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Wednesday 24 July, 2024
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Who is Amari Pollard? Virginia graduation shooting suspect

BY Anas Shah Jun 07, 2023. 09:50 pm UPDATED: Jun 07, 2023. 09:50 pm

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A 19-year-old man has been accused by police in connection with the mass shooting that took place outside a Virginia high school graduation ceremony on Tuesday, leaving a longtime rival and his father dead only seconds after the ceremony ended.

Following a year-long dispute with his young target, Amari Pollard, according to police, shot and killed Shawn Jackson, 18, and his father, Renzo Smith, 36.

On Wednesday morning, Pollard, of Enrico County, was charged with two counts of second-degree murder and was jailed without bond.

“I still can’t shake the image of Shawn receiving CPR on the ground still in his graduation gown,” Richmond School District Superintendent Jason Kamras said at Wednesday briefing as his voice quivered.

Pollard opened fire on the joyous gathering around 5:15 p.m. as jubilant families milled outside the Altria Theater after seeing Huguenot High School graduates walk the stage to receive their diplomas.

Amari Pollard

Jackson and his father were among a total of seven persons struck by gunfire, according to police. The other five victims suffered non-critical injuries.

According to Richmond Police Chief Rick Edwards, the startling incident has raised worries about retaliation, and “violence interrupters” have been sent into the community to defuse tensions.

“They knew each other and had an ongoing dispute,” Edwards said, adding that there were no indications that the shooting was gang related to this point.

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Victims Renzo Smith (r) and Shawn Jackson (l) were killed in the shooting.

Video of the incident shows a crowd of celebrants chatting and congratulating each other before a volley of bullets suddenly rang out and sent panicked crowds scampering for safety.

“Our city, our community will not be defined by this violence. Huguenot High School will not be defined by this violence,” said Mayor Levar Stoney. “We will heal, we will recover and this will not break us.”

Stoney called on prosecutors to punish Pollard for the mass shooting.

Shawn Jackson

“The individual who committed this senseless and cowardly act must be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law,” he said.

Kamras described Jackson as a sociable and popular presence who had to overcome personal adversity to graduate.

He noted that he shook his hand after bestowing his graduation diploma — and that he was dead 20 minutes later.

“Those who did know Shawn described him as bubbly and the life of the party,” 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.”

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Kamras added three students from another school in the district were shot in a separate incident just 24 hours prior.

“This needs to stop,” he said.

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