Students contemplate safety on campus following shooting

A 20-year-old man was shot in the hand on West Grace Street on Sept. 11 near Village Cafe, a popular student destination. Photo by Alessandro Latour

Katharine DeRosa, News Editor

Richmond ranked No. 11 in the United States’ most deadly cities, according to an article by CBS, which utilized the latest data available by the FBI from 2019. 

For every 100,000 residents in Richmond city, 227.7 are victims of violent crimes, according to the FBI. Three student dorms — Grace and Broad, West Grace South and West Grace North — are located near where a recent aggravated assault occurred. 

A 20-year-old male was shot in the hand in an alleyway next to the 7-Eleven at 1003 W. Grace St. on Sept. 11, according to VCU’s alert system. The alleyway in question is located near the area formerly known as “hell block” by VCU students. The block in question is located in the 1100 block of Grace Street.

Junior sociology major Aasha Manns lives in Grace and Broad, an apartment-style dorm building across the street from where the shooting occurred. Mann said she wasn’t in her building when the shooting happened, and she heard about it after the fact.

An emergency call box is located on the side of university student housing building Grace and Broad. The dorm is located across the street from a recent on campus shooting. Photo by Alessandro Latour

“It didn’t bother me too much because I know I’m living in the city, so things like this happen and the chances of it happening to a particular individual is low,” Manns said. “It was a little bit surprising, but at the end of the day, I know where I’m living.”

The shooting that took place on Sept. 11 is on VCU’s campus, according to the boundaries set by the VCU Police Department and the alert sent by the university. The alert system either characterizes the alert as on campus or off campus.

VCU’s official campus boundaries fall between Cumberland Street to the south and Marshall Street to the north. The western boundary of campus is Harrison Street, south of Grace Street. Campus boundaries expand to Ryland Street on the 1100 block of Grace Street and expand to Bowe Street on Broad Street, to include Bowe Street Parking Deck and the Stuart C. Siegel Center. The eastern boundaries of campus include the VCU Brandcenter and Snead Hall. 

“I saw VCU for what it was,” Mann said. “We are not a closed campus, this is free for everyone to roam and things happen, unfortunately.”

Many students chose to live off campus in neighborhoods relatively close to campus, such as The Fan, Carver, Jackson Ward, Monroe Ward, Oregon Hill and Randolph. 

Of the 58 homicides that have occurred since Jan. 1, four have taken place in those neighborhoods, with two in Carver, one in the Fan and one in Randolph, according to the Richmond Police Department’s Crime Incident Information Center. Carver is located north of campus, the Fan is located directly west of campus and Randolph is located southwest of campus.

The university sent a crime notice to students after the shooting on Sept. 11. The notice offers students safety tips, including trusting one’s instincts, being aware of surroundings and carrying pepper spray or a whistle.

West Grace Street houses many campus locations, including university housing and dining locations. Photo by Alessandro Latour

The VCU Police would like to remind students, in particular, to keep personal safety in mind. There are certain things you need to be aware of when living in an urban environment,” the notice stated. “Crimes may occur in our community, and the best defense is to be prepared and to take responsibility for your own safety and for that of your friends and fellow students.”

Last spring, Richmond saw two shootings within the same block of each other on Gilmer Street, two nights in a row. VCU junior Cody Woodson was shot and killed on April 5 around 8 p.m., according to a statement sent by Gail Hackett, provost and senior vice president for academic affairs. 

The 400 block of Gilmer Street, where Woodson was shot, is less than one block over campus lines, according to campus lines set by the VCU PD. The Broad and Belvidere university dorm building is located 600 feet from where the incident occurred.

VCU PD increased patrols in neighborhoods near campus after the death of Woodson, according to its Twitter account.

The RPD’s media department did not respond in time for publication with a comment about Woodson’s investigation.

As of Sept. 21, there have been 59 homicides in the city since Jan. 1, according to RPD’s Crime Incident Information Center. Two took place in the Carver neighborhood, where Woodson was shot. One incident, categorized as “Murder/Non-Negligent Manslaughter” by RPD, took place around 8 p.m. on April 5, during the same time Woodson was killed. That investigation is active.

Junior environmental studies student Oluwarotimi Johnson lives in West Grace South, university housing located a block from where the Sept. 11 shooting occurred. He said he was in Monroe Park when he got the alert and texted his friends to check in with them.

“My friend was close by so I was really worried about what was going to happen to them,” Johnson said.

The junior, who is Black, said he believes he experienced racial profiling by VCU Police during his freshman year outside the same 7-Eleven where the shooting occurred. Johnson said an officer asked him to check his bag “just to make sure that everything is on the receipt.” 

“I don’t really trust the VCU Police as it is and this sort of proves my point,” Johnson said.

Despite this, Johnson said he feels safe “for the most part” in Richmond. He believes the size of  VCU PD needs to be decreased and the officers need more training.

“I feel like it’s sometimes too big, with that size you think shootings like this won’t happen,” Johnson said. “They still happen.”

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