RICHMOND, Va. – A 19-year-old male suspect is facing charges in the mass shooting outside a high school graduation in Virginia on Tuesday that left a longtime rival and his stepfather dead, and five others wounded, police said.
The homicide suspect was identified by authorities as Amari Pollard. He is accused of gunning down Shawn Jackson, 18, and his stepfather, Renzo Smith, 36, in the immediate aftermath of the graduation ceremony. Pollard reportedly had a yearlong feud with Jackson, according to police.
Pollard faces two counts of second-degree murder. He was arraigned Wednesday morning and is currently being held without bail, the New York Post reported.
“I still can’t shake the image of Shawn receiving CPR on the ground still in his graduation gown,” said Richmond School District Superintendent Jason Kamras. The educator was obviously shaken as his voice quivered during a briefing on Wednesday.
Pollard opened fire about 5:15 p.m. as families celebrated the happy occasion outside the Altria Theater where Huguenot High School graduates walked the stage to receive their diplomas mere moments before.
Law enforcement authorities confirmed a total of seven people were struck by gunfire. Among the shooting victims, Jackson and his stepfather were killed, while five others sustained a variety of unspecified injuries, but none are considered life-threatening, according to police.
Interim-Chief Rick Edwards of the Richmond Police Department said the horrific double-homicide has ignited fear over retaliation. The chief noted, local “violence interrupters” have been deployed to quell tensions without providing further details.
Edwards said the murder of Jackson and his stepfather was personal, adding that there were no indications the crimes were affiliated to gang activity.
“They knew each other and had an ongoing dispute,” the chief said, without expounding further.
Victims Renzo Smith (left) and Shawn Jackson were killed in the shooting. (Courtesy of family via New York Post)
“Our city, our community will not be defined by this violence. Huguenot High School will not be defined by this violence,” Mayor Levar Stoney declared. “We will heal, we will recover and this will not break us.”
Stoney called on prosecutors to aggressively pursue justice, according to The Post.
“The individual who committed this senseless and cowardly act must be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law,” he said.
Shawn Jackson had just graduated high school prior to being gunned down. (Courtesy of family via New York Post)
“Those who did know Shawn described him as bubbly and the life of the party,” Superintendent Karmas said. “Getting to the graduation stage was not easy. Nevertheless he did it. And he was rightly proud and smiling and celebrating like all of his peers. And then just a few minutes later, while enjoying the moment with his family in Monroe Park, he was gunned down.”