Shawn Jackson’s mother calls for community unity

Darlene M. Johnson | 3/7/2024, 6 p.m.
On Thursday, Feb. 29, day four of the Huguenot graduation shooting trial, Amari Pollard, 20, accepted a plea deal. Mr. …
Ms. Jackson-Smith

On Thursday, Feb. 29, day four of the Huguenot graduation shooting trial, Amari Pollard, 20, accepted a plea deal. Mr. Pollard pleaded guilty to one charge of first degree murder and one charge of the use of a firearm in the commission of a felony for the death of Huguenot graduate Shawn Jackson. Mr. Pollard was not charged for the murder of Renzo Smith, Mr. Jackson’s stepfather, who was also killed during the shooting chaos. Mr. Pollard was sentenced to 43 years with 18 years suspended. After 25 years, Mr. Pollard will be eligible for release.

“This guilty plea is a step toward healing for Huguenot High School, Richmond Public Schools and the City of Richmond,” Mayor Levar M. Stoney said in a statement.

Mr. Jackson

Mr. Jackson

School Board member Jonathan Young, 4th District representative, echoed similar sentiments.

“An excruciating eight months for everyone at Huguenot finally has some resolution, even if still too many answers (are) unresolved,” Mr. Young stated in an email. “I pray for better days for Huguenot, everyone there certainly deserves it.”

Moving forward, Mr. Young stresses the need to “augment what merits a threat assessment team review, adopt a zero excuses approach to weapons and double enrollment opportunities in our alternative school.”

With something as “horrific” as the shooting, Kenya Gibson, 3rd District representative, does not believe any outcome will “ever feel like justice.”

“My hope (is) we all come together to stop anything like this from ever happening again,” Mrs. Gibson stated in an email.

Board chair and 5th District representative Stephanie Rizzi did not respond to a request for comment.

Colette McEachin, Commonwealth’s Attorney and prosecutor in the case, also weighed in on Mr. Pollard’s sentencing. Mrs. McEachin attributes the crime to multiple issues, including Mr. Pollard feeling threatened by social media posts and Instagram messages and videos. Mr. Pollard also was able to easily access and conceal a gun, ultimately exercising “life-changingly bad judgment,” Mrs. McEachin stated in an email.

The sentence was fair for the crime committed, she stated. Because Mr. Pollard pleaded guilty, he waived the right to an appeal, Mrs. McEachin explained.

Mr. Pollard

Mr. Pollard

Tameeka Jackson-Smith, mother of Mr. Jackson and widow of Mr. Smith, played a crucial role in Mr. Pollard receiving a plea deal.

“(Mr. Pollard) received the plea deal only because I agreed to it,” Mrs. Jackson-Smith, 40, stated in an email. “I agreed to it because even through my pain, I see two families hurting.”

Mrs. Jackson-Smith believes justice was served for her son. She hopes the sentence will deter others from committing similar crimes in the future.

“This is a pain I don’t wish on no one,” Mrs. Jackson-Smith stated. “Sadly, it seems Richmond is seeing far too much crime and it takes a village to stop this, and work together.”

To prevent further shooting tragedies, Mrs. Jackson-Smith suggests that the community band together. She urges parents to “be in your children’s business” and talk to each other. More activities are also needed for the youths, she stated.

“When I was growing up, we had so much to do,” Mrs. Jackson-Smith stated. “We had PAL, we had summer programs, we played sports, we had recreational centers that had cooking classes, dance classes, etc., for free. Now, everything is a fee and so expensive, most kids are left to just run the streets. We need unity!”