A Richfield school student was killed and another is in critical condition after an altercation involving two other classmates, who are in jail pending charges.
Five students were involved in total, and it is possible it was related to a prior altercation.
Richfield police responded just after noon on Tuesday, February 1, to reports of a shooting. There, they found two students on the ground. Both were transported to Hennepin County Medical Center, where one, a 15-year-old identified by family members as Jahmari Rice, died; another, a 17-year-old, is in critical condition. A 19-year-old student was also injured.
Richfield Police Chief Jay Henthorne said at a press conference he was grateful that the suspects were apprehended so fast, thanks to help from community members. “From the information that we gathered at the scene upon our first response, and talking with people and some of the evidence we collected but also the community coming forward, I think we were able to take the individuals into custody within 24 hours,” said Henthorne.
The shooting raises ongoing concerns around guns, safety, and mental health. The school is part of a number of schools across the metro that cater to students under 21 who have additional psychological needs. To address this in a more holistic way, the school had metal detectors removed last year and brought in support coaches.
The school also presently does not have school resource officers, police officers who patrol the schools, although they do cooperate with law enforcement when the need arises.
At the press conference, Independent School District 287 Superintendent Sandy Lewandowski mentioned they do not have enough resources to help students with their mental health. “It’s a goal of this legislative session and part of the governor’s budget to focus on that. We certainly support that and heartily endorse any kind of help that we can get to provide the students what they need,” said Lewandowski.
Mourners gathered for a vigil in extremely frigid conditions late Wednesday afternoon to remember Rice. Representatives from A Mothers’ Love embraced Rice’s stepmother, who broke down while repeatedly saying “he was just a kid,” as she and his son Javonte brought a cardboard box with three photos glued to it meant to be a place for mourners to write about their memories, as well as balloons to release in Rice’s honor.
Darlisa Williams, whose child was friends with Rice, remembered Rice coming over “almost every day, every other day, literally. Especially when we barbecued in the summer. There was always a group of them. They just set out, sat around, play games, talked on the phone, chatted on Snapchat, listened to music. That’s what they love to do, listen to music. You know, regular teenagers, that’s what they did.”
Earlier in the day, a school staffer, who did not identify himself, came by to drop off flowers to a makeshift shrine adorned with footballs, flowers, and candles. He invited family members inside to the building, just as they began to leave.
Jahmari’s father, Cortez Rice, is a civil rights activist who is currently incarcerated at the county workhorse for violating his probation, which he was sentenced to after being convicted of possessing a firearm in 2016.
The latest incident stemmed from walking inside the building and live-streaming from where activists thought Judge Regina Chu, who oversaw the Kimberly Potter case, resided, as part of a demonstration to have her live-stream the trial that concluded in late December.
Although the charge was dropped by Judge William Leary on Friday, Cortez Rice remains incarcerated. He was granted a furlough by a judge, but only long enough to attend his son’s funeral, which will take place at Hope Presbyterian Church, 7132 Portland Ave, on Wednesday, February 9 at 1 pm.
This story was updated on February 7, 2022.
Henry Pan is a contributing writer at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder.