Richmond community comes together to talk and cry after Graduation Day shooting

Posted at 7:38 PM, Jun 07, 2023
and last updated 2023-06-07 19:38:33-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- Parents, grandparents, children, and neighbors gathered at New Life Deliverance Tabernacle on Decatur Street in Richmond on Wednesday for a "Cry for Care." The program was created to give community members an opportunity to grieve following the deadly shootings outside a high school graduation ceremony in Richmond the day before.

"Never in a thousand years would I have thought that I would have to have a conversation about going to a graduation and being safe," a grandfather of a high school graduating senior said. "I thought about all the kids that witnessed that and what they’re going to have to deal with for the rest of their life."

Cry for Care

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.

Dr. Shedrick McCall, with McCall professional counseling, said coming together to talk in times like these can be helpful.

"Talking decreases anxiety. Talking helps you understand that there are others like you. Talking helps you understand that you’re not alone," he said. Depression has stages and all the emotions that come with death are normal. “Help them understand you’re going to be angry, you’re going to have denial, that you’re going to have depression, bargaining and then acceptance.”

Dr. Shedrick McCall
Dr. Shedrick McCall

Cruz Sherman, a former gang member turned founder of Virginians in Action, attended the event and shared his story for the first time in two decades.

"I pulled a gun on a man 30 years ago. Pulled the trigger. The gun didn’t go off," he said.

Sherman called out to those who turned their lives around to step up and speak out.

"Those that have been in gangs. Those that have been transformed need to come back out now and help to bring those that are still struggling," he said. "Those that want to get out of gangs. That don’t want to be in the criminal life, to show them that there is something different. I am that something different.”

Pastor Robert Winfree also reminded everyone in attendance that now was the time to do and be someone different.

"The name of the church is indicative of who we are. The name is new life and deliverance and tabernacle," he said. “New life means we can deal and help you to create a new life. It’s our job to help you create a new life because this life has been tethered and torn and sometimes demolished.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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