Iowa principal who risked his life to protect students dies 10 days after high school shooting


Police respond to Perry High School in Perry, Iowa., Thursday, Jan. 4, 2024. Police say there has been a shooting at the city’s high school.

Andrew Harnik | AP

The beloved principal who was injured after a gunman opened fire at a high school in Iowa has died after 10 days in the hospital.

Principal Dan Marburger was among the three staff members and four students who were injured on Jan. 4 when a 17-year-old student opened fire at Perry High School in the small community of Perry, Iowa.

Marburger tried to calm down the shooter and “distract him” so students could flee, according to a Facebook post from his daughter, Claire. He received multiple gunshot wounds.

Marburger was stable following the shooting, but on Sunday, Gov. Kim Reynolds announced his death in a statement.

“Our entire state is devastated by the news of Dan Marburger’s death. Kevin and I offer our deepest condolences to his wife and family as we pray for their comfort during this very difficult time,” Reynolds said in the statement. “Dan courageously put himself in harm’s way to protect his students, and ultimately gave his own life to save them. He will forever be remembered for his selfless and heroic actions. May he rest in peace.”

Reynolds has ordered all flags in Iowa to be lowered to half-staff on Sunday and remain there until sunset on the day of Marburger’s funeral, according to the governor’s office.

Claire said her father was known to be a “gentle giant” and an “amazing Dad and just amazing person.”

“He does anything for us kids, including driving 7 hrs round trip on school nights to catch my college games in Decorah. Stayed long enough to slip me a $20 tell me I played well, give me a hug, and head out,” she said in her post.

Marburger worked at Perry schools for more than 20 years and played an important role in helping students grieve after tragic accidents and losses.

In 2003, he supported students after a middle school student died when he was struck by a car driven by a 16-year-old sophomore. Two years later, he stood by the community after a 19-year-old former basketball player died from cancer, The Des Moines Register reported at the time.

The shooting at Perry High School happened around 7:37 a.m. before school had started on the first day back after winter break.

Not many students were on campus, but a breakfast program was taking place, said Mitch Mortvedt, the assistant director of the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation.

Police said the shooter was armed with a pump-action shotgun and a small-caliber handgun. An “improvised explosive device” was also found.

Authorities have not released a motive, and the investigation continues.