RICHMOND, Va. -- Two students were shot outside George Wythe High School in South Richmond during the school day Thursday.
"Today at 12:02 p.m.] we responded to George Wythe High School for a report of shots fired," Acting Richmond Police Chief Rick Edwards said in a 2 p.m. update. "Within one minute one of our officers from Third Precinct arrived on the scene."
Three minutes later, Edwards said officers found a juvenile male suffering from a gunshot wound. He said the shooting took place in the parking lot of the school.
The 16-year-old shooting victim was taken to the hospital with life-threatening injuries.
"While we were at this scene, working this case, a second juvenile male self transported to another local hospital suffering with a non life-threatening gunshot wound," Edwards added. "We believe both are students here at George Wythe."
Information about a suspect shooter and the reasons behind the shooting were not shared.
"Working in this case actively right now. We're talking with witnesses, we're interviewing subjects, we are reviewing camera footage and we are trying to get to the bottom of what happened today," Edwards said. "[We believe there was] only one shooter but other people involved that we're looking for."
Edwards said the suspects are still at large, which he called concerning, but he mentioned there was no threat to any other schools at this time.
He added it's unclear whether the students involved in the shooting were at school Thursday and then left the building or if the students never went to class at all.
“It's possible they did, but it's also possible that, while they are students, that they never went to school. That's part of the investigation right now," Edwards said.
Richmond Schools Superintendent Jason Kamras said Wythe is equipped with metal detectors, exteriors cameras, and two resource officers who responded to the shooting and are assisting in the investigation.
George Wythe was placed on lockdown and continued the school day in lock-and-teach mode.
"We are planning to have a regular dismissal at 4 p.m. which is our normal time. However, we know some parents of course, would like to pick up their students and so we are asking any families who would like to do that to come to the Midlothian side of the football field where if they bring in ID we can retrieve their student bring them out and they can take them home," Kamras said.
When asked about his message for the community, Kamras asked for help.
"We need the entire village, all of Richmond to support us. The amount of gun violence in the city has just got to stop. We're asking for everybody to pitch in on that effort. There are too many guns in the city, and they're being used too often," he said. "Our thoughts, our prayers, our hearts are with the families of the victims this afternoon and we are praying for their recovery."
It's a message echoed by School Board Chair Stephanie Rizzi, who represents the district in which Wythe is located.
"We can't do it all. The board can't do it all. RPS can't do it all. We need community engagement and we need more of it," Rizzi said. "There's so many people I think who have resources that could help us with especially things like this. I have really worked so hard to bring awareness and no one has really responded."
Rizzi said she has been raising safety concerns about Wythe for years including problems with students who leave the building during the day.
"In the last, I would say a year and a half, I've seen fewer and fewer children outside of the building during the school day, but it's obvious that this is still an issue," Rizzi said.
She also remains concerned about the wooded area right next to the school. During her years as a school board member, she said she has consistently pushed to have the woods cleared out, because she said the area is dangerous and has low visibility. She said students will oftentimes hangout in the woods during school hours.
She said she has gone back and forth with the city and police about the issues but has not received any updates.
"I'm furious that it's now taken this to get people's attention. I knew that eventually something like this was going to happen," Rizzi said.
Police said Thursday's shooting happened in the parking lot right beside the woods. One of the victims was later found by officers with a gunshot wound in the woods.
If you have information that could help investigators, call Detective K. Hyde at 804-646-3613 or Crime Stoppers at 804-780-1000. The P3 Tips Crime Stoppers app for smartphones also may be used. All Crime Stoppers reporting methods are anonymous.
This is a developing story, so anyone with more information can email email@example.com to send a tip.