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By Des Moines Register staff

Three people were shot and killed in a parking lot outside Ames’ Cornerstone Church Thursday night, Story County Sheriff Capt. Nicholas Lennie said.

One of the dead is believed to be the shooter, he said.

Lennie said several 911 calls came in at 6:51 p.m. as a program was going on at church. The church hosts a regular Thursday evening event for its youth ministry, the Salt Company.

Officials said the shooting happened in the parking lot of the church as others were inside. Hours later there were still people inside the church as well as in the parking lot.

Law enforcement officials on Thursday did not release details on the weapon used in the shooting. Lennie said there was not an ongoing threat to the public and more details would be released later Thursday.

“I wouldn’t say I’m shocked as law enforcement,” Lennie said. “We prepare and we train hard for this, but when it happens, it’s obviously chaotic until you get it under control.”

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Ames, 30 miles north of Des Moines, is the center of a metro area of 126,195 and is the home of Iowa State University, the nation’s first land-grant institution of higher learning. It’s also home to major research facilities of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, as well as numerous ag-related industries, including Renewable Energy Group, a biodiesel company Chevron recently acquired for $3.15 billion.

Cornerstone Church, a megachurch with dozens of staff, is located at the intersection of U.S. Highway 30 and Interstate 35 in Ames. The church sits just south of Lake Wesley.

The church is also framed by CrossRoad Baptist Church and the Iowa Department of Transportation Maintenance Garage. Beyond that are sprawling fields. Across the street from the church is the 3ts All Star Sports Academy. To its west, on the other side of I-35, are DMACC and Durham School Services, as well as a handful of businesses.

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The church, according to its website, was founded in 1994 from a college ministry at ISU called The Salt Company, which is still the name of the church’s university ministry.

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The Cornerstone website says it is now a “multigenerational church with a passion to reach the next generation of college students with the Gospel.”

The Salt Company’s website claims about 1,300 students gather every Thursday night during the school year.

The shooting in Ames follows several high-profile mass shootings. Ten people were killed at Buffalo, New York, grocery store on May 14. Twenty-one people — including 19 students — were killed at a Uvalde, Texas school on May 24. And four people were killed at a Tulsa, Oklahoma medical building Wednesday.

Earlier on Thursday, President Joe Biden called on Congress to pass sweeping gun control legislation.

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