IOWA CITY, Iowa - Iowa City Police say the shots fired early Sunday morning in the pedestrian mall were a result of an ongoing dispute between two groups of people, one from Cedar Rapids and the other from Iowa City. Police say the 17 year-old suspect they arrested was also a juvenile from the Eldora State Training School who had a warrant out for his arrest. He now faces several gun-related charges.
“During the day, I think it’s the perfect place to be if you’ve got children,” said Jennifer Cappos, who has lived in Iowa City since 1988, first as a college student, now as a mom. She knows as the sun goes down, the ped mall is an area geared more for adults, but she’s never considered it to be a dangerous place.
“In the evenings, and as it gets later into the night when the college kids come out, it’s time for us to go home,” Cappos said, her children playing on a nearby jungle gym. When we told her about gunshots being fired not far from the playground early Sunday morning, she said it came as a surprise.
Sgt. Scott Gaarde with the Iowa City Police Department highlighted just how isolated this incident was, pointing to the fact that Eldra Scott Jennings, Jr. was an escapee of the Eldora State Training School facility. Officials at the school would not confirm that, citing policy. A juvenile complaint also shows Jennings, Jr. is only weeks away from turning 18.
“This has been an ongoing dispute between two rival groups, and the individual in question felt his safety was being threatened, so he did draw a pistol and fire shots into the air,” Sgt. Gaarde explained. He stopped short of calling it gang activity, but he said the root of the fighting is under investigation.
Nancy Bird, executive director of the Iowa City Downtown Association called this situation a “one-off,” and said with security cameras and police patrols in the area, this isn’t something people need to worry about.
“You can’t come to downtown Iowa City anymore and get away with things like that,” Bird said.
In this case, Sgt. Gaarde said police were right around the corner, and made a quick arrest.
“We happened to be in the right spot at the right time,” Gaarde told us.