Iowa principal who risked his life to protect students during high school shooting has died

An Iowa principal who put himself in harm’s way to protect students during a school shooting earlier this month died Sunday, a funeral home confirmed.

Caldwell Parrish Funeral Home & Crematory confirmed the death of Perry High School Principal Dan Marburger after the family announced it on a GoFundMe page.

Marburger was seriously injured during the Jan. 4 attack, which began in the school cafeteria as students gathered for breakfast before class. An 11-year-old high school student was killed in the shooting and six other people were injured. The 17-year-old student who opened fire also died from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound.

The day after the shooting, the state Department of Public Safety said Marburger “acted selflessly and put himself in harm’s way in an apparent effort to protect his students.”

News of Marburger’s death was first posted on a GoFundMe page for his family. The post, written by Marburger’s wife, Elizabeth, said he died around 8 a.m. Sunday and said, “Dan lost his battle. He fought hard and gave us 10 days that we will treasure forever.”

News of Marburger’s death sparked an outpouring of support on Perry’s Facebook page, with nearly 200 people posting their condolences in the first hour after it was posted.

In a Facebook post the night of the shooting, the principal’s daughter, Claire Marburger, called her father a “gentle giant” and said it was not surprising that her father tried to protect his students.

“When I heard about a gunman, I instantly had the feeling that my dad would be a victim, as he would put himself in danger for the benefit of the children and his staff,” his daughter wrote. “That’s just dad.”

Marburger had been director since 1995.

Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation spokesman Mitch Mortvedt said after the shooting that Marburger did some “pretty important things” to protect others, but did not reveal details. Perry Superintendent Clark Wicks said Marburger was a “hero” who intervened with the teenage gunman so the students could escape.

Ahmir Jolliff, an 11-year-old sixth-grade student, was killed in the shooting. Authorities said he was shot three times.

The shooting occurred shortly after 7:30 a.m. on Jan. 4, shortly before school started on the first day back after winter break. Mortvedt said the shooting began in the cafeteria, where students in several grades were eating breakfast, then spread outside the cafeteria but was contained to the north end of the school.

Authorities said the suspect, identified as Dylan Butler, had a pump-action shotgun and a small caliber handgun. Mortvedt told The Associated Press that authorities also found a “pretty rudimentary” improvised explosive device among Butler’s belongings, and that experts warned “it was something they needed to take apart.” He was brought to safety.


Ahmed reported from Minneapolis. Associated Press writer Josh Funk contributed from Omaha, Nebraska.

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