HENRICO COUNTY, Va. -- Police said there is no evidence linking a shooting at White Oak Village shopping center that left a 16-year-old girl dead and a man injured last weekend to gang violence.
Henrico Police Chief Eric English said Jamirah Washington was an "innocent bystander" and that there was nothing to indicate the shooting Saturday evening was gang-related.
"We had kids walking around White Oak with firearms," English said. "There's no way that nobody did not know... There are people out there that knew they had weapons on them."
English called the violence "very disturbing" and said young people with guns are not just hurting individuals, but are "destroying families."
However, English said the department is especially concerned about young people and gangs.
"Some of our young adults in and some of our juveniles that are involved in gangs in our county," English said. "Those are definitely some areas of concern that we have. And so we're going to be working extremely hard, not only with ourselves, but Richmond is having some of the same issues."
As a result, English said Henrico Police are collaborating with Richmond Police to address violence "going on across borders."
"And some of the same players are being a part of the some of the violence that we're seeing, not only in the county, but in in city as well," English explained.
Police chief: Henrico sees 'huge increase' in homicides
Henrico County has seen 15 homicides so far in 2021, according to English. That is compared to five homicides at the same time in 2020.
"So that's a huge increase for us," English said.
The chief noted that eight of those 15 homicides are linked to domestic violence.
English said the department is making "some progress" in attempting to address the uptick in violence, but said it was complicated.
"I will say one of the obstacles and one of the challenges for us is that in our in our gun violence in county, it has not been just one particular area. We've seen it spread out throughout the county," he said.
English said connecting with the community to make sure people come forward with tips is the department's primary focus in curbing crime.
People "know some of the things that they're involved in," according to English, and he wants to ensure the community calls police.
"We want to make sure that this summer doesn't turn out to be a hot and heavy summer for us in terms of violence," English said. "And what we're trying to do is making sure our community takes some ownership within their neighborhoods..."
3 teens, including 15-year-old charged in shooting
Officials said a juvenile, which Crime Insider sources said is a 15-year-old boy, was charged with shooting into an occupied building; felony murder; possession of a firearm while under the age of 18; use of a firearm in the commission of a felony.
Eighteen-year-old Jihad Ruffin was also charged with use of a firearm in the commission of a felony; felony murder; shooting into an occupied dwelling and 18-year-old Trevon Chappelle was charged with shooting into an occupied building.
English said the investigation into the White Oak shopping center shooting is far from over.
"Although we've made arrests, there's still a lot of a lot of things to do in terms of really solidifying that that case," English added.
English also urged the community to stay alert and to call police if they see anything suspicious.
"The bottom line is that we have to make sure that everyone is being vigilant. You know, as I always say, we all play a role in keeping our communities safe," English said. "You never know what you may stop from happening if you don't call."
Anyone with information about the shooting is urged to call Detective Ensor at 804-501-5794 or Crime Stoppers at 804780-1000.
"You may remain anonymous. Witnessed who may have been in the area, can go to P3Tips to submit anonymous tips on any smartphone or tablet," Pecka said. "Together, we can help keep our communities safe."
This is a developing story, so anyone with more information can email firstname.lastname@example.org to send a tip.