RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Acting Chief Rick Edwards was joined by Mayor Levar Stoney and Superintendent Jason Kamras spoke at the Richmond Police Headquarters Wednesday afternoon, recounting their experiences and providing new details.
Edwards, spoke first, confirming the identities of the victims killed — 18-year-old Shawn Jackson and his stepfather, 36-year-old Lorenzo “Renzo” Smith — and the suspect — 19-year-old Amari Pollard — who was charged with two counts of second-degree murder.
According to Edwards, Pollard and Jackson knew each other and “had an ongoing dispute” that had been taking place for over a year. He also said Jackson was Pollard’s intended target.
“Last night, also, there were questions about the individuals involved in this being involved in gangs. At this point, our investigators have not determined that,” Edwards said. “There is no information that we have that they are gang members.”
Edwards said that Pollard was in attendance to view someone else who was graduating. Police believe that an interaction with Jackson, caused Pollard to go to his car and retrieve a handgun, leading to the shooting.
While it is not known how Pollard obtained the handgun, Edwards said he would not have been able to legally purchase it himself due to his age.
According to Edwards, Pollard tried to run away from the scene but did not make it far before he was apprehended by officers. Pollard surrendered and was taken into custody without incident.
Pollard was arraigned on Wednesday morning. According to Edwards, further charges are still pending.
An update on the other victims who were shot during the incident was also provided. Edwards said the 31-year-old with life-threatening injuries last night has now had the severity of those injuries downgraded to non-life-threatening.
Edwards went on to say that after a “highly charged” event like this, there is a propensity for direct retaliation. In response, Richmond Police will continue to have a strong presence at future graduations.
“Not only did we have three Richmond Police officers on site when the shooting took place … We had seven other officers on Belvidere, directing traffic, that were on-scene within a minute,” Edwards said. “We need to attempt to deter these crimes. But if we have an officer right there and it still happens, it’s really challenging for us.”
Finally, Edwards shared a number of resources for the community, including a specific tipline number for the incident at 804-646-6741. Anyone with photos or video of the incident is encouraged to send them to the FBI Richmond Field Office website.
Mayor Levar Stoney was next to speak, extending thoughts and prayers to the families and friends of the victims.
“Our city, our community will not be defined by this violence. Huguenot High School will not be defined by this violence,” he said. “We will heal, we will recover and this will not break us … For Richmonders, this must be the time that we put down guns and lift up our hearts. This must be that moment.”
Superintendent Jason Kamras then took to the podium to speak on behalf of Richmond Public Schools (RPS).
“I didn’t know Shawn, but I shook his hand and wished him congratulations about 20 minutes before he died,” he said. “Those who did know Shawn described him as ‘bubbly’ and ‘the life of the party.’ Getting to the graduation stage was not easy for Shawn, nonetheless, he did it. And he was rightly proud — smiling and celebrating — like all his peers.”
A few minutes later, according to Kamras, Jackson was shot to death in Monroe Park in front of his family and friends.
“I can’t shake the image of him receiving CPR on the ground — still in his graduation gown,” Kamras said.
According to Kamras, Jackson was not the only RPS student to have been shot in the last 24 hours. Three students from Armstrong High School were injured in two other shootings.
“This just needs to stop,” Kamras said. “I’m tired of the vigils, the well-meaning thoughts and prayers and the hand-wringing. We need action. We need fewer guns on our streets. We need more mental health support for our children. We need more help from the state and the federal government on education, healthcare and housing. Let’s not make this a red issue or a blue issue — can’t we just make it a child issue? Can’t we agree that we all love our children and we need to do better by them?”
Kamras encouraged anyone in need of immediate crisis support to contact the Richmond Behavioral Health Authority Crisis line at 804-819-4100.