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‘Hero’ principal who intervened in Jan. 4 Iowa school shooting dies

Rebecca Barnabi
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(© KristinSayad – stock.adobe.com)

Heroes do not always wear capes. Sometimes they wear a suit and tie.

Perry High School Principal Dan Marburger put himself in harm’s way on Jan. 4 to save students when suspect Dylan Butler allegedly began shooting just after 7:30 a.m. when classes were about to resume on the first day after winter break.

Caldwell Parrish Funeral Home & Crematory confirmed that Marburger died of his injuries yesterday, the Associated Press reported.

According to Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation spokesman Mitch Mortvedt, Marburger did some “pretty significant things” to protect others. Details of what Marburger did were not released, but Perry Superintendent Clark Wicks said Marburger was a “hero” who intervened with the teenage gunman so students could escape. Ahmir Jolliff, 11, was killed in the shooting.

Marburger’s daughter, Claire Marburger, in a post on Facebook the night of the shooting, called her father a “gentle giant” and said she was not surprised he had attempted to protect students.

“As I heard of a gunman, I instantly had a feeling my Dad would be a victim as he would put himself in harm’s way for the benefit of the kids and his staff,” she wrote. “That’s just Dad.”

Marburger, a principal since 1995, was critically injured on January 4 along with six others. The 17-year-old suspect died of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot.

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

Marburger’s wife, Elizabeth, shared news of his death on a GoFundMe page for his family. She said he died at 8 a.m. on Sunday.

“Dan lost his battle. He fought hard and gave us 10 days that we will treasure forever,” Elizabeth Marburger posted. Nearly 200 individuals posted condolences within the first hour on Perry’s Facebook page.

Iowa Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds also offered condolences.

“Our entire state is devastated by the news of Dan Marburger’s death,” she said in a 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.”

All flags in Iowa have been ordered by Reynolds to fly at half-staff until sunset on the day of Marburger’s funeral and interment.

Rebecca Barnabi

Rebecca Barnabi

Rebecca J. Barnabi is the national editor of Augusta Free Press. A graduate of the University of Mary Washington, she began her journalism career at The Fredericksburg Free-Lance Star. In 2013, she was awarded first place for feature writing in the Maryland, Delaware, District of Columbia Awards Program, and was honored by the Virginia School Boards Association’s 2019 Media Honor Roll Program for her coverage of Waynesboro Schools. Her background in newspapers includes writing about features, local government, education and the arts.