Jason Kamras must resign
1/25/2024, 6 p.m.
Photos of Shawn Jackson, smiling proudly as he accepts his diploma on the Altria Theater stage, are hard to look at knowing that just minutes later the 18-year old would lay outside the downtown theater gasping for breath before dying from gunshot wounds.
His stepfather, Lorenzo Smith, 36, who tried to shield him, also was fatally shot on that June 6, 2023, afternoon.
Seven months have passed since the tragedy that struck not only Mr. Jackson and Mr. Smith. At least 12 innocent bystanders —including Mr. Jackson’s 9-year-old sister, were injured during the bloody shooting that followed the Huguenot High School graduation.
Amari Pollard , 19, was identified as the shooting suspect and an arrest was made less than 24 hours later.
The blame game and finger-pointing started well before vigils and final rites were held for the victims.
Richmond Police Chief Rick Edwards said the shooting suspect knew Mr. Jackson and the two had been embroiled in a dispute for more than a year.
Details of the young men’s relationship continued to unfold, some of which came from official and reliable sources while other information came from “so and so said.”
Finally, a week ago, Richmond Circuit Court Judge W. Reilly Marchant, upon a Freedom of Information Act request, ordered that an external report by the Sands Anderson law firm on the June 6 shooting be released to the public.
Lawyers on behalf of RPS didn’t want that to happen, arguing that the report should not have been released to the public due to attorney-client privilege.
However, in his opinion letter, Judge Marchant stated that “a non-privileged document does not somehow become privileged simply because it includes information the owner would prefer not to disclose.” Judge Marchant further added that “not every communication between attorney and client is protected by attorney-client privilege.”
The Jan. 18 edition of the Free Press provides a detailed account of the report. It can be read online.
In short, Mr. Jackson, a homebound student, was not permitted to be on school property or at school-sponsored events due to safety and mental health concerns. The safety concerns are said to be due to “an incident one of [Mr. Jackson’s] friends” was involved in that resulted in the shooting death of another person, according to the report and its exhibits.
Despite this, there were multiple instances of Mr. Jackson being on school grounds, Free Press reporter Darlene M. Johnson wrote. Safety and security issues cited in the Sands Anderson report included an email from Mr. Jackson’s mother to his counselor stating the family was “still homeless from [their] home being shot up, by students from Huguenot,” and another instance when Mr. Jackson took a test on school property “in the class with people who literally tried to kill him.”
Monique Harris, who is a mandated reporter of “threatening behavior, statements or actions” according to the RPS threat assessment policy, was aware of the incident that occurred on school grounds. She did not report the information to an administrator to begin a threat assessment the report stated.
Mr. Jackson did not attend the graduation rehearsal, but he was “squeezed in” at the graduation ceremony, even though his counselor, Ms. Harris, noted how it may have been “too dangerous” in an email to Mr. Jackson’s mother, Tameeka Smith.
The report goes on to touch on all sorts of protocols that were violated and cites a former principal, Robert Gilstrap, who had “checked out,” before leaving for another job.
Earlier this week a Richmond School Board member debated whether to hire an auditor.
Board member Kenya Gibson, who plans to run for Richmond City Council, believes a senior auditor with a primary focus on safety should be hired and report to the director of auditing.
The motion failed, as did a couple of other motions regarding school safety measures.
Question. When will all the hand-wringing, mud-slinging, secrecy and lack of accountability end?
Ernest Parker Jr., a longtime Free Press reader, gives his opinion in a letter to the editor.
“Looking over the article in the Free Press concerning the Huguenot High School shooting I find it very disturbing,” Mr. Parker writes. “For one, there were not enough security officers in place to deal with so many people. A young man Shawn Jackson and his stepfather lost their lives at this event. The mother sounded an alert by saying that she was fearful for her son attending this event.
“There seemed to be a lack of communication and it never reached the proper channels,” Mr. Parker continues. “I am not for seeing anyone lose their jobs but this case is an exception. Whether we start from the top and work our way down, someone needs to be held accountable for this type of neglect and travesty.”
We will say it more bluntly: If former school superintendents have been shown the door for less egregious situations, the Richmond School Board needs to show some grit and immediately demand Jason Kamras’ resignation.