Richmond police are investigating a pair of shootings that killed a 17-year-old and a VCU student one day apart in the same block of Gilmer Street, near the university’s Monroe Park campus.
The first fatal shooting, on Easter at 6:20 p.m., left a 17-year-old male dead. The second shooting, on Monday about 8:15 p.m., killed Cody Austin Woodson, a 20-year-old Virginia Commonwealth University student from Buckingham County. The police did not identify the 17-year-old because he is a minor.
“Detectives are looking into any correlation between the two incidents and whether there is a possible drug nexus,” Richmond police said in a news release Tuesday morning.
At a news conference on Tuesday afternoon near the shooting scenes, Richmond Police Chief Gerald Smith said “drugs were a factor in the first incident,” specifically marijuana.
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Smith did not assign a motive to either killing but said investigators have “a clearer view” of what happened in the first case because of help from witnesses and the public. No one has been charged in either death.
The shootings were in the 400 block of Gilmer Street. The area is in the Carver neighborhood, about a block northwest of the intersection of West Broad and Belvidere streets.
Residents of the block were stunned and feared for their safety on Tuesday as they described the violent scenes: A teenager shot and lying on a second-floor balcony on Sunday evening, his arm dangling over the side. Another man down on the sidewalk the next night.
On Tuesday, what appeared to be bloodstains could be seen on the sidewalk just below a bullet hole in the front of a house. Two more bullets had pierced the back of a car parked nearby.
“I don’t feel super safe,” said Paula, who lives on the block and asked that her last name not be published given her safety concerns. “I’m confused with all the differing information that I’m getting.”
“I think I’ll feel pretty uneasy until I get confirmation that this was isolated and targeted, instead of random,” she said. She said she was in bed Monday evening when she heard six to 10 gunshots and looked out to see a body on the sidewalk.
Police were summoned to the first shooting Sunday at 6:20 p.m. and found the 17-year-old suffering from a gunshot wound. He was pronounced dead on the scene.
VCU sent an alert that on Monday, at 8:13 p.m., police received multiple calls of a shooting in the 400 block of Gilmer Street. Woodson was lying on a sidewalk when police arrived and was pronounced dead on the scene. He had lived near where he was killed, police said.
A suspect was last seen running west in the alley between Marshall and Clay streets, the alert said.
“A detective has scoured the entire community out here ... and we have received some video surveillance,” Chief Smith said Tuesday. “But we are asking anyone in the neighborhood who has any further surveillance to provide that, any further information. Detectives do have a couple of leads that they are looking for and they will be giving out more information of a possible vehicle that we are possibly looking for, but they are still vetting out those leads.”
A 23-year-old VCU student who lives in the block where the killings happened shared his witness accounts of the aftermath of both shootings in an interview on Tuesday. He declined to provide his name for publication out of fear for his safety.
On Sunday, he heard about six gunshots and came outside, he said. A body was lying on the balcony of his neighbor’s second-floor unit.
On Monday night, the student said he was inside his home playing a video game, “Call of Duty: War Zone,” when he heard noise outside. He thought it was someone hammering at first. He grabbed his gun for protection and looked outside.
“I saw a body laying right there,” he said of the nearby sidewalk.
In a brief phone interview, Woodson’s grandmother said her grandson, a senior computer science major at VCU, had been an honors student at Buckingham High School, where she said he had played football and soccer.
In a statement to the VCU community, university officials said students in need of counseling after the shootings can call (804) 828-6200 for services.
“I know you join us in sending our thoughts and prayers to Cody’s family and friends during this difficult time of great loss,” the university said.
Anyone with information on Monday’s shooting is asked to call Major Crimes Detective J. Higgins at (804) 814-7570. Anyone with information on Sunday’s shooting should contact Major Crimes Detective A. Sleem at 814-7123. Tips can also be submitted to Crime Stoppers at 780-1000 or through the P3 Tips Crime Stoppers app for smartphones. All Crime Stoppers reporting methods are anonymous.