In downtown Richmond, Virginia, 7 shot with at least 2 feared dead in a shooting incident that occurred near Virginia Commonwealth University after a high school graduation ceremony on Tuesday. Tragically, two individuals lost their lives in the incident. The deceased were identified as a graduate of Huguenot High School and his father, according to reports from NBC12.
During a news conference, Interim Richmond Police Chief Rick Edwards revealed that two suspects were apprehended following the incident. Initially, one of the suspects was held due to possession of a firearm, but later investigations cleared them of any involvement. The police have currently taken a 19-year-old man into custody, who will be charged with two counts of Second Degree Murder. Multiple handguns were recovered by the authorities.
The police believe that the suspect had some level of familiarity with at least one of the victims. Among the other victims, a 31-year-old man is in critical condition, while four other males, aged 14, 32, 55, and 58, are receiving treatment for wounds that are not considered life-threatening.
During the shooting, officers present inside the Altria Theater, where the graduation ceremony was held, heard gunshots outside at around 5:15 p.m. They immediately alerted the police stationed outside, who discovered multiple victims, as stated by Chief Edwards.
Police have stated that they do not believe there is an ongoing threat to the community. The identities of the individuals in custody and the injured victims have not yet been released to the public.
“We’re going to do everything we can to bring the individuals involved in this to justice,” Mayor Levar Stoney said at the news conference. “This should not be happening anywhere.”
According to the police, apart from the seven individuals wounded by gunfire, there were at least 12 other individuals who sustained injuries or received treatment for anxiety as a result of the chaotic situation. Among them was a 9-year-old child who was struck by a car while attempting to escape, but fortunately, the child is expected to recover.
“My administration continues monitoring the terrible shooting in the heart of Richmond tonight,” Gov. Glenn Youngkin said on Twitter. “State law enforcement is fully supporting the Richmond Police Department as this investigation moves forward.”
According to a statement posted on its website, Richmond Public Schools reported that the shooting incident occurred in Monroe Park, which is located near the college campus. The incident took place after a graduation ceremony for Huguenot High School. Jonathan Young, a school board member, informed NBC12 that as the graduates and other attendees were leaving the theater, they heard approximately 20 rapid gunshots.
The sudden gunfire led to a chaotic situation, with hundreds of people attempting to flee and seeking safety by returning to the building. Young described the situation as a stampede that ensued. Richmond Public Schools Superintendent, Jason Kamras, explained that the newly graduated students were outside, engaged in taking photographs with their families and friends when the shooting incident unfolded.
“I don’t have any more words on this,” Kamras said. “I’m just tired of seeing people get shot, our kids get shot. And I beg of the entire community to stop, to just stop.”
Upon hearing the sound of gunshots and the subsequent wailing sirens, John Willard, a 69-year-old neighbor, ventured out onto the balcony of his 18th-floor apartment. From his vantage point, he observed a distressing scene unfolding beneath him. Graduates, still donning their graduation attire, were hurriedly escaping the vicinity, while anxious parents embraced their children tightly.
“There was one poor woman in front of the apartment block next to ours who was wailing and crying,” Willard said, adding that the scene left him deeply saddened.
While assisting her daughter in selling flowers outside the theater as students exited the graduation ceremony, Edythe Payne shared her account with the Richmond Times-Dispatch. According to her, the shooting incident sparked a wave of panic on the bustling Main Street, which was teeming with people at that moment. Payne expressed her empathy, stating that she felt remorseful as she witnessed elderly individuals, who were in attendance at the graduation, being knocked to the ground amidst the chaotic scene.
In response to the incident, the school district made the decision to cancel a separate graduation scheduled for later on Tuesday, emphasizing the action was taken “out of an abundance of caution.” Additionally, it was announced that schools would remain closed on Wednesday. Source.