Seven people have been shot, two fatally, following a high school graduation ceremony near Virginia Commonwealth University in downtown Richmond, the Associated Press reports. Both victims were male, one was 36, the other was 18. It is unclear if the 18-year-old was one of the graduates.
VCU said in an online alert in the evening that officers were on the scene in the area of Monroe Park, near the campus and a large theater.
Police arrested a 19-year-old on two counts of second degree murder, said Rick Edwards, the interim Richmond police chief in a news conference at which he confirmed the two fatalities. Originally law enforcement said there were two suspects detained, but one was found not to be involved, according to the Associated Press.
Matthew Stanley, a spokesman for Richmond public schools, said via email that he did not have full details about what transpired and would only confirm that it happened after the commencement.“As they heard the gunfire, it was obviously chaos,” Edwards said. “We had hundreds of people in Monroe Park, so people scattered. It was very chaotic at the scene.”
On 27 May another graduation ceremony ended in gunfire. In Paulding county, Georgia, one person was shot after a heated argument following the graduation ceremony for Paulding county high school. The victim was airlifted to a local hospital, Fox 5 Atlanta reported.
Images and video from the scene in Virginia show law enforcement officers inside and outside the Altria theater, located in downtown Richmond on the VCU campus. The theater is the site for high school graduation ceremonies for Richmond Public Schools.
School board member Jonathan Young told Richmond TV station WWBT that graduates and other attendees were exiting the building when they heard about 20 gunshots in rapid succession.
“That prompted, as you would expect, hundreds of persons in an effort to flee the gunfire, to return to the building,” Young said.
“It materialized in a stampede,” he said.
Richmond Public Schools said on its website that a different graduation scheduled for later Tuesday had been canceled “out of an abundance of caution”.
State police sent an alert warning people to avoid the area.