11-year-old killed in Iowa school shooting was a joyful boy known as ‘Smiley,’ his mother says


Tragedy: Ahmir “Smiley” Jolliff’s Life and the Perry School Shooting


In a heartbreaking turn of events, the peaceful town of Perry, Iowa, was shattered by the recent school shooting that claimed the life of 11-year-old Ahmir Jolliff, affectionately known as “Smiley” for his infectious joy and warmth. This devastating incident occurred on the first day back to school after winter break, leaving the community grappling with the loss and seeking answers to the harrowing events that unfolded at Perry High School.

Ahmir’s Vibrant Spirit

Ahmir, a sixth-grader at the connected middle school, was a whirlwind of cheerful activity, epitomizing the joy of childhood. His love for soccer, musical talents with the tuba, and participation in the school choir showcased his diverse interests. Ahmir’s endearing habit of reaching out to others, asking about their day, and maintaining an open trunk of toys for communal play reflected his inclusive nature.

Tragically, Ahmir’s life was cut short before the school day began, leaving a void in the hearts of those who knew him. As his mother, Erica Jolliff, recalls, Ahmir couldn’t contain his excitement to return to school, dashing ahead of his family on that fateful morning.

The Perry High School Shooting

The tranquility of the morning was shattered when a 17-year-old student, identified as Dylan Butler, opened fire in the school cafeteria. Ahmir, along with seven others, including school staff and students, fell victim to this senseless act of violence. The shooter ultimately succumbed to a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

Ahmir’s mother, still searching for her children amidst the chaos, later learned of the tragic fate that befell her son. The aftermath of the incident revealed a complex narrative involving the alleged bullying of Dylan Butler, prompting a reevaluation of the school’s response to such situations.

A Community in Mourning

In the wake of this tragedy, the tight-knit community of Perry rallied together to commemorate Ahmir’s memory. The school, now a somber backdrop to the events, saw a touching gesture as a rock outside was repainted in the school’s bright blue color in honor of the joyful boy. This rock, previously a blank canvas, had already become a poignant memorial adorned with teddy bears and flowers, serving as a testament to the collective grief and support.

Understanding the Shooter’s Perspective

Investigations into Dylan Butler’s background reveal a disturbing narrative of prolonged bullying, allegedly endured since elementary school. Friends of the shooter attest to his quiet demeanor, further emphasizing the critical need for schools to address and prevent bullying effectively. Authorities discovered a pump-action shotgun, a small-caliber handgun, and an improvised explosive device in Butler’s possession, underscoring the severity of the situation.

School’s Response and the Larger Context

Superintendent Clark Wicks, while not confirming the bullying allegations, defended the district’s commitment to addressing such issues seriously. He emphasized the importance of fostering a safe and inviting atmosphere within the school. Perry, a community of approximately 8,000 residents, now finds itself grappling with the aftermath of an incident that has garnered national attention.

Ahmir’s Legacy

As Erica Jolliff mourns the loss of her vibrant son, she expresses sympathy for Dylan Butler’s family, acknowledging their grief. Amidst the sorrow, she hopes that the tragedy prompts a reevaluation of the school system’s approach to student well-being.

“I just pray that what we lost isn’t in vain and that other measures can be implemented within the school system,” Jolliff remarks.


The Perry school shooting has left an indelible mark on the community, underscoring the urgency of addressing bullying and fostering a safe environment within educational institutions. As the town mourns the loss of Ahmir “Smiley” Jolliff, it is a stark reminder that no community is immune to the far-reaching consequences of such tragic events.

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