Open fire at high school graduation; father, 36, son, 18 killed, multiple other victims shot

A Virginia high school graduation ended in tragedy Tuesday when seven people were shot resulting in multiple deaths while community members reeled, “Is nothing sacred any longer?”

(Video: WWBT)

Graduates from Huguenot High School’s class of 2023 in Richmond, Virginia had assembled at the Altria Theater and were filing out to celebrate with loved ones in Monroe Park when the sound of gunfire sparked chaos.

Video taken by a family member captured the moment students and loved ones sought shelter as around twenty shots could be heard that would ultimately take the lives of two.

Identities of the victims had not been announced, but Richmond Police confirmed that an 18-year-old graduate and his father, 36, were both killed while five others sustained bullet wounds.

Counted among the injured were five victims aged 14-, 32-, 55-, and 58-years-old with a 31-year-old victim incurring life-threatening wounds. All were transported to a nearby hospital where they were joined by others, including a nine-year-old victim who was reportedly struck by a vehicle as attendees fled.

Others had fallen during the panic and still more were said to have experience anxiety attacks.

Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney reacted to the tragedy and wondered, “Is nothing sacred any longer? A child should be able to go to their graduation and walk at their graduation and enjoy the accomplishment with their friends and families.”

Interim Richmond Police Chief Rick Edwards indicated that two individuals were taken into custody and that one, a 19-year-old suspect, had been detained and faces two charges of second-degree murder.

The second had been held due to possession of a firearm but was believed to have no involvement with the incident. Meanwhile, the suspect was believed to have known at least one of the victims.

“Who the hell would do this on these kids’ graduation? There’s tons of kids. People are walking around with babies,” Robin Spencer, who had accompanied her brother Jason Alexander for his son’s graduation, told WWBT.

He described to the outlet, “We heard like fireworks going off,” and then, “Everybody started running, and I pushed her down on the ground, and we got down on the ground, and it was just chaos from there. You just kept [hearing] shots. It was like eight, nine, ten shots.”

Richmond Public Schools teacher Thomas Sones was still inside when shots rang out and he described, “Just as I got to the back corner, I heard about 10 shots fired and so the people standing in the back of the theater went down the back stairs and theater security locked the back door immediately.”

“It’s just really sad,” he added.

Parent Jeremy Evans, whose daughter sang at the ceremony and reportedly knew one of the victims, expressed, “I look at this scenario when we’re supposed to be happy about people graduating. We’re supposed to be supporting one another, hugging one another, loving one another, and then a shooting happen — come on now. I just think it’s bad. We have to do better.”

“I’m just praying for anybody that got hurt, praying for anybody — the family of the victims or whatever the case may be, but it has to stop,” the father went on.

Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R) stated he was monitoring the incident and that state law enforcement was supporting the Richmond Police Department in their investigation. “As we struggle to fully comprehend this tragedy, our hearts break for those whose lives were lost today. Tonight, we grieve together for their classmates, our neighbors, and the whole Richmond community.”

Lt. Gov. Winsome Earle-Sears asked during a press conference, “When do we say enough is enough? When do we say that? How many more people have to die before we say, ‘You’re going to jail. We’re gonna lock you up. And there’s not gonna be any bail,’ so that we can have safety in our communities. When does that happen?”


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Kevin Haggerty


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