellow gang member Preston Walls for at least a month before the killings. Mr. Tukes aided Mr. Walls by meeting him a half-mile from the crime scene and driving Mr. Walls away from the area,” Graham said. “Regardless of the verdicts, this has been and will always be a horrific tragedy. We continue to be heartbroken for our community, and we continue to grieve with the families.”