Shooting in VSU dorm was accidental, officials say, but students remain concerned | State and Area News

ERIC KOLENICH Richmond Times-Dispatch

ETTRICK — A Sunday night shoot in a Virginia State University dormitory was an accident, a university spokesperson said Monday. One person, who is not a student, suffered a non-life-threatening injury and does not plan to press charges against the person who shot, she said.

But students, who are preparing to leave campus at the end of the spring semester, remain concerned about safety after two school-related shootings this year and threats made this year against a number of historically black schools.

“A lot of people come from hostile environments,” said Mekhi McKinney, 21, a junior at VSU. “This place is a second chance for you to be yourself.”

Around 8 p.m. Saturday, VSU and Chesterfield County police responded to a shooting at Quad I Residence Hall, a four-story red-brick residential building that houses freshmen and the university’s honors college. Authorities placed the school on lockdown, which was lifted about two hours later.

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The victim, an adult woman, told police she knew the man who discharged the gun and that he was not a student, VSU spokeswoman Gwen Williams Dandridge said. The victim said she would not press charges against him, Dandridge said.

Police have not located the man who fired, and Dandridge declined to name those involved. It is not known what led to the firing of the weapon.

“Police have determined that there is no longer a threat to the VSU campus community with respect to this isolated incident,” Dandridge said Monday afternoon.

The woman was a friend of a VSU student, Dandridge said. Although bringing a firearm to campus violates VSU policy, it does not violate Virginia law. It is illegal to bring a firearm into a K-12 daycare or school. Chesterfield Police referred the questions to VSU.

This was the second case of gunfire on or near the VSU campus this academic year. In December, a VSU student shot and killed another after an argument, police said.

Isaac K. Amissah Jr., 21, has been charged with murder in the murder of 19-year-old Daniel N. Wharton at Ettrick University Apartments, less than a mile from campus.

Also this year, bomb threats were made against at least 36 historically black colleges, or about a third of the nation’s HBCUs.

No threats were made against VSU, but the university still tightened its security. It has hired about five new police officers, bringing the staff to 23. The ministry plans to hire six more.

Amid threats against HBCUs, VSU revised its operations plan and provided additional training for its faculty and staff.

The VSU campus is equipped with security cameras and a security system called Rave Mobile Safety that allows university officials to contact students, employees and family members via email or text. On Sunday night, VSU sent out three messages — one announcing the shooting and the lockdown, a second telling students to continue to avoid campus, and a third when the lockdown was lifted.

McKinney, the VSU junior, was inside Daniels Gym for an awards ceremony Sunday night when everyone’s phone rang. It was disheartening news, McKinney said Monday.

Some VSU students grew up in dangerous neighborhoods and consider college their refuge, he said. Still, McKinney said he felt safe on campus. McKinney, who studies sociology, was named a M. Virginia State University, one of the school’s top awards for academics, character, and contribution to the university.

Karenzo Hogue, 19, said it hurt to hear the threats against historically black schools.

“We’re young black men,” said Hogue, who studies management information systems. “Life has always been difficult.”

Hogue lives in Quad II, across a grassy area from Quad I where the shooting took place. He was in his room on Sunday evening when he received a text from his residence counselor informing him of the confinement. Then he saw the Rave alert on his email and his cousin texted him.

Shootings, both intentional and accidental, have increased in Greater Richmond over the past year. There were 101 murders in the city in 2021, the most since 2004. Virginia Commonwealth University Health reported a surprisingly high number of firearm accidents last year.

Hogue thinks this can be attributed to the pandemic and the impact it has had on people’s minds.

Tristan Cole, 19, lives in Quad I, but was off campus Sunday night. A friend called, saying there had been a shooting and the university was closed.

Later that evening, Cole still couldn’t get back to campus, so he went home to Chesterfield for the night. VSU has only two entrances to campus for cars, but pedestrians can access it from other directions.

There are issues of violence everywhere, said Rose B. Coley, 65, an office manager and student coordinator who works at VSU, who urged people to turn to God and the Bible. Sunday’s incident showed VSU was right to beef up its police force, she said.

“People are not safe anywhere,” she said.

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