UI students, former East Des Moines High School graduates continue to grieve, process March shooting

University of Iowa students who are also recent graduates from Des Moines East High School are still reflecting on the March 7 drive-by shooting.


Police investigate a shooting shooting outside of East High School in in Des Moines, IA, on Monday, March 7, 2022. (Zach Boyden-Holmes-USA TODAY NETWORK)

Madeleine Willis, News Reporter

Editor’s note: This report contains mentions of gun violence. 

University of Iowa fourth-year student John Rickabaugh was in utter disbelief when he heard the news of the March 7 Des Moines East High School drive-by shooting. He was just about to go take an exam when he found out.

“My nephew currently goes to East High School, so when I heard that a kid died there, it kind of made me panic,” Rickabaugh said.

UI students who attended East High School are continuing to process the drive-by shooting that killed one and injured two high school students earlier this month.

The Des Moines Police Department has charged at least 10 students for the shooting.

Rickabaugh said he feels as if everyone is coping with the shooting in different ways. He said the incident was an eye-opener because all his close friends are from East High School.

UI second-year student Paige Sensouk said her community is grieving by taking it one day at a time.

“Teenagers shouldn’t have to go through these experiences at such a young and formative age when they are finding out who they are,” she said.

Sensouk said she hopes the incident doesn’t define Des Moines as a community.

UI third-year student Caleb Cook said he felt as if East High School was trending toward a more positive environment before the shooting occurred.

“Our school can be doing something completely better than the news might suggest,” Cook said.

While Cook said he never felt unsafe when he was in school, he explained that East High School has been dealing with an undeserved reputation for a while.

Cook explained that even though the education at East High School has been looked down upon by other schools, the community united together to support them after the shooting.

“East alumni and teachers in the district were sharing ‘scarlet strong’ on Facebook,” he said.

Sensouk said she is still processing the events that happened, but to her, the most shock came from the fact that violence occurred.

Rickabaugh said he feels that everyone in high school nowadays is just going through the motions, especially those at East High School.

“I mean, when I was in high school, we didn’t have a pandemic,” he said. “We didn’t have as much of a decrease in school funding as they do now. I just feel like it was kind of lighthearted when I was in high school pre-pandemic stuff.”

Despite the circumstances, he said that the East High School community did what it could to deal with the situation.

“I would just say this sadly happened and my heart goes out to those grieving,” Rickabaugh said. “It’s a tragedy.”