An ex-boyfriend shot and killed his ex-girlfriend and her friend in the parking lot of Cornerstone Church in Ames Thursday night. Just days earlier, the man had been charged with harassment in relation to their recent breakup and faced an initial hearing on the matter next week.
He also killed himself.
Eden Mariah Montang, 22, and Vivian Renee Flores, 21, were students at Iowa State University. A third female friend was present, but was able to get away uninjured. All three students were there to attend the youth church service.
The gun used was a 9 mm pistol and the shooter was Johnathan Lee Whitlatch, 33, of Boone. The shooting has been classified as a domestic situation between Whitlach and Montang—authorities say there had been a recent breakup. On the scene, police found more 9 mm ammunition in the pickup, an AR-15 with ammo was found at the shooter’s home, but it didn’t play a part in the shooting.
Sheriff Paul Fitzgerald said he believed there was a restraining order against the shooter.
The Story County Sheriff’s Office provided an update Friday morning, where names, ages, backgrounds and more information were shared. The investigation is ongoing.
On May 31, Whitlatch was charged with harrassment and impersonating a public figure, in relation to Montang and their recent breakup. He was scheduled for a court appearance on his charges June 10.
The shooting happened during a Salt Company meeting, an Iowa State University ministry that meets every Thursday night. The gathering was the start of “Summer Salt” sermons for this year. The meeting was scheduled to start at 7 p.m. and multiple calls to 911 came in just before, at 6:51 p.m.
The shooting also happened just minutes after President Joe Biden finished his televised speech addressing gun violence in America in the wake of a school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, a hospital shooting in Tulsa, Oklahoma and a grocery store shooting in Buffalo, New York.
Others were in the church at the time of the shooting, but were unharmed, and Cornerstone hosted a prayer service Friday morning at 10 a.m.
Cornerstone Pastor Mark Vance released a statement Thursday:
“Tonight, a tragic shooting occurred involving two young members of our Cornerstone Church community. Due to the ongoing investigation, we are not able to give any details at this time. 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. 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.
“We sincerely appreciate the responsiveness of the Story County Sheriff’s Department, Ames PD, and all Law Enforcements Officials who have handled this matter with exceptional professionalism and compassion. Please join us in praying for all affected and their families.
Cornerstone is a megachurch, and one of the largest in the Ames area.
by Nikoel Hytrek
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