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'Best' VCU student killed in Richmond: 'Major change is needed to streets and sidewalks'

Posted at 12:52 PM, May 05, 2023

RICHMOND, Va. -- The man killed Thursday evening on West Main Street in downtown Richmond was identified Friday as Shawn Soares, VCU President Michael Rao wrote in an email to the VCU community.

"We are very sad to share that VCU student Shawn Soares died in a traffic accident Thursday evening along the 300 block of West Main St," Rao wrote. "The Richmond Police Department crash team is investigating the cause."

Soares was working toward a Master's degree in Business Administration, according to his social media profile.

Shawn Soares
Shawn Soares

Crime Insider sources told initially told Jon Burkett thatThursday night's fatal crash involved a scooter and an SUV. They later clarified the scooter may have just been parked on the sidewalk when it was struck by the crashed vehicle.

"Officers arrived and found two vehicles had been operating westbound on West Main Street when they collided," a Richmond Police spokesperson wrote in a Friday afternoon email. "One vehicle left the roadway and struck a pole and an adult male on the sidewalk. The vehicle continued and impacted a building."

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A dark-colored SUV appeared smashed into the side of a law firm building, just across the street from the VCU School of Business.

The initial 911 call came around 6:30 p.m. for the 300 block of W. Main Street, near N. Madison Street.

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Police investigate a crash along the 300 block of W, Main Street in Richmond, Va. on Thursday, May 4, 2023.

"Shawn’s death is tragic and heartbreaking. I knew Shawn and worked with him on many issues," Rao's email continued. "He was an exceptionally positive force in our world and was living to make the lives of everyone better. He was one of the best students I’ve ever known."

Soares is at least the second VCU student to be killed in an on-campus crash this semester.

Mahrokh Khan, 23, was hit and killed while crossing Laurel and West Main streets, which is the intersection adjacent to the Gladding Residence Center, the Altria Theater. and Monroe Park, in January.

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"It is clear that major change is needed to the city streets and sidewalks on and adjacent to our campuses," Rao continued. "The university is 100 percent committed to making improvements and is counting on the city to partner with us. Work has already begun on immediate and long-term changes. Since earlier this semester, VCU Police have dramatically increased traffic enforcement, resulting in 695 traffic stops, 228 warnings, 811 citations, and 61 arrests. VCU has also hired an independent expert to recommend improvements. That report is due by July 1."

Soares recently started working at Clean Energy and Climate Justice, according to his LinkedIn bio.

He previously worked for Congressman Donald McEachin and Governor Ralph Northam.

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Shawn Soares with Governor Ralph Northam in December 2021

On his last day working for Northam, he posted a Facebook message which concluded with the following thought.

"As I leave this job today, I am just overflown with gratitude for the chance I had to make a change. That being said, I am very excited to start my next role. Here’s to the future," he wrote.

This is a developing story, so anyone with more information can email newstips@wtvr.com to send a tip.

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