Deadly Graduation Day shooting in Richmond led to 2 arrests at ceremonies this year, police chief says

Posted at 1:48 PM, Jun 09, 2024

RICHMOND, Va. -- Police Chief Rick Edwards said officers made two arrests at graduation ceremonies in Richmond nearly a year after a deadly Graduation Day shooting outside the Altria Theater.

"I don't know that it's gotten a lot of attention, but we were able to do that and keep those ceremony safe," Edwards said during an interview with Crime Insider Jon Burkett.

Edwards said he was headed to his son's recital when an all-page went off on June 6, 2023.

"It came off as an active threat, so an all-page hit all the senior command staff with a page saying something major in the city has just happened," Edwards explained. "So I turned my radio on and right away I knew that it was going to be an actual active shooter."

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After Huguenot High School graduates, family members and friends gathered outside the Altria Theater, what was supposed to be a celebration quickly spiraled into chaos, violence and confusion.

The melee left 12 people hurt, seven of them with gunshot injuries. Graduate Shawn Jackson and his stepfather Renzo Smith were pronounced dead at the scene.

The 18-year-old Jackson had an ongoing beef with shooter Amari Pollard and innocent people were caught in the mayhem in Monroe Park.

Right after the shots were fired, Pollard ran to a nearby parking deck where his mental state was captured on the body-worn cameras of VCU officers.

"Security and VCU Police that were able to take Mr. Pollard into custody," Edwards said. "They did they did a great job of ensuring that they were able to place him into custody without with very minimal force if any Richmond Police."

Edward said his officers were also on point amid the havoc with the men and women of the RPD quickly getting downtown.

"Trying to get entry and exit points. They were providing first aid to some of the victims. They were hunting for the suspect along with VCU Police," Edwards recalled. "As concerning as it was to me, it was impressive to hear that the supervisors on scene and the officers responding were doing it as we had trained."

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Edward said what happened on June 6 will be used for training purposes for years to come. In fact, one of Richmond's darkest days proved to be a crucial learning experience, helping to improve communication between several government agencies.

Edward said that since the first of the year, he has had several meetings with Richmond Public Schools and their security team to address outside chatter from the community and social media.

"Certainly, social media reviews, speaking with RPS Security to ensure that if there's ongoing concerns," Edward said.

Edwards said that the department spent a lot of time over the past year talking not only about the inside but the outside of venues.

"We knew there weren't guns inside the venue last year, but there were a lot of guns in cars," Edwards said. "So that's what we did this year. We had an overt and covert presence and we we're able to make two arrests of people with guns this year at graduation ceremonies."

The department is also devoting more officers to special operations and traffic control in hopes they never have to respond to a call like the one on June 6 again.

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