‘A crisis we must confront’: Richmond grapples after spike in shooting deaths

A memorial of flowers and two small toy cars sit on the 400 block of Gilmer Street, where two shooting deaths occurred within 26 hours of each other on April 4 and 5. VCU junior Cody Woodson was among the victims. Photo by Enza Marcy

Sahara Sriraman, Contributing Writer
Anya Sczerzenie, Contributing Writer

Eleven shootings that left eight people dead between April 4 and Sunday marked one of the most violent weeks Richmond has seen since the end of September, when there were four shooting deaths, according to the Richmond Police Department.

Two shooting deaths on April 4 and 5 occurred near VCU’s Monroe Park campus on the 400 block of Gilmer Street within 26 hours of each other. Richmond police are investigating the deaths of a 17-year-old, whose name has not been released to the public for privacy concerns, and 20-year-old VCU junior Cody Woodson.

“We all lose when we lose young people to violence,” Chief Gerald Smith said during a press conference on April 6.

No suspects have been charged in either shooting as of Tuesday. The Richmond Police Department discussed possible connections between the two shootings and encouraged the public to submit information regarding the incidents during the press conference.

VCU Police released a statement Thursday regarding the two deaths, stating that the investigation is ongoing and that additional officers will patrol the Carver neighborhood. It also advised students to follow certain precautions on campus.

“We want our community members to know that as the Richmond Police Department leads these investigations, VCU Police is working closely with them to keep the Carver community safe,” the release stated.

Richmond police were originally investigating a “possible drug nexus” connecting the shootings near campus. However, Smith said during the press conference that he does not believe drugs were involved in Woodson’s killing.

Richmond police were unable to provide an update in the investigation as of Tuesday.

Charles Klink, the senior vice provost for VCU Student Affairs, released a statement addressing Woodson’s death, expressing condolences and encouraging students to receive counseling if needed. 

“This is a time of great sorrow for the entire VCU community,” Klink stated.

Following the two shootings near VCU’s campus, nine more people were shot in Richmond across April 6 to 11, some occurring on the same day. 

Police responded to a shooting on Wickham Street the night after Woodson’s death. Ashley Wilbert, 21, was found dead in an alleyway from a gunshot wound, according to Richmond police. 

Less than five hours later, Richmond police were called to the 500 block of Montvale Avenue in response to a shooting. Vinshaun Johnson, an 18-year-old, was found dead at the scene, according to police.

“A second victim, a juvenile male in his late teens, also suffered an apparent gunshot wound and was transported to a local hospital with an injury that was not considered life threatening,” the release stated. 

On April 7, police were called to Rosetta Street in response to calls that a woman was shot in her leg. She was taken to VCU Medical Center for treatment, according to police.

The next day resulted in two more shootings. Richmond police were called to Pollock Street, located about three miles north of the MCV campus, to assist a man and an underage girl. They were taken to the hospital for non-life-threatening injuries, according to police. The suspects have been arrested.

Minutes later, a 15-year-old boy was shot on the 2300 block of Afton Avenue in Southside, according to Richmond police. He died at the hospital. 

Police were called to North 1st Street and East Chariot Street on Friday about a shooting that occurred at a convenience store located at the 100 block of East Baker Street. A man who was shot later died at the hospital, according to police.

Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney addressed the first six deaths in a Friday afternoon tweet, stating that gun violence is “a crisis we must confront head on.”

Two people were shot and killed Sunday. Police were called to the first shooting at the 500 block of North 30th Street and a second at the 3400 block of Stockton Street.

Detectives will release the identity of the victim following family notification,” both releases stated.

Some VCU students are voicing their uneasiness following the influx of gun violence in the area.

A street sign marks the corner of Gilmer and Marshall Streets, where two shootings killed a 17-year-old and 20-year-old VCU student last week. Photo by Enza Marcy

Freshman English student Deloris Allotey said although she feels safe in most parts of campus, she feels extremely unsafe around Gilmer Street. She said VCU needs to be mindful of how current and prospective members of the community are perceiving frequent shootings.

“VCU needs to protect its students because it’s deterring a lot of parents from coming here,” Allotey said. 

Allotey and her parents have discussed Allotey transferring to another university because of their worries over the growing number of shooting alerts. 

Junior English student Lauren Manley said she hopes this doesn’t taint prospective students’ opinions about VCU because she believes it’s still a good university. 

“There were students that were killed but these are not VCU students that are doing these terrible things,” Manley said. “We’re still welcoming, we’re still loving and we’re standing strong together right now.”

From January 1 to April 11, 127 reported crimes involved firearms in the Richmond area, according to the Richmond Police Department. Last year from January 1 to April 12, 147 were reported.

Manley said although she hopes these incidents don’t give people the wrong impression of VCU, she doesn’t feel safe walking around campus by herself. She’s currently living in Ramz Apartments, an off-campus apartment building located on West Broad Street. 

Manley said violence might ensue despite increased police presence in Carver.

“It would have to be a partnership between students, administration and police officers to kind of work towards being a safer environment because at this point, it seems like everyone’s at risk,” Manley said. 

Woodson’s friend Nicholas Parisi started a GoFundMe to support postmortem costs for the family. The two met online three years ago while playing League of Legends, Parisi said in a Facebook message.

“I couldn’t have found a better friend anywhere,” Parisi said.

Woodson studied computer science and had recently started an internship, Parisi said. 

“If he could have done anything with his brains, it would have simply been something that he felt made a difference or impact on the world,” Parisi said.

1 Comment

  1. You need to take real action Stoney vs spending all your time screwing Richmond with a casino. Career buster is on your watch HIGH DEATH RATES + Casino = zero political future. We all will remember because Casinos only escalate crime and murder. What a great Crime City you’ve pushed. Tourism will never be the same. Watch and see the works of your hand. Moving to the county to find peace and less corruption. Many are moving. You just carry on oblivious to your trail of collateral damage.

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