Richmond, Va. (AP) — A gunman opened fire minutes after graduating from a high school. In Richmond, Virginia, an 18-year-old graduate was targeted after a long-standing dispute with him, police said Wednesday.
Shawn Jackson, 18, and his father, Lorenzo Smith, 36, were both killed Tuesday in a shooting that sent hundreds fleeing in panic outside the state capital’s Altria Theater after a Huguenot High School graduation ceremony. Five others were injured in the shooting, and at least 12 others suffered other injuries or were treated for anxiety due to the riot, police said.
Richmond Interim Police Chief Rick Edwards said the shooting suspect, Amari Pollard, 19, knew Jackson and the two had been in a dispute for more than a year. Edwards said the nature of the dispute is still under investigation.
“It is aimed at one person. … We know at this point,” Edwards said during a news conference Wednesday.
Pollard was arraigned Wednesday morning on two counts of second-degree murder, said Colette McEachin, Richmond’s top prosecutor. Pollard said he wanted to hire an attorney, so the court continued the case until a hearing later this month, McEachin wrote in an email. Pollard was ordered held without bond. Court records did not immediately list an attorney who could speak on his behalf.
Jackson was receiving his diploma at the graduation ceremony and had walked with his father to a nearby park to reunite with their family when the shooting began, said Tameka Jackson-Smith, Jackson’s mother and Smith’s wife. He claimed Smith was Jackson’s father, while Edwards referred to Smith as his stepfather.
Jackson-Smith told The Associated Press that she and Smith’s 9-year-old daughter were hit by a car in the ensuing chaos. Jackson-Smith said the girl was treated for leg injuries and released from the hospital.
Jackson-Smith said the family watched the graduation ceremony and then parted in a large crowd after they walked out. “He was so happy — God — because he graduated. He worked hard,” she said of her son.
She was walking towards her husband and son when she saw a man run up behind them and start shooting.
“He runs and shoots. My daughter was next to me and I saw her hit by a car. My daughter-in-law almost got hit by a car. I tried to catch them,” she said.
Edwards said Pollard attended the graduation ceremony, then went outside, where he had some sort of “interaction” with Jackson, then went to his car to retrieve a handgun. Other guns were also recovered from the scene, Edwards said.
Edwards said authorities plan to find the handgun. He said it wasn’t immediately clear how Pollard obtained it because at age 19, he couldn’t afford to buy a handgun from a licensed dealer.
A federal judge in Virginia It formed the government last month A federal law prohibiting licensed federal gun dealers from selling handguns to youths under the age of 21 violates the Second Amendment and is unconstitutional. The Justice Department has filed a motion asking the judge to stay any restraining orders he may order until the government decides whether to appeal his ruling and any appeals are decided.
According to Edwards, no officers were injured and no officers discharged their weapons amid the incident.
Richmond Public Schools Superintendent Jason Kamras said he didn’t know Jackson personally but shook his hand and congratulated him at the ceremony 20 minutes before his death.
“I can’t shake the image of him on the floor receiving CPR,” still in his graduation gown, Kamras said.
Jackson-Smith said her son enjoys rapping and making music videos, and plays soccer, basketball and baseball. “He was the best in any sport he touched,” he said.
She said her husband, also known as “Renzo”, was a soldier and a truck driver.
“My husband is very sweet,” she said. “He’s a caretaker, he’s everything you want in a person.”
Edwards said the five people injured in the shooting did not have life-threatening injuries.
The superintendent said all remaining high school grades will be rescheduled for next week and will be held in schools instead of theaters. Security will be strengthened, he said.
Edwards said police are asking people who were near the scene of the shooting to call Tipline and send the FBI videos or other images on their phones.