[Warning: Potentially Triggering Content]
A man enraged over a recent breakup opened fire outside a megachurch this week – killing his ex-girlfriend and her friend before turning the gun on himself.
According to People, 22-year-old Eden Mariah Montang and 21-year-old Vivian Renee Flores were supposed to be attending a Bible study service with The Salt Company, the church’s college ministry, on Thursday evening at Cornerstone Church. However, things took a tragic turn when Johnathan Lee Whitlatch arrived at the megachurch in Ames, Iowa, before 7 p.m. and fatally shot the two college students in the parking lot. After shooting both women, the 33-year-old killed himself. A third friend was with them at the time but was not injured in the ambush.
Story County Sheriff Paul Fitzgerald told reporters that the disturbing incident was a targeted attack sparked by the recent end of the relationship between Whitlatch and Montag. He had also recently been arrested for third-degree harassment and impersonating a public official in an incident “directly related to the breakup.” Fitzgerald stated, per KCCI-TV:
“This was a situation that could have unfolded much more tragically had this just been a random act of violence. There were over 80 students in the auditorium at Bible study, and if he had found his way inside the church with that intent it would’ve been much more tragic than what we have today.”
Court records obtained by the Des Moines Register alleged that on May 1, a man repeatedly called Massage Heights, where Montag worked as a certified massage therapist at the time, claiming to be a police officer investigating an inappropriate relationship between her and another cop. He also allegedly told the student that he had reported the situation to the Ames Tribune.
The person gave multiple false names at the time. However, the conversations were recorded and his voice ended up matching Whitlatch. According to the legal documents, the court set a $6,500 for Whitlatch, and a hearing had been scheduled for June 10.
Both of his victims had been students at Iowa State University. The school president issued a statement following their deaths, expressing:
“We are heartbroken to learn of the deaths of two Iowa State University students who were killed last night outside of Cornerstone Church in Ames. Eden Montang was a senior in the College of Human Sciences from Boone and Vivian Flores was a junior in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences from West Des Moines. We extend our deepest condolences to their families and friends. Our hearts are also with the other students who were at the church at the time of the shooting. We know many others in our community attend services or are members at Cornerstone.”
Such a tragedy what happened here. Our hearts go out to Eden and Vivian’s loved ones during this difficult time.
[Image via We Are Iowa Local 5 News/YouTube]
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