Who was Johnathan Whitlatch? Ames church shooter had harassed ex-girlfriend 2 days before killing her
AMES, IOWA: Two women were shot to death on Thursday, June 2 evening in a church parking lot in Ames, Iowa, police said and then the shooter went on to kill himself. Both women, Eden Montang, 22, and Vivian Flores, 21 and were students at nearby Iowa State University. And, a third woman escaped unharmed, adding the shooter used a 9mm handgun. As per officials, the shooter, Johnathan Lee Whitlatch, 33, of Boone, Iowa, had been arrested days before on harassment charges in connection to Montang. There was also a restraining order against him. The tragic incident unfolded when he confronted the three women in the parking lot of Cornerstone Church on Thursday, June 2, evening, said Story County Sheriff Paul Fitzgerald at a news conference Friday, June 3.
The shooting came on the same night President Joe Biden addressed the nation on the need for stricter gun laws. Gun massacres have left the country shaken and prompted new discussions about how to prevent them. The most recent incident was just a day earlier when a man bought an AR-15 style rifle and attacked an Oklahoma hospital, killing four people and then himself. "This is a very tragic event for our community but I think also nationwide as we experience violent incidents nationwide, and it only seems to increase," said Capt. Nicholas Lennie of the Story County Sheriff's Office.
Iowa 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," Reynolds wrote 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."
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.— Gov. Kim Reynolds (@IAGovernor) June 3, 2022
What happened at the Ames Cornerstone Church shooting?
Reportedly the shooting at the Cornerstone Church was the result of a "domestic situation" between Whitlatch and one of the women, said Fitzgerald. One of the women had previously been in a relationship with Whitlach. Montang and Flores were attending a bible study at Cornerstone Church in Ames when the shooting happened.
In Iowa, authorities got a call of shots fired in the parking lot at 6:51 pm, they said. The shooter arrived in a pickup truck "and the chaos began," Fitzgerald said. "He went right into action when he got there," he said. "He was there for a specific purpose, which he accomplished." The shooter made no apparent effort to go into the church, Fitzgerald said. It was a "targeted act of violence," he said. The shooter approached the women as they walked toward the church, fired "several rounds" and the two were dead "in a matter of seconds."
At the shooter's home, authorities found an AR-15 rifle with ammunition that "played no part in this event whatsoever," Fitzgerald said. In the shooter's vehicle, they found 9mm ammunition he bought an hour before the shooting.
Church shooter Johnathan Whitlatch had history of domestic abuse and arrests
Court records show that Whitlach had several domestic abuse cases where he was accused of violent or inappropriate actions toward women, including one incident that led to criminal charges. He had once been ordered to complete an anger management course and yet he was able to legally own and carry firearms in the state.
In fact, just two days before the homicides, Whitlatch was charged with harassment and impersonating a public figure, in relation to Montang and their recent breakup, according to the sheriff’s office. He was in for a court appearance on those charges June 10.
One woman he previously dated and had a child with filed and received a domestic abuse protective order in 2017 after she said the suspect grabbed her by the throat and made a motion as if to punch her, but stopped before the blow landed. The woman wrote he threatened to come to her home and kill her. In November, he was also charged with sexual assault, after a woman accused him of groping her at a bar. Whitlatch was arrested at Deringer’s Parlor in Cedar Falls for this charge. He pled not guilty to a charge of assault with intent to commit sexual abuse, an aggravated misdemeanor under Iowa law. His jury trial was slated to begin in July. Since Whitlatch had not been found guilty of any crime at the time of the murders, it hadn't prevented him from obtaining multiple guns and ammunition.