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Witnesses describe the chaos as shots were fired after high school graduation

Posted at 11:08 PM, Jun 06, 2023

RICHMOND, Va. -- Hundreds of people were put in harm's way when someone opened fire outside the Altria Theater in downtown Richmond following Huguenot High School's graduation ceremony. Seven people were shot and two people, including a teenager who'd just graduated from high school, were killed in the shooting, according to Richmond Police.

Interim Richmond Police Chief Rick Edwards called the crime scene chaotic as people ran for cover when they heard the gunshots.

"We had hundreds of people in Monroe Park, so people scattered," he said. "This should have been a safe space. People should have felt safe at a graduation."

Naomi Wade was outside Altria Theater selling flowers, teddy bears, and gifts for the graduates. She said she saw so many graduates come in with their caps and gowns, smiling, excited to graduate. But as the graduates were coming out of the theater she heard multiple gunshots.

"Everyone literally started running for their lives, trampling each other. Trampled me. Trampled our whole entire stand. It was scary," Wade said.

Naomi Wade
Naomi Wade was outside Altria Theater selling flowers, teddy bears, and gifts for the graduates.

As he heard the gunshots and then sirens, neighbor John Willard, 69, stepped onto the balcony of his 18th-floor apartment. Below, he saw students fleeing in their graduation outfits and parents hugging children.

“There was one poor woman in front of the apartment block next to ours who was wailing and crying,” Willard said, adding that the scene left him deeply saddened.

The school district said a different graduation scheduled for later Tuesday had been canceled “out of an abundance of caution" and schools would be closed Wednesday.

Police said Tuesday night that a 19-year-old is in custody and will be charged with two counts of second-degree murder. Police said they believe the suspect knew at least one of the victims.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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