RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — A new street sign in Richmond honors the memory of a mother and her infant daughter who were killed in a shooting last year.
The sign for ‘Sharnez and Neziah Hill Lane’ was unveiled during Mother’s Day weekend. It was placed outside of the Belt Atlantic Apartment complex on the city’s southside after Hill and her 3-month-old baby were shot to death.
Richmond police said the mother and her daughter were attending a party on April 27, 2021, and were caught in the crossfire of a shooting at the apartment complex. One of the five suspects was recently sentenced to around 52 years in prison.
Councilwoman Stephanie Lynch attended the street dedication ceremony, and said Hill and her baby’s homicide, while a tragedy, drew attention to the need for more resources in the community.
“We wrapped our arms around this community because we recognized so much trauma in the community,” she said. “Not only have community members lived through this incident, but multiple incidents in their life.”
Lynch and other community leaders came together to form a trauma response team that focuses on the Belt Atlantic community.
“We’re there and we have that network of support to kind of put out that call and say ‘Who’s got this?’ and that is something we never had before,” Lynch said.
The team was renamed the Hill Family Response Team. It provides direct assistance to families for support like case management, mental health, and conflict mediation.
The group is made up of clinicians, faith leaders, civic association leaders and public safety members.
Lynch added Donte McCuthchen, cousin of the victims and pastor of Love Cathedral Community Church, is tapped to fill the role of program coordinator for the response team.
The complex’s property managers allowed the response team to use their space for meetings, said Lynch. In that space, New Life Deliverance Tabernacle holds programs three times a week with up to 30 kids.
She added that Denise Hill, Sharnez’s mother and Neziah’s grandmother, is a pillar in the community and has been pivotal in their efforts.
“This group has connected practitioners from across the city. When other shootings have happened, when other crises have happened, we can send out an email or a notification to the group and say ‘Hey, what can you help with?” Lynch said.
Since the homicide, the trauma response team has donated meals to families, helped students with school work and stepped in to mitigate crimes –like other shootings– at the complex; and more recently when a woman was charged for dropping an infant outside of a third-story window.
“A lot of our work has been helping people transition out of Belt Atlantic and get to that next step in their life. We’ve helped folks get a better job with a more fulfilling career,” Lynch said.
Last year, city council members set aside $500,000 for the trauma response team.
At the next city council meeting, members are expected to vote on the official transfer of funds to the Richmond Behavioral Health Authority’s foundation, as they will act as the fiscal agent.
Lynch said after the official transfer, Richmond City Council will be able to give out micro-grants to families who need assistance like with case management or intervention.
She added that they hope to also receive some funding from one of the city’s gun violence prevention grants.
“[Hill’s] motherly light has touched so many others in that community. She was someone that wanted to give back and spread positivity back into the community,” Lynch said.