Updated Mar 1, 2024 - News

What we learned during the Huguenot graduation shooting trial

Flowers left at the site of a fatal shooting outside of the Altria Theater after the Huguenot High School graduation ceremony the previous day, in Richmond, Va., June 7, 2023. (Parker Michels-Boyce for The Washington Post via Getty Images)

Flowers left at the site the day after the shooting. Photo: Parker Michels-Boyce/Washington Post/Getty Images

Amari Pollard, the only suspect in the Richmond graduation shooting last year, pleaded guilty to killing 18-year-old Shawn Jackson last week.

The big picture: The plea was the culmination of a four-day trial that revealed what led up to the tragedy that killed a Huguenot High School graduate and his stepfather, Renzo Smith.

  • It also gave insight into the relationship between Pollard and Jackson, two childhood friends who once "played at each other's homes as young boys," wrote RPS Superintendent Jason Kamras after the plea.
  • "Now one is dead at the hand of the other, and both families are forever destroyed."

State of play: Pollard's case hinged on proving the 20-year-old acted in self-defense after Jackson, along with three armed friends and his stepfather, approached him.

  • That fell apart Thursday when the judge refused to believe there was no intent to kill, reports the Times-Dispatch.
  • Evidence showed Pollard shot an unarmed Jackson six times before Smith pulled out a gun and shot back.
  • Two of Jackson's friends also fired their guns, but police considered it self-defense. Both were charged with reckless handling of a firearm, per WTVR.

Zoom in: After shooting Jackson, Pollard went into a nearby parking deck, where he ran into a VCU officer and said, "I'm sorry … I thought they were going to kill me."

  • Pollard later told a detective he blamed Jackson and his friends for killing one of his close friends in 2021 but that "it was not retaliation."

What we're watching: The trial only focused on Jackson, and ballistics reports in court showed Pollard didn't kill Smith.

  • Pollard's attorney said a stray bullet from Jackson's friends did, according to the Times-Dispatch.
  • But that hasn't been confirmed, and it's unclear whether anyone has been charged for Smith's death or the shootings of five other bystanders who were injured.
  • Richmond Police Chief Rick Edwards told WRIC there are two more trials pending "where some of that information will come out."

Get more local stories in your inbox with Axios Richmond.


Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more

More Richmond stories

No stories could be found


Get a free daily digest of the most important news in your backyard with Axios Richmond.


Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more