Two people were killed and five others injured in a shooting at a Richmond, Virginia, park Tuesday after a high school graduation ceremony.
Police responded to the shooting near Virginia Commonwealth University around 5:15 p.m. local time after officers inside a theater where the graduation took place heard gunfire outside. Hundreds of families were gathered outside the venue, prompting mass panic as the attack took place.
Two people died from their wounds: Shawn Jackson, an 18-year-old who had graduated that day, and his father, 36-year-old Renzo Smith, NBC News reported.
One person was hospitalized with life-threatening injuries and four others were being treated for non-life-threatening wounds. One child was also struck by a car during the chaos at the scene, officials said, and was being treated at a local hospital. The injured range in age from 9 to 58 years old.
One suspect, a 19-year-old man, is in custody and expected to be charged with two counts of second-degree murder. More charges are expected, officials said, noting multiple handguns were recovered at the scene. No officers were injured during the shooting, and police didn’t discharge any weapons before the suspect was detained.
Police believe the shooter knew at least one of the victims. Witnesses at the scene described hearing at least “20 gunshots in rapid succession,” prompting a “stampede” as people rushed to find safety.
“This should have been a safe space, people should have felt safe at a graduation,” interim Richmond Police Chief Rick Edwards said at a press conference. “It’s incredibly tragic that someone decided to bring a gun to this incident and rain terror on our community.”
“I’d like to express my concerns and sympathy for those who lost their lives today and those whose lives were forever changed today,” Edwards added.
Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney echoed that sentiment earlier in the day, shortly after the graduation ceremony for Huguenot High School.
“The question that comes in my mind right now is: Is nothing sacred any longer?” Stoney said to reporters near the scene. “A child should be able to go to the graduation ... and enjoy the accomplishment with their friends and their families,” he said.
Matthew Stanley with the Richmond Public Schools said another ceremony that was set to take place Tuesday evening had been canceled amid the attack.
“This happened after the Huguenot High School graduation and took place in Monroe Park,” Stanley said. “We have canceled a graduation ceremony from another school scheduled later this evening.”
CORRECTION: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that the graduation ceremony was held outside the Altria Theater. It was held inside.