Richmond mayor has not read RPS graduation shooting report, but says 'there may have been some errors'

Posted at 5:04 PM, Jan 25, 2024
and last updated 2024-01-25 17:26:13-05

RICHMOND, Va. -- Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney said he has not read the recently released investigation report into Richmond Public Schools' handling of the circumstances surrounding a deadly shooting outside a graduation last year, which killed two people and injured several others.

However, based on what he's heard from news reports, Stoney said he believes there "may have been some errors."

Richmond Schools released the findings of the external probe into a shooting outside the June 6, 2023, Huguenot High School graduation ceremony after a Richmond judge forced its release. The school board, which moved to hire the law firm Sands Anderson to conduct the investigation, initially tried to keep the report private.

It was only made public after CBS 6, the Richmond Times-Dispatch, and transparency activist Josh Stanfield sued the school board for violating the Freedom of Information Act by refusing to release it.

The investigation, which focused solely on RPS' operations and decisions leading up to the day of the shooting, found that Huguenot school staff authorized Shawn Jackson, the student who was shot and killed, to attend the graduation without any consideration for safety concerns and without conducting a threat assessment.

Jackson was a homebound student partly due to "threats of neighborhood violence." The homebound learning manual states homebound students are not permitted on school property or at school-sponsored events.

Before the graduation, his mother gave numerous warnings to his counselor and principal about security issues, including how Huguenot students "shot up" their home and "literally tried to kill him."

Despite knowing safety concerns, a counselor decided to "squeeze him in" the day of the ceremony after acknowledging that Jackson's presence at the graduation rehearsal just a week prior could be "dangerous."

Interview transcripts showed school-level staff and district leaders including Superintendent Jason Kamras were unfamiliar with the homebound instruction manual, the training requirements for threat assessments, and acknowledged that critical information was kept in silos and not passed up the proper chains of command.

The leadership of Richmond Public Schools does not fall under Mayor Stoney's purview. Superintendent Kamras leads the day-to-day operations of the district, and Kamras' bosses are the nine elected members of the Richmond School Board.

Mayor Stoney was at the crime scene the day of the shooting and was outspoken about the events that unfolded on June 6.

CBS 6 reporter Jake Burns asked the mayor for his takeaways from the report.

"I have not been able to read it. I've only heard the news accounts of what occurred. Obviously, still a tragic situation even though months have passed. It's still very tragic, and to bring it back up to before, I know there are a lot of families who are still dealing with it. Obviously, from what I've heard, there may have been some errors. I have not been able to dig deeply into the actual report, but I am sure we’ll be able to get to the bottom of this come next month when the trial begins, which unfortunately will bring back those same traumatic feelings again. But accountability will be had, and we'll also get to the bottom on a number of issues as well," Stoney said.

When asked whether he's confident the problems exposed through the investigation report will be corrected, Stoney said, "The leaders on the school board, including also the superintendent as well, are charged with ensuring that our kids, when they enter school that they enter into a safe environment. I do have faith in the administration over at RPS, but I hope they're listening to the parents, those who are the stakeholders, because at the end of the day, every parent wants their kid to go to school and come home and we’ve got to avoid all kinds of human error, no matter where they are on the chain."

The investigation commissioned by the school board did not overlap with any aspects of the criminal investigation.

Gaps in information still remain related to the criminal case. For example, police and prosecutors have declined to say to whom two of the guns recovered from the crime scene belonged.

It's also unclear why the suspect, Amari Pollard, is charged in connection with only one out of the seven total gunshot victims.

Those questions are expected to be answered when the criminal trial begins in late February.

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