HOLMBERG: Another downtown shooting strikes at the heart of the city

Posted at 11:53 PM, May 13, 2013
and last updated 2013-05-13 23:53:10-04

RICHMOND, VA. (WTVR)--The other victim, 29-year-old Dominique Lamont Richardson, died at VCU Medical Center after the 3 a.m. shooting that occurred as crowds milled in the area after a nearby club closed.

Residents who live in the apartments directly above the shooting told CBS-6 they heard 20 to 25 gunshots in rapid succession.

One of those residents said it sounded like more than one gun was being fired.

That many shots, that many sirens, awoke guests at the Hilton Garden hotel on the other side of the parking lot.

It was another blow for this crucial business and residential district five blocks from the state capitol.

Those with a memory for Richmond crime may remember similar shootings in the same area 10 and 20 years ago.

A block away, 10 years ago this April, I had stepped outside of the newspaper when shots rang out at 3rd and Broad Streets. 12:50 a.m. The streets were packed with thousands of party-goers flooding downtown for the BET Hip Hop Fest at Kings Dominion. The hotels were filled with tens of thousands of people visiting the brand new convention center. All would hear of the 20-year-old Chesterfield man shot dead in the face right there.

Also right there, in the summer of 1993,  was one of the bloodiest shooting scenes I’ve ever seen. Gunfire erupted at 4th and Broad Streets at 4 p.m. The city was packed with Jehovah’s Witnesses and taxidermists for their conventions. A beef between young locals left one passerby shot. One young victim fell to the sidewalk with a gruesome head wound. A second victim, shot right through the heart, ran a full block before he collapsed. The Broad Street sidewalk looked like a slaughterhouse floor.

By then, the flagship department stores in center city had closed as fear gripped the city during the crack cocaine infestation. Smaller businesses quickly followed, until most of the storefronts on Broad were empty.

Many remain that way today. The portion of the Broad Street corridor has been one of the slowest to feel the revitalization that has spread the much of the rest of the city.

Somehow, there has to be a way to keep bad blood between young people from other neighborhoods from spilling all over the heart of the city.

Here’s a column I wrote for the Times-Dispatch the day after the 2003 slaying:


Richmond Times-Dispatch - Monday, April 14, 2003

Author: Mark Holmberg ; Contact Mark at (804) 649-6822 or

Gunshots rang out as I stepped out of The Times-Dispatch building at 12:50 a.m. yesterday. Sounded close. I grabbed our police scanner and ran toward Broad Street, a block away.

"Looks bad radio," the first Richmond officer on the scene told dispatchers.

That's quite an understatement.

There, in the 300 block of East Broad , a young man was lying on his back on the sidewalk, his arms flung out over his head, shot dead in the face. His life ended in front of a clothing shop, just 100 yards from the area's new $170 million convention center.

The young man wasn't the only victim. The shooting in the heart of downtown will have an impact, like it or not.

Downtown was packed. Many of the 20,000 young people who had attended the sixth annual Black Entertainment Television College Hip-Hop Fest at Paramount's Kings Dominion in Hanover County had flooded downtown Richmond, as they do every year.

Broad , Belvidere and many other streets basically were parking lots. The sidewalks on Broad were shoulder to shoulder. It was the place to be - and that's a good thing.

Plus, there were an estimated 21,000 conventioneers in town for Amway, Sweet Adelines International (the women's barbershop-style choral organization) and other convention groups, a police supervisor said as officers blocked off both sides of East Broad Street and began working the homicide.

Let's hope most of the conventioneers were in their hotels at the time.

Three friends of the victim told me, and investigators, that he had been wildly intoxicated, although police have not released any verification of that account. The trio said they had been trying to tone him down when someone in the crowd got a gun and shot him, even though companions of the shooter tried to stop him from firing.

All night long, I had been listening to the police scanner and checking with different police departments in the metro area, hoping everything would go smoothly at the hip-hop fest and the citywide after-party.

As I've written before, I'm sick and tired of the tiny minority of young, black thugs ruining every single good-time event that draws big crowds of young African-Americans. (Need we mention the Freaknik troubles in Atlanta or similar problems in Virginia Beach?)

But for five years, the BET event had gone relatively smooth.

But two young men were shot, one critically, in the parking lot at Kings Dominion on Saturday at 8:55 p.m. as the vast crowd filtered out of the parking lot. The two victims were from Dale City. The alleged perpetrator, from Woodbridge, apparently had a run-in with the two victims, police told me yesterday.

Many in the crowd stalled at the downtown shooting scene knew precisely what the shootings meant for young blacks, even though there is no known link to the downtown homicide and the event at Kings Dominion. Voices cursed and cried out in anger about another prime party night marred by violence.

It's too early to say, but we can guess that future BET events at Kings Dominion may be in jeopardy. All because of a couple of violent idiots among an otherwise well-behaved crowd of 20,000.

And this homicide can't help but have an impact on the health of the new convention center. As we've reported previously, one national convention planner said she wouldn't recommend the Greater Richmond Convention Center as a destination because of its dismal surroundings that left her feeling unsafe.

Conventioneers who were awake early yesterday could've easily looked out their hotel windows and seen a body stretched out on the sidewalk just a block and a half away.

I couldn't help remembering the wildly bloody afternoon of July 3, 1993, when - in almost the same location - one man was shot dead in the heart and another was wounded critically in the head. At the time, the city played host to more than 20,000 Jehovah's Witnesses and a taxidermist convention, many of whom were on the street.

That fear-fostering behavior can't happen in a city that's trying to present itself as a great place to live and visit.

Yesterday's column about violence in the city touched on some of the root problems that cause Richmond to keep shooting itself in the foot.

We're all in this together.

It's high time we face the truth about what black-on-black crime has done to this city, and its unfair reflection on the black culture.

We can't afford another 10 years of being a city that is racing for rebirth - but keeps slipping on blood.