Frustration, sorrow mount in city after graduation shooting

George Copeland Jr. | 6/15/2023, 6 p.m.
“My nephew lost his life. He lost his life at his high school graduation. That shouldn’t be.”
Tameeka Jackson-Smith, seated left, is consoled by supporters as she mourns the deaths of her son, Shawn Jackson, and husband Renzo Dell Smith, both of whom were killed by gunfire near Monroe Park shortly after Mr. Jackson ‘s Huguenot High School graduation on June 6. Mrs. Jackson-Smith, whose 9-year-old daughter Renyah Smith, center, was hit by a car after witnessing the murders of her father and brother, was consoled by her grandmother, Grenda Smith of Monroe, La., who is the mother of Mr. Smith. Photo by Regina H. Boone

“My nephew lost his life. He lost his life at his high school graduation. That shouldn’t be.”

Those words, stated by Datrell Glover during a vigil Saturday in Abner Clay Park, were in response to the June 6 shooting deaths of her nephew, Shawn D. Jackson, and her brother, Renzo Smith, at Monroe Park after Huguenot High School’s graduation ceremony.

The vigil was among several that took place since the murders of Mr. Jackson and Mr. Smith, and the sentiment shared by their family has been echoed by efforts to support those grieving, and to prevent similar tragedies in the future.

Charles Willis, executive director of United Communities Against Crime and a represen-tative for the family, noted the outpouring of support from the community and local organizations.

“The mother (Tameeka Jackson-Smith), is very grateful for all the support,” Mr. Willis said. “She just wants to honor her son and her husband, and that’s we’re going to do.”

A criminal investigation into the events leading up to the shooting continues. The FBI and the Richmond Police Department have requested that people at the graduation celebration in Monroe Park submit photos and videos of the event to fbi.gov/huguenotgraduation. A tip line has also been set up at (804) 646-6741 for witnesses of the shooting and its aftermath to share information.

“Our goal is to establish the facts of what took place and deliver a solid case to the Office of the Commonwealth’s Attorney for prosecution,” RPD said in a statement. “Any new information that can be shared will be provided as available as the department balances the need for public safety and the upcoming criminal proceedings.”

Officials with Richmond Public Schools and the City of Richmond government, meanwhile, were present for Saturday’s vigil, and promised to support solutions to ensure students’ safety and curb future violence in the city.

“I pledge to work with the RPS administration to do our part to end it, including prioritizing mental health support for our youths,” said Richmond School Board Chair Stephanie Rizzi. “I call on the entire community to join us.”

Beyond the speeches and promises, the tone for many of- ficials and individuals since the shooting has been filled with exhaustion and frustration.

“I pray, with all my heart and all my soul, that this is the last vigil that I ever have to do,” said RPS Superintendent Jason Kamras.

A funeral for Mr. Jackson and Mr. Smith is scheduled to take place at Speaking Spirit Ministries at 4205 Ravenswood Road on Thursday, June 15, at noon.