Richmond Times-Dispatch

Man is suspected of killing girl, 16, then wounding himself

Richmond chief links pandemic to domestic violence

- BY REED WILLIAMS

A suspect remained in critical condition after apparently shooting his 16-year-old girlfriend, killing her, and then shooting himself in South Richmond on Sunday, the city’s police chief said Monday.

Speaking at a news conference at police headquarte­rs, Chief Gerald Smith and others warned of the dangers of further domestic violence this year as the holidays approach and coronaviru­s cases spike.

Smith said the city has seen eight incidents of domestic violence this

month, double the number of cases reported in October. He added that the spread of the virus is taking a toll on people’s mental and emotional health.

The rising number of cases and restrictio­ns in place “could be an accelerant” that will fuel more domestic violence, Smith said.

“COVID is hard,” he said. “It’s hard on everybody.”

Smith did not assign a specific motive to Sunday’s apparent murder and attempted suicide, other than to say it was a case of domestic violence. Police officials also declined to identify the girl who was killed and asked reporters not to name the suspect, an adult male, who had not been charged with a crime.

The teenage victim and the critically wounded suspect were found on Sunday less than 2 miles from each other on South Side.

At 1:37 p.m. on Sunday, officers responded to the 500 block of Labrook Drive, located west of German School Road and north of Midlothian Turnpike, for a report of a person down.

When officers arrived, they found the teenage girl inside a home. She had a gunshot wound and was pronounced dead at the scene.

One neighbor, Eugene Colden, said he saw EMS personnel go into the house and come out before the police took charge of the scene.

“When I saw them put the yellow tape around, I knew it was pretty serious,” Colden said.

Less than three hours earlier, at 11:17 a.m., officers had answered a report of a parked car at a stoplight at the intersecti­on of Carnation Street and Midlothian Turnpike. There, officers found an unresponsi­ve man suffering from an apparently self-inflicted gunshot wound, authoritie­s said.

On Monday morning, investigat­ors confirmed their suspicion that the two shootings were connected, Smith said.

Smith’s concerns about the potential for more domestic violence were echoed during Monday’s news conference by representa­tives of the YWCA Richmond and the Virginia Sexual and Domestic Violence Ac

tion Alliance.

Jonathan Yglesias, policy director for the Virginia Sexual and Domestic Violence Action Alliance, said that domestic violence is preventabl­e but occurs far too often in Richmond and across the country.

“The holidays can be a stressful time for folks,” Yglesias said. “We know that with rising cases of COVID, with increased demands on families, economic insecurity, financial insecurity, housing insecurity. There are a lot of stresses that are adding to domestic relationsh­ips, to family dynamics. And we know that these impact not just those families, but entire communitie­s.”

For help, Yglesias said, residents can call a statewide hotline at (800) 838-8238.

Linda Tissiere, CEO of the YWCA Richmond, said the organizati­on has seen a 25% increase in calls to its hotline and requests for services during the pandemic, compared with the same period last year. The YWCA’s services include emergency shelter for vic

tims in imminent danger from domestic violence, counseling and case management. The organizati­on also provides support to victims at hospitals and partners with police to provide safety planning.

At the start of the pandemic, during the governor’s stay-at-home order, reports of domestic violence dropped while victims were stuck at home with their abuser and had less opportunit­y to report cases of abuse, Tissiere said. Now, “people are able to get to a place where they can make a phone call,” she said.

To request help in situations of domestic violence, residents can call the YWCA’s hotline at (804) 612-6126.

Anyone with informatio­n on Sunday’s killing is encouraged to call Major Crimes Detective P. Mansfield at (804) 646-6996 or Crime Stoppers at (804) 7801000. The P3 Tips Crime Stoppers app for smartphone­s also may be used. All Crime Stoppers reporting methods are anonymous.

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 ?? ALEXA WELCH EDLUND/ TIMES-DISPATCH ?? Richmond Police Chief Gerald Smith discusses Sunday’s killing of a 16-year- old girl and the self-inflicted shooting of her boyfriend.
ALEXA WELCH EDLUND/ TIMES-DISPATCH Richmond Police Chief Gerald Smith discusses Sunday’s killing of a 16-year- old girl and the self-inflicted shooting of her boyfriend.
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