He was arrested after the graduation day mass shooting in Richmond. His lawyers will claim self-defense.

Shooting after high school gradation Richmond
Posted at 11:54 AM, Jul 28, 2023
and last updated 2023-07-28 18:42:29-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- A judge nolle prossed, or dropped, two murder charges originally filed against Amari Pollard related to the June 6 mass shooting outside the Altria Theater in Richmond, at the request of the Richmond Commonwealth’s Attorney's office.

Pollard, 19, was initially charged with the second-degree murder of Huguenot High graduate Shawn Jackson and Jackson's stepfather Renzo Smith.

Prosecutors told the judge on Friday morning that Pollard was initially charged by a magistrate using the information available on the day of the mass shooting.

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The Commonwealth said that through the investigation that followed, “we do not believe that there’s probable cause to support the charges.”

Pollard was indicted on Wednesday on one count of first-degree murder and one count of use of a firearm to commit a felony pertaining only to Shawn Jackson.

“Today what we’ve seen is the Commonwealth has articulated at this point there’s not sufficient evidence that Mr. Pollard shot [Renzo Smith],” Jason Anthony, Pollard’s defense attorney, said.

Anthony told CBS 6 outside of the John Marshall Courthouse that they will claim Pollard acted in self-defense when the case goes to a jury trial.

“A big part of what is considered in a self-defense case is who brought the fight. Not who finished it,” he said.

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The Friday morning hearing in Richmond General District Court was attended by both Pollard's family and Jackson’s family.

Jackson’s cousin, Bobby Williams Jr., said that tensions are high within their family and they’re trying to process what took place.

He also addressed the defense’s claim of self-defense.

“Amari Pollard was not a graduate that particular day. So, Shawn couldn’t have started an event that he should’ve been at it,” Williams said. "Amari made a decision to address whatever dispute that was taking place that's been, you know, projected in the media. However, that was not the day to do it. He chose to do it anyway. And as a result, now, he has to deal with the consequences of his actions. Every action has a reaction."

CBS 6 Legal Analyst Todd Stone self-defense is an affirmative defense and would have to be raised and proven by Pollard's team during the trial.

"And it has to be sufficient to wipe away any malicious intent from the other side," said Stone. "Essentially, the defense is going to have to show, I think, that Amari Pollard was presented with deadly force of some sort and that he responded by firing shots back at Shawn Jackson. So, you know, if the facts are that Amari Pollard went to his car and got the handgun and came back, that can make it pretty tricky to raise the self defense argument in that situation. But, certainly not impossible."

"We, as defense attorneys, don't have a police force. We rely on the information that is given to us by the Commonwealth and beyond what has gone on in court, which I'm glad everybody was privy to, I can't comment on that," Anthony said when asked about the police allegation that Pollard went back to his car to get a gun.

As to who could be deemed or held responsible for Smith's death and the injuries to multiple other people, both police and prosecutors told CBS 6 the investigation is ongoing.

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