RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — The city of Richmond is still grappling with a spike in gun violence after a string of shootings over the weekend. Despite Mayor Levar Stoney and city officials declaring the trend a public health crisis last month, a rash of shootings and homicides continue. The troubling trend is one being seen in other parts of the country as well.
Gun violence has been plaguing the city for years and questions remain like ‘why’, ‘what’s being done to stop it’, and ‘when will it stop’. Some residents want to see more leadership and accountability from Richmond officials, while others believe the deep-rooted issue is bigger than one person. In the midst of it all, people are getting hurt and people continue to die.
It’s an unfortunate, yet all too familiar occurence in Richmond; flashing lights, crime tape, countless mugshots, numerous vicitms, and families ripped apart.
According to public crime data from the Richmond Police Department, in 2021 the city has surpassed the number of homicides at this time last year. As of June 27, 2021 there have been 29 homicides in the city and 23 of those were caused by firearms.
“Richmond is rallying around prevention and ready to mobilize,” Mayor Stoney said in a press conference last month.
In the beginning of May, Stoney alongside City Council members and VCU Health doctors declared gun violence a public health crisis. The announcement came shortly after a mother and infant were killed in a mass shooting in the city’s southside at the end of April.
Since the city’s announcement, officers have responded to over 40 reported shootings and six people have died to gun violence including Scottie Johnson and Da’Vonta McLaurin. Johnson was killed on Williamsburg Road while helping a friend in a ”wrong place, wrong time” crime; according to family. McLaurin was shot in the back of the head on Father’s Day in Shockoe Bottom.
On June 27, RPD responded to four shootings in less than twenty-four hours. A man was killed in the incident on 20th and East Broad, just blocks away from where McLaurin was killed. A juvenile was also hurt in the string of violence.
RPD Police Chief Gerald Smith has been working to curb the violence. Smith said the main causes for the uptick include pandemic stress and guns in the hands of the wrong people.
“We know that we are looking at young people who are doing these crimes as well as being victims of it,” Smith said during a recent press conference addressing violent crimes. “The pattern is starting to present itself to us, so we know where to go and what efforts to do and who to address.”
The city’s May declaration is expected to free up money for intervention programs and mentorship, but after two deadly weekends and an overall violent year some residents remain skeptical.
“I would never feel safe after 7 or 8 p.m.”
The Mayor, Chief Smith and the President of Richmond City Council declined our request for an on-camera interview on Monday. However, the mayor’s office told 8News they’re waiting for more funding, but in the meantime they’ve put together a work-group to make recommendations and are constantly working to get guns off the streets.
From the Mayor’s Office: “The city’s Gun Violence Prevention Framework Workgroup (GVP Workgroup) is a key element of the city’s community-rooted effort to address socio-economic factors that promote gun violence within the City of Richmond. The GVP Workgroup is comprised of individuals and families from communities most impacted by gun violence, survivors of gun violence, families of loved ones lost to gun violence, and representatives from community-based organizations and grassroots entities working closely with impacted communities. The GVP Workgroup is currently working on recommendations to prevent gun violence, with an emphasis on enhanced opportunities for youth and young adults and empowering communities that have experienced high rates of violence and trauma to access networks or resources, support and healing.”
All agencies are asking residents to speak up and call police if they see or know anything about any of the recent shooting. You can call the non-emergency number or Crime Stoppers.