Richmond mom opens up about George Wythe High School shooting: 'I thought my child was going to die'

Posted at 5:53 PM, May 09, 2023
and last updated 2023-05-09 19:12:44-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- Through tears, Blanca Sandoval recounted receiving the scariest phone call of her life. It was the call alerting her that her 16-year-old son Victor Sandoval, a sophomore at George Wythe High School in Richmond, was shot in the school's parking lot.

"They called me and told me that my child had been shot and I had to be there urgently, but they wouldn't tell me whether my child was alive, whether he was in a secure situation," Sandoval told CBS 6 through a translator. "I thought my child was going to die."

Police said the shooting happened on April 27 around noon during school hours.

Victor, one of two students who were shot, suffered the most severe injuries.

Almost two weeks later, he remained in the intensive care unit at VCU Medical Center.

His mother said he's currently in a "very delicate" position and has already gone through three surgeries.

Wythe victim.png
Blanca Sandoval and her son Victor.

“It's 24-hour work. I’m here almost all the time, and it's really hard for me because I have kids at home, and they also need my attention. It's just been very difficult because I feel like I'm letting them down, and I'm just nearing a point where I feel like I can barely keep going," Sandoval said. "My kid is suffering right now. I feel like I'm living in a standstill."

Sandoval said she still doesn't know much about what exactly led up to the shooting.

The last time she heard from authorities, she said she was told that the shooter grabbed a gun out of a car as kids were gathered outside, fired shots and that a bullet struck Victor.

She said Victor did not know the alleged shooter, who police identified as 18-year-old Wythe student David Gutierrez.

“[I] send [my] kids every day to school thinking that, not only are they going to learn every day, but it's also a secure and safe place," Sandoval said.

According to an internal email to the school board, Richmond Schools Superintendent Jason Kamras said Victor reported to school the day of shooting, but he left through a door around 11 a.m., an hour before he was shot in the parking lot.

RPS policy states that children under 18-years-old must be released to a parent in order to leave during school hours.

Sandoval questioned the enforcement of the school security and said she felt, in part, that the school failed to keep Victor safe.

"They should be putting more attention to the people that come in and out," Sandoval said. “There should be security guards and people checking the doors just to make sure people aren't leaving the school during school hours.”

Emails dating back to October 2022 revealed Wythe's school board representative Stephanie Rizzi, Superintendent Kamras, and security officials acknowledged "grave concerns" about children congregating in the parking lot and unsupervised students leaving through side doors amid "security challenges" at the school.

At the time, Rizzi said the issues were "deeply problematic" and Kamras admitted RPS "needed to do better." A security team proposed a series of solutions including monitoring the exits and increasing a presence in the parking lot, but RPS has not confirmed to CBS 6 which security measures were implemented back in October when those concerns were raised.

“These students don’t deserve to be put at risk because of gun violence and a lack of security," Sandoval said. "It's the responsibility of the adults in the building to take care of them."

Though she's heartbroken, Sandoval is also hopeful that Victor will still go on to achieve his goals. She said he wanted to try out for the football team, graduate high school, and become a chef one day.

“It’s just one of his dreams, and it hurts her so bad that something worse could happen and that he might not be able to get through this," Sandoval said.

Sandoval, a mother of three, said Victor does not have insurance and is worried about the mounting medical bills.

She and her husband have been taking turns staying at the hospital, which has put them out of work.

She created a GoFundMe to help cover medical costs and other expenses. You can contribute here.

"I just am in shock at imagining what the bill is going to end up afterwards and [I] really do need that support," Sandoval said.

Her message to other parents: "Just dedicate more time and care to your kids. Make sure they're educated on the dangers of weapons and guns especially."

Depend on CBS 6 News and for in-depth coverage of this important local story. Anyone with more information can email to send a tip.

EAT IT, VIRGINIA restaurant news and interviews

The CBS 6 Problem Solvers are Working For You.

Contact the CBS 6 Problem Solvers

📱 Download CBS 6 News App
The app features breaking news alerts, live video, weather radar, traffic incidents, closings and delays and more.