Recent shooting prompts extra security at next Kennedy High football game

Kennedy High football

Members of the Kennedy High School football team prepare for Friday's game. Police plan to add security after a recent nearby shooting. (Photo by Manjula Varghese)

Richmond police are adding extra security for Kennedy High School’s football game Friday night after a nearby shooting prompted authorities to stop the team’s last home game with four minutes left on the clock.

Lieutenant Andre Hill, who oversees the police department’s youth services program, said he would be adding an extra patrol officer and supervisor on Friday night, doubling the usual security detail assigned to football games in Richmond.

Hill said the decision to add extra security applies only to this game for now, but could extend to future games. “We’ll assess the situation and play the rest of the season by ear,” he said.

Despite the safety concerns of an evening game, Hill said police and the school district decided to keep the game’s scheduled 7 p.m. kickoff to make it easer for parents and fans to attend.

“What the district is saying is they don’t want to punish the players and fans because of unrelated violence and foolishness,” Hill said.

The Kennedy Eagles team played its home opener on Aug. 28 against Lincoln High School from San Francisco. During the fourth quarter, a security officer assigned to the game heard shots near the south end zone. Police stopped the game and cleared the field. Lincoln, leading 39-26, was named the winner.

Police responding to the call found three juveniles, none Kennedy students, with minor gunshot wounds. Police said this week that no suspects have been identified.

At practice late Wednesday after school, senior receiver Kyree Jackson said players were disappointed to be denied the chance for a comeback win at the home opener.

“I wanted to keep playing. I felt that we could have come back and won, and there was a lot of time left on the clock,” he said.

Jackson said that his coaches encouraged the team to focus on football and not worry about events off the field. But the players also were cautioned that if they heard shots, they should immediately get down on the ground.

Kennedy’s head coach, Tashaka Merriweather, said he tried to use what happened as a “coachable moment.”

“We’ve been talking a lot about overcoming adversity and this was an example of that,” he said.

Merriweather said that he held a meeting with parents following the shooting to discuss evacuation plans and what to do in similar instances. He said he has no concerns about player safety this season. Besides the steps taken by the Richmond police, the city’s Office of Neighborhood Safety, the agency responsible for gun-violence prevention, will be working in the surrounding neighborhoods during Friday’s game.

This recent shooting incident isn’t the first time play had to be stopped during an Eagles football game due to gun violence. Merriweather was the head coach at Richmond High School in 2012, when gunfire caused their homecoming game against Kennedy to stop with time still left on the clock.

The Eagles got their first win last week, in overtime, at an away game. Merriweather said he wants to keep that momentum going.

“As a Kennedy family, we don’t want something like this to spoil everything we’ve been working towards,” he said.

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