By: Hannah Yale
On Sep. 20, two students were shot at Heritage High School in Newport News, VA during an attack by a fellow student.
The Newport News Police Department confirmed that the individuals who were shot were a 17-year-old male and a 17-year-old female. The male survivor was shot multiple times– once in his jaw, once in his leg, and another shot struck one of his fingers– and is being treated at Norfolk Sentara General Hospital. The female student was shot in the left shin and was later treated at Riverside Regional Medical Center.
The attacker was a 15-year-old male student who is now in police custody. The investigation is ongoing, and no details about the shooter, his weapon, or a possible motive have been released.
However, the Daily Press has reported that multiple anonymous sources have revealed that the 15-year-old in custody already has pending charges for malicious wounding, using a firearm in a felony, and underage possession of a firearm. These charges come from a shooting in Southeast Newport News in 2020, in which the boy allegedly shot another teenager on 34th Street. Although the Daily Press’s sources said the teen pleaded guilty six months ago, a hearing is scheduled next month for a final disposition and sentencing in the Newport News Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court.
The attacker’s identity has not yet been published because he is being charged as a juvenile in the 2020 shooting, and prosecutors have not announced whether they will charge him as an adult in the case for the 2021 shooting. The new charges against the 15-year-old attacker are for two counts of aggravated malicious wounding and nine gun counts, including “possession of a firearm as a convicted felon,” though it is unclear at the moment what the previous felony charges are from. If convicted, the teenager most likely faces life in prison.
According to Everytown For Gun Safety, there have been at least 82 incidents of gunfire on school grounds so far this year, which resulted in 21 deaths and 47 injuries nationwide. There has been one incident of on-campus gunfire in Maryland.
Three people, including the shooter, were injured by gunfire at an unsanctioned gathering at Towson University (TU) on Sep. 4, 2021. One of the injured persons was a TU student, and an announcement made by TU confirmed that this individual has been released from the hospital, according to CBS Baltimore.
The suspect in the TU shooting, 19-year-old Samuel Nnam, is being held in custody by the Baltimore County Police Department without bail. Nnam is being charged with multiple counts of attempted first-degree murder and first-degree assault, and he faces a life sentence if convicted.
Gun violence prevention activist and SMCM student Jaxon O’Mara told The Point News that school shooting incidents like these are not taken seriously enough. “There is a lot of work to be done, including passing universal background checks federally, passing Jaelynn’s Law in the Maryland General Assembly, investing in community violence intervention programs, and other common-sense gun violence prevention tactics,” O’Mara said.
Jaelynn’s Law (HB0200 and SB0479) would expand gun storage regulations in an effort to prevent minors from accessing firearms. The bill is named after 16-year-old Jaelynn Willey who was shot and killed by a classmate at Great Mills High School in St. Mary’s County in 2018. The gun used in the shooting belonged to the father of the attacker. State Senator Jack Bailey (R), who represents St. Mary’s County, has said the state’s current child access prevention law is “more than adequate” in addressing gun violence.
O’Mara and Willey were classmates at Great Mills High School, which is only a 10 minute drive from SMCM.