Shooting after graduation ceremony in Virginia leaves two dead 1:46

(CNN) — Shawn Jackson, an 18-year-old graduate, and his stepfather, Renzo Smith, 36, were killed Tuesday in a shooting after a high school graduation ceremony in Richmond, Virginia, police said. Five other people were injured in the incident.

One suspect, 19-year-old Amari Pollard, was charged Wednesday morning with two counts of second-degree murder and is being held without bond, Interim Police Chief Rick Edwards said at a news conference. Pollard had an ongoing dispute with the 18-year-old victim and it was a targeted attack, Edwards said. Other charges are pending that could apply, he added.

A 9-year-old girl who was hit and injured by a vehicle amid the chaos that ensued after the shooting is also related to the family of the two people who died. According to Edwards, the girl is recovering from minor injuries. The rest of the victims are out of danger.

The shooter opened fire in Monroe Park, where hundreds of graduates and guests were gathered in front of the Altria Theater, the venue chosen by the Huguenot Institute to hold the ceremony.

"I didn't know Shawn, but I shook his hand and congratulated him about 20 minutes before he died," Jason Kamras, superintendent of Richmond Public Schools, said Wednesday. "I can't get the image of him receiving resuscitation on the floor, still in his graduation gown, out of my head."

Two people were killed and five wounded in a shooting outside the Altria Theater after the graduation ceremony at Huguenot High School in Richmond, Virginia, on Tuesday (Parker Michels-Boyce/The Washington Post/Getty Images)

Tuesday's shooting was one of at least 279 mass shootings in the United States so far this year, according to the Gun Violence Archive, which defines a mass shooting as one in which at least four people are shot, excluding the shooter.


The violence added Richmond to a long list of communities across the country that have had to deal with the terror of mass shootings in recent months, including those at a Texas shopping mall, a Tennessee school, a Kentucky bank and near a South Florida beach.

"This should have been a safe space," Edwards said Tuesday night. "It's incredibly tragic that someone decided to bring a gun and spread terror in our community."

  • Shooting outside graduation ceremony leaves at least 2 dead, several wounded in Richmond, Virginia, police say

The shooting happened just before 5:15 p.m. At the time, three off-duty officers who were working on event security heard gunshots and reported them on their radios, and officers working in nearby traffic responded, Edwards said.

"The first officers indicated that there had been a burst of gunfire, but it all ended quickly," he added.

The suspect fled on foot and was found and taken into custody nearby by security officers from nearby Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU), Edwards said. Monroe Park is part of VCU's Monroe Park campus.

Police initially announced they had arrested two people, but later said one of them was not involved in the shooting.

It's unclear how many guns were involved in the shooting.

Police seized four handguns at the scene, Edwards said Tuesday night. On Wednesday morning, he said the suspect had only one handgun, but others had been recovered at the scene of the shooting.

"I think there was an interaction at the scene, and then it appears that the suspect went to his vehicle to retrieve the weapon and then came back," he told reporters.

"He wouldn't have been able to buy a firearm by himself, because of his age," he added, in response to a reporter's question.

Shooting in Richmond.

Is nothing sacred anymore?

The shooting was followed by a lot of turmoil, according to Edwards.

"I heard the call on the radio and you could hear it from the chaos and screaming," he said.

"People were having panic attacks, they would throw themselves on the ground screaming," Edwards added. "Some people fell. A girl was hit by a car."

Jonathan Young, a member of the Richmond City School Board, described the chaos immediately after the shootings in a video posted by CNN affiliate WWBT.

"We were coming out of the building when we heard about 20 shots in a row," Young said. "The truth is that as a people we are tolerating the intolerable."

Naomi Wade was outside the Altria Theater selling flowers and teddy bears for graduates, she told CNN affiliate WTVR. Images of smiling graduates in robes and caps turned into scenes of panic when gunshots were heard, he said.

"Everyone literally started running for their lives, trampling on each other. They trampled on me. They trampled our entire stand. It was scary," Wade said.

  • Three Killed, Five Wounded in Shooting at New Mexico Motorcycle Rally

Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney condemned the shooting Tuesday and vowed that those involved would be brought to justice.

"Nothing is sacred anymore?" said Stoney at a news conference.

"This shouldn't happen anywhere," Stoney said. "A child should be able to go to graduation and walk around and enjoy achievement with their friends and family," he added.

Police vehicles are seen in a park where a gunman opened fire in Richmond, Virginia, on Tuesday.
From @GoadGatsby Twitter/Reuters

Kamras, the superintendent, noted that Jackson was not the only Richmond Public Schools district student shot in the past 24 hours.

"Last night, three Armstrong students were injured in two separate incidents. This has to stop," he said.

In addition, he called for support from state and federal authorities to deal with the violence.

The Huguenot High ceremony was the second graduation from a Richmond high school that took place Tuesday at the theater, and a third graduation ceremony scheduled there that day was canceled after the shooting, school officials said. Richmond Public Schools closed all schools Wednesday as a precaution, the system announced on its website.

The rest of this week's high school graduations in the district have also been canceled.

"We have been preparing for an event like this. We have prepared for it with our partners and with the hope that this day will not come," Edwards said. "But he came to Richmond."

CNN's Sara Smart and Jamiel Lynch contributed to this report.