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Brazen violence rocks city

on February 16, 2010

Two outbursts of gun violence days apart have local police looking for answers.

“We are very concerned about the brazen level of these daytime attacks, it’s a serious concern,” said Sgt. Bisa French.

On Sunday, three gunmen wearing black hooded-sweatshirts walked into the New Gethsemane Church of God in Christ, looked around, and then began shooting. A 14-year-old boy and 19-year-old man were wounded, French said.

Four days earlier, 23-year-old Richmond resident Sharanda Thomas, six-months pregnant and the mother of two other young children, was killed when assailants fired into her parked car in the 900 block of Seventh Street, French said. A male passenger in Thomas’ car was also critically wounded, but is expected to survive.

French said the city’s ShotSpotter System, an electronic shot-detection system, indicated more than 20 gunshots in the mid-day drive-by shooting.

Thomas was shot “several” times, French said.

French said police have made no arrests and have not established a motive, but are seeking four black males in a silver or gray Chevrolet HHR, a compact sport-utility-vehicle.

French said it is unknown whether either attack was gang related or retaliation for prior violence.

The city has recorded seven homicides thus far this year. In 2009, 47 homicides were recorded in Richmond, a 74 percent increase over 2008.

“We are pretty much on par with what we had last year by this time,” French said.

French was reluctant to describe the level of cooperation by witnesses. In the church shooting, nearly 200 people were present and participating in musical prayer when shots rang out.

“We are really concerned about safety… We don’t want to say who is cooperating because we really have a problem with fear” of cooperating with police investigations, French said.

Rev. Kamal Hassan, who leads Sojourner Truth Presbyterian Church in Richmond, said the outbreak of violence in a hall of worship strikes a troubling chord in the city.

“This definitely crosses a line that people should pay attention to,” Hassan said. “We once looked upon houses of worship as places of respect and sancturary, out of bounds for this kind of activity.”

Hassan said he was “shocked and deeply disappointed” by the violence, and that it shows how “deep our spiritual crisis has become.”

He said he would reach out on Tuesday to leaders at New Gethsemane Church.

“We must speak out with one voice in opposition to this kind of behavior,” Hassan said.


  1. […] it was a non-deadly outburst of violence earlier this month, inside the walls of a local church during prayer services, that prompted local religious and civil leaders to coalesce behind […]

  2. […] Richmond’s black religious community vowed action in response to ongoing violence, punctuated by a Feb. 14 outburst of gunfire inside a local church. […]

  3. […] event was in response to a Feb. 14 church shooting that shook the community and drew national attention. Filed Under: Crime, Front, Uncategorized […]

  4. […] Wassberg said he is nearly finished gathering video, and wants to focus on the editing process. On Saturday he plans to film a local march against violence, an event prompted by a Feb. 14 shooting in a local church. […]

  5. […] Shumake, one of the leaders of a two-plus week series of rallies, marches and prayers prompted by a Feb. 14 shooting in a local […]

  6. […] last deadly day in Richmond was Feb. 10, when Sharonda Thomas and a male acquaintance were hit by gunfire while sitting in a parked car in the 900 block of […]

  7. […] city made a historic statement with its response to a Feb. 14 shooting inside a local church, but more work must be done to achieve lasting […]

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