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Virginia shooting: Two killed, five injured after high school graduation ceremony | #schoolsaftey

  • By Gareth Evans & Max Matza
  • BBC News

Image source, Getty Images

Image caption,

A gunman opened fire in Monroe Park shortly after a graduation ceremony finished nearby

A father and his stepson were killed and five others injured in a shooting at a high school graduation ceremony in Virginia.

Police identified a 19-year-old suspect as the gunman and said they believed the attack was “targeted”.

The shooting outside the Altria Theater in Richmond sent hundreds of people, many of them wearing graduation gowns, running for safety on Tuesday evening.

“It was obviously chaos,” the city’s police chief said. “People scattered.”

Renzo Smith, 36, was celebrating the graduation of his 18-year-old stepson, Sean D. Jackson, when the gunman opened fire. Both men were killed.

A 9-year-old girl who is “related to the family” was also hit by a car during the ensuing chaos, police said. She was taken to hospital with minor injuries.

The suspect, identified as Omari Pollard, 19, was arraigned in court and faces two counts of second degree murder, officials said at a news conference on Wednesday. Police believe the shooting was “targeted” and the “result of an ongoing dispute”.

Officers did not fire their weapons when apprehending the suspect and several guns were recovered from the scene.

Police said all five victims injured in the attack have recovered and are in “non-life-threatening condition”.

“A day that should have been a moment of joy and celebration with friends and family was taken away in seconds and lives changed forever,” said Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney. “Our city, our community, will not be defined by this violence.”

The gunman opened fire in Monroe Park, which is directly opposite the theatre, shortly after the ceremony for Huguenot High School had finished at around 17:15 (21:15 GMT).

Families and graduates were leaving the theatre, which is near the campus of Virginia Commonwealth University, when at least eight shots rang out.

People ran to escape, some carrying young children and babies, while others sought cover in nearby buildings. Graduates hugged and cried when they were reunited after the attack.

As well as those who were shot, police said another 12 people were injured in the rush or treated for anxiety due to the chaos.

“This should have been a safe space. People should have felt safe at a graduation,” said interim Richmond Police Chief Rick Edwards.

“It’s just incredibly tragic that someone decided to bring a gun to this incident and rain terror on our community,” he said.

Superintendent of Richmond Public Schools Jason Kamras said the attack occurred on what was “supposed to be a joyous day when our kids walk the stage and get their diploma”.

“I don’t have any more words on this, I’m tired of seeing people get shot, our kids get shot and I beg the entire community to stop,” he said.

Video caption,

Richmond mayor: ‘Day of joy changed in seconds and life’s changed forever’

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