Mother, widow of graduation day shooting victims threatens legal action against RPS, alleges safety failures

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Posted at 7:02 PM, Jun 26, 2024

RICHMOND, Va. -- The mother and widow of the Richmond graduation day shooting victims is seeking $11 million in damages from the school board, according to a demand letter obtained by CBS 6 through a public records request.

Tameeka Jackson-Smith's lawyers made a wrongful death claim, attempting to hold the district accountable for alleged safety failures.

One year after Jackson-Smith's son Shawn Jackson and husband Renzo Smith were shot and killed outside Huguenot High School's graduation last June, she told CBS 6 she still had questions about the safety protocols in place that day.

“I wouldn’t have never ever brought my son here If I didn't feel like his life was in danger," Jackson-Smith said. “I so want to get down to the bottom of it because where was security? Where was anything?”

Earlier this month, CBS 6 reported that Jackson-Smith initiated the legal process against the school board, and the demand letter gives more insight into the claims.

Lawyers alleged that RPS did not follow established protocols or state requirements when it allowed Jackson to attend the ceremony.

The demand letter cites the findings of a third-party investigation commission by the school board which concluded that Jackson's attendance occurred "without any adherence to required authorizations and without proper vetting and consideration of safety concerns that were known by several members of Huguenot High School."

Jackson was a homebound student, not permitted at school-sponsored events per policy, partly due to "threats of neighborhood violence."

The letter stated these threats were known by school officials, administrators, and the superintendent.

"They know. I know who I emailed. I know who I CC'ed. I know, and they know too," Jackson-Smith said in a previous interview with CBS 6.

After the report was released, Superintendent Jason Kamras did not speak in detail on the report but released a statement that RPS was committed to learning from the tragedy and taking steps to improve in order to further safeguard students and staff.

Other leaders, including school board members, directly and publicly admitted fault, which is documented in the demand letter.

For example, Shonda Harris-Muhammed said in an interview with CBS 6 that the district "on so many levels, failed" and that the shooting "maybe" wouldn't have happened if "the administration from the central office level and the building level completed the mandated Virginia-required threat assessment."

The third-party investigation found that Jackson did not attend the graduation rehearsal after his mother and counselor had a conversation about it possibly being "too dangerous."

So, instead, the counselor "squeezed in" Jackson on the day of the ceremony.

“I asked before we even got here. 'Is it okay?' And I was reassured once again, 'Everything is fine.' Fine? Look at me and my family. It’s not fine. It’s not," Jackson-Smith said.

An expert testimony attached to the demand letter stated, "Ms. Jackson requested for Shawn to attend graduation in person; however, no information was presented which reveals a threat assessment was conducted nor a notification to law enforcement.”

Jackson-Smith's lawyers concluded RPS allegedly failed to train employees, violated Jackson's and Smith's fourth amendment rights by being so reckless in its graduation planning, and acted with gross negligence.

Lawyers requested a response by July 15. If not, they planned to file a lawsuit in federal court.

Both RPS and Jackson-Smith's lawyer declined to comment at this time.

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