Witnesses have recounted the terrifying moment a gunman opened fire outside a Virginia high school graduation leaving a father, 36, and his son, 18, dead.
Seven were shot including the two deceased, who have not been named, in the shooting at Monroe Park after a ceremony at Huguenot High School on Tuesday.
Footage from the scene showed the chaotic moment a gunman opened fire outside the Altria Theater, sending students in graduation gowns running for safety.
The 18-year-old who died in the shooting was later confirmed to have been one of the graduates. A motive for the attack remains unclear, but police said an attacker ‘knew at least one of the victims’.
Levar Stoney, Richmond Mayor, said at a news conference: ‘Is nothing sacred any longer? A child should be able to go their graduation and walk at their graduation and enjoy the accomplishment with their friends and families.’
A 19-year-old was taken into custody and charged with two counts of second-degree murder. Officials have suggested that the incident could be ‘gang related’ and have called for the criminal justice system to be tougher on people who commit crimes.
Witnesses recounted the terrifying moment a gunman opened fire outside a Virginia high school graduation leaving a father, 36, and his son, 18, dead – one saying it sounded like ‘fireworks’ going off
Image shows scenes before the shooting took place at the graduation ceremony in Virginia
Law enforcement officers investigate at the scene after a gunman opened fire in Monroe Park
Police maintained a high presence in the area after the gunman opened fire, in Virginia, June 6
Images and video from the scene showed multiple law enforcement officers securing the area with police tape as police warned people to ‘avoid the area’ as students wept following the attack described as ‘disgusting’ by Edwards.
A heavy police presence remained on-site at Monroe Park after the attack, first reported by police at 5:13pm local time.
A 31-year-old shooting victim remains hospitalized with life-threatening wounds, police said.
Four shooting victims, a 14-year-old male, a 32-year-old male, a 55-year-old male, and a 58-year-old male, suffered non-life-threatening injuries.
A nine-year-old child, who was hit by a car during the chaos, was also taken to hospital but is expected to survive.
Witnesses also recounted their experiences.
Speaking with NBC12, Jason Alexander said he was only 10 feet away from the cross fire when hundreds of people began to scramble for cover.
‘We’re in the process of waiting for my son to come out,’ said Alexander.
‘Behind us, probably we’re like 10 feet to the back of us. We heard fireworks going off.’
Earlier reports and a video from the scene indicated that the gunman fired about 20 shots.
Alexander said he’d heard less as he maneuvered the chaotic scene in front of him.
‘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,’ he said.
‘You just kept hearing shots. It was just eight, nine, ten shots.’
Alexander’s sister, Robin Spencer, gave an emotional account, wiping tears from her face as she spoke of her disbelief to the broadcaster.
‘Who the hell would do this on these kids’ graduation?’ said Spencer. ‘There’s tons of kids. People are walking around with babies.’
Thomas Sones, a teacher with Richmond Public Schools, said he was quick to find cover.
‘Just as I got to the back corner, I heard about 10 shots fired and so people standing in the back of the theatre went down the back stairs and theater security locked the back door immediately. It’s just very sad,’ he said.
Wide shot shows heightened police presence in the area after the attack on Tuesday June 6
Families and friends of students graduating and bystanders could be seen embracing as they wept at the grisly scene before them
Earlier reports and a video from the scene indicated that the gunman fired about 20 shots but some witnesses only recall hearing 10
Families and friends of students graduating and bystanders could be seen embracing as they wept at the grisly scene before them.
Jeremy Evans told NBC12 that his daughter had sung at the graduation and that one of her friends were among those injured by the spray of bullets.
‘I look at this scenario like we’re supposed to be happy about people graduating,’ Evans said.
‘We’re supposed to be supporting one another, holding 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 and the family of the victims or whatever the case may be, but it has to stop.’
A video of the moments before the incident which left two dead and seven wounded and hospitalized circulated in the hours after the tragedy.
The footage uploaded to Facebook reveals students from Huguenot High School beaming as they hug their families after the ceremony.
Moments later the person filming the happy students revealed the chaos as hundreds scrambled for cover as shots rung out.
The video doesn’t reveal the gunman but about 20 shots can be heard firing off-camera.
Terrifying footage revealed the moment a gunman opened fire at Virginia high school graduation as students are seen scrambling for cover in the mass shooting
Moments later the person filming the happy students revealed the chaos as hundreds scrambled for cover as shots rung out
In a briefing just after 9pm on Tuesday, Interim Richmond Police Chief Rick Edwards said that multiple hand guns were recovered at the scene.
Earlier reports claimed that bystanders had heard upward of ’20 bangs’ causing ‘hundreds’ to scramble for cover as the gunman opened fire outside the Altria Theater in Richmond just after 5.00pm on Tuesday afternoon.
Police had initially taken two people into custody after the shooting, though just one person was determined to be a suspect in the shooting. The other was released.
‘I’d like to just express my concerns and sympathy for those who have lost their lives today, and those whose lives were forever changed,’ Edwards said.
‘This should have been a safe space, this is incredibly tragic that someone brought a gun to this and rained terror on these people.’
The theater located on the campus of the Virginia Commonwealth University was to host three high school graduations on Tuesday.
VCU police issued an alert at 5.15pm about a shooting in or around Monroe Park.
Police took two people into custody following the deadly shooting in Virginia – but have arrested one gunman, 19, who they say is ‘known to one of the victims’
The video doesn’t reveal the gunman but about 20 shots can be heard firing off-camera, earlier reports claimed the same – however witness accounts say they only heard 10 in the chaos
Edwards revealed that officers had already been on the scene when the mass shooting started, alerting dispatch of the horrific incident.
‘Its certainly traumatic for them, you could hear the chaos and the screaming,’ said Edwards.
At the time of the incident, school board member Jonathan Young told 8News that there were ‘multiple injuries’ at the Huguenot High School ceremony which had been scheduled to start at 4pm.
He told CBS 6: ‘We immediately heard a series of probably 20 loud bangs in consecutive order.
‘And that prompted of course a lot of persons, probably a few 100 persons to make a rush back inside the Altria… controlled chaos.’
As he heard the gunshots and then sirens, neighbor John Willard, 69, stepped onto the balcony of his 18th-floor apartment to see what was happening below, according to Associated Press.
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.
Edythe Payne was helping her daughter sell flowers outside the theater to students as they left the ceremony.
She told the Richmond Times-Dispatch that the shooting caused a panic on nearby Main Street, which was packed with people at the time.
‘I felt bad because some elderly people were at the graduation and they got knocked down to the ground,’ Payne said.
Governor of Virginia Glenn Youngkin said on Facebook: ‘My administration continues monitoring the terrible shooting in the heart of Richmond tonight.
Two men, 18 and 36, have been shot dead in a mass shooting at a Virginia high school graduation as seven are hospitalized
Images and video from the scene show multiple law enforcement securing the area. People were advised to avoid the area
‘State law enforcement are fully supporting the Richmond Police Department as this investigation moves forward.’
Richmond Mayor Levar M. Stoney released a statement on Twitter about the situation.
‘Currently monitoring the situation at Monroe Park. In touch with RPD and RPS. Will make information available as it comes in. Please avoid the area,’ Stoney’s tweet reads.
He told CBS 6: ‘Children were involved here… this is their graduation day.
‘The question that comes to my mind right now is, is nothing sacred any longer? Is nothing sacred any longer?’
‘A child should be able to go to their graduation and walk out the graduation and enjoy the accomplishment with their friends and their families.
‘It’s a selfish act. It’s a senseless act. And to me, it’s cowardice.’
Richmond Police tweeted: ‘RPD is on scene for a shooting located at Laurel Street and Franklin Street. Multiple injuries reported.
‘There is no immediate threat to the public. Briefing to follow. Avoid the area.’
Richmond Public Schools will be closed tomorrow following the shooting incident.
‘This is supposed to be a joyous day when our kids walk the stage and get their diplomas. Which is what they all did here for Huguenot today, and walked out the doors into their families’ and friends’ arms taking pictures,’ Richmond Schools Superintendent Jason Kamras said at a 7 pm briefing.
‘Then this tragedy occurred. I don’t have any more words on this. I’m tired of seeing people get shot. Our kids get shot. And I beg of the entire community to stop, to just stop.
It’s believed ‘kids were taking graduation photos’ as the shooter opened fire
Three schools were scheduled to have graduation ceremonies at the Altria Theater on Tuesday when the alert by VCU went out at 5.15pm
‘Our kids can’t take it. Our teachers can’t take it. Our families can’t take it anymore. I beg of you to stop.’
Lieutenant Governor of Virginia Winsome Earle-Sears said gun violence in Richmond was not about law-abiding gun owners but rather gangs – calling for the criminal justice system to be tougher on those who commit crimes.
‘Even if you took all the guns off the street, from the law-abiding citizens, the others who mean harm, who mean to kill and mayhem, they’re going to have the guns,’ she said at an earlier briefing at 7pm.
‘So we have to figure out what’s going on in our communities. We have to find the right problem, so that we can come to the right solution.’