Police: Man who opened fire after high school graduation targeted graduate
By SARAH RANKIN
and DENISE LAVOIE
RICHMOND, Va.– A gunman who opened fire minutes after a high school graduation in Richmond, Virginia, targeted an 18-year-old graduate he had a long-running dispute with, police said Wednesday.
Shawn Jackson, 18, and his father, Lorenzo Smith, 36, were both killed Tuesday in the shooting, which sent hundreds fleeing in panic outside the state capital’s city-owned Altria Theater after the graduation ceremony for Huguenot High School. Five other people were wounded in the shooting.
Richmond Interim Police Chief Rick Edwards said the shooting suspect, Amari Pollard, 19, knew Jackson and the two had been embroiled in a dispute for more than a year. Edwards said the nature of the dispute is still being investigated.
“This was targeted at one individual … that’s what we know at this time,” 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 intends 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 had just received his diploma at the graduation ceremony and walked to a nearby park with his father to reunite with the rest of their family when the shooting started, said Tameeka Jackson-Smith, Jackson’s mother and Smith’s wife. She said Smith was Jackson’s father, while Edwards later referred to Smith as his stepfather.
Jackson-Smith told The Associated Press that her and Smith’s 9-year-old daughter was hit by a car in the chaos that erupted afterward. The girl was treated for leg injuries and released from the hospital, Jackson-Smith said.
Jackson-Smith said the family had watched the graduation, then got separated in a large crowd after they walked outside. “He was so happy — oh my God — because he got to graduate. He worked hard,” she said of her son.
She said she was walking toward her husband and son when she saw a man run up behind them and start shooting.
“He was just running and shooting. I had my daughter beside me and I saw her get hit by a car. My niece almost got hit by a car. I was trying to grab them,” she said.
Edwards said police believe Pollard attended the graduation, then went outside, where he had some kind of “interaction” with Pollard, and then then went to his car to retrieve a handgun.
Richmond Public Schools Superintendent Jason Kamras said he did not personally know Jackson but had shaken his hand and wished him congratulations at the ceremony about 20 minutes before he died.
“I can’t shake the image of him receiving CPR on the ground,” still in his graduation gown, Kamras said.
The superintendent said all remaining high school gradations will be rescheduled for next week and will be held at schools instead of at the theater. There will be enhanced security, he said.
Edwards said police are asking people who were near the shooting to call a tipline and send the FBI videos or other images they have on their phones.