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Families of Starts Right Here shooting victims speak out

"These two really good boys, they lost their life for no reason. They didn't deserve it," said Gary Dameron, the father of 18-year-old Gionni Dameron.

DES MOINES, Iowa — Parents, grandparents and siblings of 16-year-old Rashad Carr and 18-year-old Gionni Dameron shared their memories of the lost teens on Wednesday afternoon.

Both teens were killed Monday in the shooting at Starts Right Here, an education center in Des Moines for at-risk youth.

Gionni's father described his son as vibrant, positive, and a no-nonsense kid focused on graduating high school. He told community members that he hopes those traits are what's most remembered about him.

"Let's focus on the positive things about my son and keep the narrative what it's supposed to be which is the fact that these two really good boys they lost their life for no reason, they didn't deserve it," Gary Dameron said.

Meanwhile, Rashad's grandmother said the teen was loving family member, making plans to attend college. She also shared that her own son was a victim of gun violence, as well.

"[He] was gunned down the same way. His anniversary is next month. When I say I'm so tired, I am tired," Nicole Sanders said.

Family, friends and longtime partners like DMPD are also sharing hope as Will Keeps, the CEO of Starts Right Here, continues his recovery after the Monday shooting.

"Praying for my brother, man. My brother, like - a lot of people don't know this, but, well, he's more than just my mentor. [I'm] saying that he's more than that," said Lance Williams Sr., Keeps' friend.

At 15-years-old, Keeps was stabbed in the chest, beaten and left for dead during his time in a Chicago gang. Now, he's recovering in a Des Moines hospital after the Monday shooting at Starts Right Here.

"He's weaving life into them young man and to them young woman. I know, firsthand, some of those kids that he got was not motivated. They didn't want to graduate. But he inspired them to want to want to do better," friend R.J. Miller added.

Des Moines Police, they have a mandate to keep us safe. But it's on us to be preventative. It's on us as organizations, as a community that supports organizations [like] CBOs or nonprofits or whatever you want to call them. We have to be collective at this approach," Williams said.

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A candlelight vigil is planned for both victims, which is scheduled to take place at Starts Right Here on Tuesday evening.

Dads on a Mission, a local nonprofit, is participating in a "Stopping Youth Violence" town hall next month along with other metro organizations to try and address recent shootings across the metro involving teenagers.

"It's time for us to offer these young men a voice, and I challenge other organizations to create platforms .. where kids can speak because if they don't speak, they're gonna speak with that gun," said Lance Williams Sr., the group's founder and president.

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