Perry Iowa High School - site of the Perry School Shooting
Perry Iowa High School - site of the Perry School Shooting

Everything We Know About the Perry School Shooting

Featured Image Credit: Richc80, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The 2023 Perry School Shooting is certainly a tragedy. A twisted trend of these incidents has been on the rise for years now, only seeing a drop during the COVID-19 crisis before spiking again upon the mass return to school, as statistics published in the National Library of Medicine journal clearly show. These shootings are a dark mark on the American present as it seems to be the only country with this unique and unfortunate problem.


This school shooting, specifically, brought the pain of this truth home for many in Iowa, where it took place, and around the Midwest. Until this incident, the tragic cases of young death had been confined to the television news stations, leaving Iowans to voice their “thoughts & prayers” and brush off the truth to one degree or another. Unfortunately, the dire situation of American school gun violence has reached across the map and pulled in even the more isolated parts of the country.


The Perry incident wasn’t incredibly unique, but it certainly shined a light on how devastating this type of massacre can be for those in the Hawkeye State, and now we’ll shine a light on it for you. This is everything we know about the Perry School Shooting.

Gun on the table next to bullets
Image by Brett Hondow from Pixabay

The Perry School Shooting explained

The Perry, Iowa, shooting started less than an hour before the school day was scheduled to start on January 4, 2024 – the first day of school following winter break. The shooter, 17-year-old Dylan Butler, came armed with a pump action shotgun and a pistol. He showed up earlier than most of the students, hiding in a bathroom stall before going on his rampage. His streak didn’t take long, but several students were shot in the process. One student in particular, Sage Geffre, and the principal worked to get students out of the building, and both took several gunshots in the process. Both are the heroes of this tragedy, and their actions undoubtedly saved several lives.


In the end, three people were killed by the shooter. Seven others were injured. An 11-year-old sixth grader was killed during the incident, Perry High School Principal Dan Marburger died of his wounds in the hospital, and Dylan Butler took his own life. A homemade explosive was found on the killer’s body afterward. Had this incident taken place after school was in session, the body count would certainly have been higher.


As of this point, the killer’s motives haven’t been released. The normal slew of possibilities – i.e. bullying and mental illness – have been circulating, though nothing has been confirmed by authorities. Due to the shooter’s age and the effects of his crimes, we won’t be posting his picture in this article.

Toilet in a public bathroom similar to the one Dylan Butler hid in before the Perry School Shooting
Image by Michal Jarmoluk from Pixabay

Dylan Butler posted to TikTok before he opened fire

Shortly before the Perry shooting took place, Dylan Butler hopped onto TikTok to make one last post. This sort of behavior doesn’t say great things about the 17-year-old. One could argue that he was troubled, and certainly all killers are, but this post suggests he was performing to an audience, which is what killers do when they want to gain fame or be immortalized. Though, this desire to be noticed tends to be the hallmark of specific mental health disorders as well. Regardless of what it meant, Butler was a killer, and he wanted people to know what he was about to do.


In his TikTok, which has been removed (for good reason), Butler showed himself and the duffle bag that held his firearms while hidden in a bathroom stall. This post took thought, and there’s evidence to that. The song “Stray Bullet” played in the background and the caption read, “now we wait.” You might not know the song in question, as it’s not particularly popular, but the fame it does have comes from its use on one of the Columbine School Shooters’ websites. As you can see, there seems to have been a lot of symbolism and premeditation involved in this mass killing.

The parents and family of the killer allegedly witnessed no changes in Butler leading up to the shooting. They’ve even released a public statement admonishing his actions. Unfortunately, many believe there must’ve been signs and that the parents had simply missed them for one reason or another. This will likely never be confirmed. But we do know that this is a tragedy from every angle, and Butler’s family are the only ones alive to take the social punishment for his actions. Which, when you think about it, isn’t exactly fair. They lost their son in more than one way during the Perry School Shooting.

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Man armed with gun in the back of his pants
Image by un-perfekt from Pixabay

The incident sparked talk of arming teachers

Directly after the Perry shooting, the gun folks came out to make their voices heard. People on social media and in local opinion pieces were calling for schools to arm teachers, and one school in Sioux City, Iowa, decided to do just that. Unfortunately, experts argue that this course of action isn’t exactly helpful and will likely lead to more harm than good.


Even some of the most trained people can’t fire a gun under pressure. A few millimeters at the handle makes the difference between hitting your target and accidentally killing an innocent bystander. Then there’s the idea of community safety. Many students wouldn’t feel safe with an armed teacher walking around. Sure, many others might, but it would still be a distraction from learning. Many teachers also don’t want to carry firearms and wouldn’t feel safe having them in the classroom. And these are only some of the arguments against the idea.


If you’ve ever seen children, you know they’re prone to grabbing things. This could easily end with a curious child or, god forbid, a child with behavioral disorders getting their hands on a firearm – not to mention the level of psychiatric evaluation that would be needed before those teachers were armed. We’d hate for the next mass shooting that hits the headlines to be carried out by a disgruntled and troubled educator. So, maybe, other solutions should be brainstormed before we start putting guns into teachers’ hands.

Image by DeerBluff from Pixabay

There have been no practical proposed state regulations in response

The state government response in Iowa was minimal following the Perry shooting. Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds issued a few statements, but they weren’t detailed. A condolence statement came first, followed by a masterful work where she told the people how gun restrictions wouldn’t have stopped the shooting. And maybe that’s true to some degree, but a real plan would’ve been nice. Instead, the Iowa governor mentioned “streamlining” mental healthcare (whatever that means) while praising her previous designs for the state’s mental healthcare programs. She went on to say mental health was one of her priorities going forward, but not everyone is convinced this is true.

When Reynolds restructured mental healthcare funding in 2021, many Democrats believed that her restructuring bill wouldn’t adequately fund the services the people of her state required, as has been noted by the Des Moines Register. The Iowa Democrats, however, show a list of ways she’s actually harmed mental healthcare in the state, “putting them second to last” in the country. This includes cutting millions in funding from the Department of Human Services and being involved, directly, with the previous administration’s plan that closed several mental health facilities around the state. So, only time will tell if she stays true to her promises. Until then, we’ll be waiting for a practical plan that could possibly prevent shootings like the Perry incident in the future.

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