Richmond VA April 30 2012 More people have been shot in Richmond this month than in any month in at least five years, which authorities attribute in part to several violent robberies and a pair of ruthless men believed responsible for at least three shootings — and one of those men is still at large.
Thirty-one people have been shot this month in the city, five fatally. That surpasses the 30 shootings in April 2010, although that month remains the city’s deadliest since at least 2007, with nine homicides.
At least nine of this month’s shootings occurred during robberies. Accidental shootings and suicides are not included in the totals.
Authorities said they have identified two men suspected in three robberies that resulted in shootings in Richmond and at least one incident outside the city. Investigators have one of the men in custody and are looking for the other one. Authorities declined to identify the suspects, citing the ongoing investigations.
“We’re talking about two violent offenders who carried out a series of events here in April that kind of defined the month,” Richmond police Lt. Emmett Williams said.
Officials believe the two men were behind the fatal shooting of Khalfaanii Hasaan Sultaan, 37, of Tampa, Fla., in the early afternoon of April 9 behind the Chicago Manor Apartments in the 1700 block of Chicago Avenue in South Richmond. Police suspect the motive was robbery.
The two also are suspected of shooting a man in a robbery at the Lofts at Trolley Station apartments in South Richmond. That victim remains in a coma.
The same men are suspects in a robbery and shooting in the East End. The victim’s injuries were not life-threatening.
“We haven’t seen this level of violence from two people in many, many years,” Deputy Commonwealth’s Attorney Learned Barry said.
Speaking about this month’s high number of shootings, law enforcement officials note that April is usually a bad month. Since early 2007, more people were shot in April on average than in any other month, authorities said. Authorities said many factors could explain why April typically sees a high number of shootings, including warmer weather.
“Things come alive in the spring, even violent criminals,” said Richmond Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Michael E. Hollomon, who handles many of the city’s shootings, stabbings and other brutal attacks.
Despite the high number of shootings this month, Hollomon pointed out that February and March saw eight and nine shootings, respectively. Those are the only two consecutive months to have single-digit totals since at least early 2007.
Authorities also said the police are working hard to identify suspects and make arrests. “The public needs to know the police are all over this,” Barry said. “There’s no lack of focus at all.”
This month’s shootings include the slaying of 17-year-old Keona Johnson in a robbery of a dice game in North Richmond and the killing of a bystander, Aliza Allen, who was caught in the crossfire of a shootout in the East End. Authorities say that Allen’s killing could be linked to a shooting that wounded three people later that day at a nearby convenience store.
Two brothers, Ahmad K. Phillips and Ahkeem K. Phillips, were fatally shot April 18 after an argument about dog feces that had been left outside Ahmad Phillips’ apartment.
In another case, two men shot each other in the 3900 block of Chamberlayne Avenue. Both men survived.
Authorities believe another shooting on April 7 was carried out in retaliation for a shooting several days earlier.
Most recently in Richmond, two people were shot in the leg Friday evening within about an hour at the Gilpin Court public housing complex. The first shooting wounded a man and the second injured a woman. Police believe the incidents are unrelated.
On Saturday about 6 a.m., a male appeared at VCU Medical Center with a shoulder wound and said he had been shot in the 1500 block of East Broad Street. The man gave authorities conflicting statements, Williams said.
Police said they are working hard to arrest the perpetrators of this month’s shootings, and they credit members of the community for their cooperation.
“The majority of those cases either have suspects already identified, individuals that have already been arrested or individuals that already have warrants on file,” said Richmond police Maj. Steve Drew.
The recent stretch of violence also has kept members of the area’s U.S. Marshals Fugitive Task Force busy as they hunt for suspects.
“They’re working many hours, around the clock, on these cases,” said Kevin Connolly, a supervisory inspector for the Marshals Service who oversees the Task Force. “Guys have been working till 1:30 in the morning, 5:30 in the morning, sleeping for a handful of hours and coming back in.”
Despite the recent spike in gun violence, authorities note that violent crime overall has been on a downward trend for many years. Last year, Richmond police recorded the fewest violent offenses that the city has seen since at least 1970. Also last year, police reported 37 homicides, the second-lowest number of any year going back at least to 1970, according to police statistics.
Officials say the city has made great strides over the years. Richmond averaged more than 80 killings per year from 1971 through 2008. The number peaked at 160 in 1994.
“This month was reminiscent of the ’90s in that we had a lot of killings and a lot of shootings,” Barry said. “But statistically, April is a bad month and always a bad month.”