RICHMOND, Va. -- U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy reached out to Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney this week with concerns about the mayor's mental health.
"[He] wanted to know if I was getting counseling," Mayor Stoney told Crime Insider Jon Burkett in an exclusive interview amidst a violent week in Richmond. "I told him I'm good. I'm more worried about the kids. Those at the graduation, the kids, the faculty, and the parents. That's who I'm mostly worried about."
Mayor Stoney was referencing Tuesday's deadly mass Graduation Day shooting outside the Altria Theater in Richmond.
"It's unfathomable that someone would go into a crowd of high school kids, graduates, children, and open fire," the mayor said. "I think just not about the trauma of the family losing a graduate and a stepfather, but also all the trauma inflicted on kids that were there."
The Graduation Day shooting was just one of a handful of violent acts this week that left 12 people shot in Richmond over a 72-hour span.
The violence has left Richmond Police major crimes detectives working long hours as forensics collects evidence to build criminal cases. Mayor Stoney believes there is one consistent factor in the crimes plaguing the city.
“There’s too many damn guns. Too many damn guns,” said Stoney. “Obviously guns in the hands of the wrong people will always cause problems but, again, there’s too many damn guns.”
Richmond Police hopes to make some progress in taking illegal guns off the street over the next few weeks with help from Virginia State Police during Operation Safe Summer.
Beginning this weekend, law enforcement will add resources to tasks such as confiscating weapons from violent offenders.
But an effort like Operation Safe Summer requires stability at the command level for a police department that is understaffed by about 120 officers.
The Mayor continues to mull whom to offer the permanent job of Richmond Police Chief, though Rick Edwards has served as the Acting Chief for almost eight months and said he applied for the post.
“It seems now that Rick Edwards has been in place, that stability is there. He has the troops behind him. What’s holding you back from going into these summer months and saying, ‘this is our guy’?” Jon Burkett asked Mayor Stoney.
“I think Chief Edwards is doing an amazing job and I think you saw that on full display this past Tuesday,” the mayor replied. “He has a great team behind him as well. He’s been able to galvanize the department and we will make some decisions soon. We will let the decision and process play itself out.”
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