Eight students shot since Easter, Richmond to enforce curfew to help curb violence

Posted at 12:43 PM, Apr 15, 2024
and last updated 2024-04-15 12:52:39-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- Richmond Police Chief Rick Edwards said it's been a terrible two weeks in Richmond. Eight Richmond Public Schools students have been among those shot in the City of Richmond since Easter.

The police chief, Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney, and Richmond Schools Superintendent Jason Kamras addressed the situation at a Monday press conference and laid out how the city planned to stop the violence.

Richmond Police Chief Rick Edwards

It's been a terrible two weeks in our city.

Kids have seen their parents killed.

Parents have seen their kids killed.

Eight people have been killed since March 31 of this year, four of those, unfortunately, have been juveniles.

We've cleared one by arrest.

One is pending a self-defense claim.

And we're very close to coming to a conclusion on several of those cases right now.

The common theme in these murders are simple arguments that have escalated into gunfire.

Taking a gun to an argument may make you feel safer, but it doesn't make you safer.

In some of these cases, adults have tried to intervene.

In some of these cases, adults have exacerbated the situation.

So what is RPD doing about this?

Last night I called in all of our property crimes detectives, put them in uniforms and marked police cars, and we had them patrolling our hotspots.

I've also asked the area Virginia State Police to come in this week and start assisting us.

They're focusing on our 21 hottest spots in Richmond and they'll be doing that all week.

We will also be providing security and extra police presence at pickup and drop-off locations for Richmond Public Schools particularly focusing on the East End schools.

Every one of these cases this past week, we've had Richmond community mediators responding, we've had the police chaplains, and our partners in the Trauma Healing and Response Network.

Five of our homicide victims were shot in these hotspots.

Other people that were shot and wounded were in these hotspots.

We know where these are occurring.

So that's why we're going to be focusing upon them.

Last year, we instituted Operation Safe Summer, that started June 10 and lasted the entire summer and we saw a 30% reduction in gun violence.

We saw 176 illegal firearms taken out of the hands of criminals.

And we saw 10 Glock switches taken that summer.

We had a lot of success, and it led to an overall 7% reduction in violent crime last year.

We can't wait until June, so we're starting this week.

My partners in the Virginia State Police, the ATF, FBI, the United States Attorney's Office, and the Commonwealth's Attorney's office are all on board to assist us.

And we will start that this Friday.

I do have some asks of the community.

At this time, I'm asking if you know about illegal firearms, please let the Richmond Police Department know 780 1000 You can remain anonymous, we need to get these illegal firearms off of our streets.

Notify the Richmond Police Department if you are seeing social media beefs going.

We're asking that you tell us about that. So we can try to intervene. We do that on a case by case basis. But there are opportunities for more of that.

And we're asking our parents to help us lower the temperature of what's going on right now.

We will also be focusing on curfew.

Starting right now at 11 p.m., we're asking parents to bring their children inside their homes where they can be safe.

Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney

I want to begin by thanking you and the Richmond Police Department for all you do for the City of Richmond.

And I want to commend you and the RPD for your devoted efforts to curb gun violence in our city.

These last couple of weeks have been difficult for all of us, not just for the families involved not just for those who have lost individuals, but also I know for the hard-working officers as well who devote their lives to keeping these communities safe.

I want to thank you also for moving up the timeline of the Operation Safe Summer Part Two as well.

We did see some great value out of that last year and reducing crime during the summer months when our kids are home.

We're going to get that ratchet up a little bit earlier this year. I don't think that's necessary.

My fellow Richmonders it pains me once again to be in front of you today to talk about an issue that we unfortunately know too well in this 60 square miles and that's the issue of gun violence.

And it's the chief stated over the past several weeks, not just here in the city, but in the region at large, we've seen some devastating, senseless acts of violence, people losing their lives, people being maimed by a firearm.

And I want you to know that my heart hurts because at the end of the day, we're talking about young people losing their lives.

Teenagers who've got a lot of life to live and their life on this earth has been cut short, because the inability for us to solve conflict without a firearm.

So I have a direct message to the young people who choose to pick up a gun and pull the trigger, we will find you, you will be held accountable. I can guarantee you that.

And here's the thing. We have all these folks, all the folks in our community, who all supportive of the efforts to holding you accountable.

There are repercussions for injuring and killing someone in this city, you can be sure that.

For the parents and guardians of those who are choosing to involve themselves in gun violence, we need to step up, we need you to step the game up.

And for those parents who do not have the ability to do that we, as a community at large, are here to help.

If you are running into a problem that makes it difficult for you to care for your child, to parent your famil, please let us know. The doors are open. Whether it's in the faith community, the nonprofit community, organizations who are in these neighborhoods, we all want to do our part.

But we do request that you do your part as well.

And here's the thing, as a person who grew up in a family, a single-family home raised by my grandmother, I know there are challenges out there.

It is hard to to meet the rent, to put food on the table.

But the top responsibility of parenthood is to care for your child no matter where they are or what time of day it is.

After 11 o'clock, I want our parents and our guardians to ask where are our children? Where are our children?

So when I say I need our parents to step up, I need the parents to step up, I need our guardians to step up, and I need our community to rise to the occasion as well.

We've lost young people seriously for years and generations.

Folks, unfortunately, who have fallen through the cracks. I've talked to the parents I know the stories and the stories behind some of the loss that we've experienced the last day that will devastate you.

Despite their best efforts, they're trying to try to make it work. And sometimes it doesn't work out for them.

But it doesn't mean that there's a lane of violence that you should go down.

We want to prevent that.

So once again, we are throwing the entire kitchen sink at this ongoing problem.

We're gonna use everything in our Human Services Division, the trauma-informed network, all of it to ensure that we reduce the amount of these incidents occurring in our neighborhoods.

I live in a neighborhood where I hear the sound of gunfire.

A lot of us if you live in the East End or you live in South Side, if you live in North Richmond, you hear a chorus of gunfire far too regularly.

There are things that we can do in terms of enforcement, which we will and the things we can do in terms of wraparound, which we will.

But there are some things that we just can't do. And we can't care for every single child in this city.

It's roughly 30,000 or more. I don't know what the census data says something like that.

All these individuals here at City Hall, the police department, all the teachers who devote their time and effort to loving these young people, they can't be home with those kids at night. Just can't.

So that's why I'm calling upon our parents and our guardians for us to step our game up.

Step our game up and if you need our help to do that, I'm raising my hand. We are all in. We're all in.

My responsibility is to bring the superintendent here who unfortunately, since he has been the superintendent of our schools, has seen too many young people lose their lives, in our neighborhoods, in our neighborhoods.

And I know this is as traumatic for him as it is for all of us here. Because that's one less person who is going to be in the classroom, one less person who's going to get that high school diploma and go off in his world.

Richmond Superintendent Jason Kamras

Thank you, Mr. Mayor. Good morning, everyone.

First, I just wanted to bring condolences on behalf of the school board chair and Miss Stephanie Rizzi, who, unfortunately, was not able to be here today.

I also want to recognize that we are joined by two of our school board members, Mrs. Cheryl Burke, and Mrs. Mariah White, thank you so much for joining us here.

And I know the whole school board wanted to be in attendance as well. I also want to thank Chief Edwards for his help.

RPD has been an extraordinary partner to us at RPS whenever there have been issues in the community. We have always felt that RPD has had our back and our kids' back. And so we appreciate that.

And certainly, to you, Mr. Mayor, from the very first day that I have taken this role, you have always been a great partner to RPS in supporting our kids.

As has been shared. It's been a difficult couple of weeks since Easter.

Eight RPS students have been shot and four have died. Just since Easter.

The school communities that have been affected are Martin Luther King Middle School, Chimborazo Elementary School, Armstrong High School, Bellevue Elementary School, Richmond Alternative School, and Thomas Jefferson High School.

As you well know, our young people have friends and family members who extend across the city. So really all of our schools have been deeply affected. And what I think folks don't realize is these friends and family members of those who die, they show up to school the next day.

And it's our teachers and our counselors and our psychologists and our food nutrition folks and our bus drivers and our custodians who stand in the gap and do what we ask of them, which is to teach and to lead and to serve with love.

And so to all the young people out there and to families I want you to know, RPS is a place where your children will be loved.

All that we ask in return is that you do everything you possibly can to help our young people make the best possible choices, the best possible decisions, so that these arguments do not become deadly.

The team pulled the data for me and since 2019 — 169, juveniles in the city of Richmond have been shot. Nearly all of those were RPS students.

Think about the impact that has across friends and family members and teachers, our community, our schools, they are hurting. And they should be focused on the SOLs which we're giving in two weeks and instead, many of them this morning, and last week and tomorrow are holding grief sessions.

Because that's what we do.

We will always stand in the gap for our kids.

But we have to change this.

Last week I had the opportunity to briefly attend a standing-room-only funeral for the 14 year old MLK student who was slain. Councilmember Robertson was there. And what struck me is all of the kids from MLK who were able to attend they all have the T-shirts with the picture of their friend who they lost.

What is heartbreaking is that so many of our kids have T-shirts. Many of them have multiple T-shirts.

No child should have a T-shirt of a friend that they lost to gun violence, let alone two, three or four of them.

So as the chief said, as the mayor said, I beg of our community, please do everything you can.

If you hear something, say something, young people, if you're struggling, talk to your teacher, talk to your counselor, talk to a pastor talk to anyone who might be able to help you. This has to stop. Thank you.

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