A man armed with four handguns killed two people and wounded five others by firing into a crowd outside a high school graduation ceremony in Virginia, causing hundreds to flee in panic, police said.
A 19-year-old man, who is believed to know one of the victims, was arrested in Richmond shortly after the incident outside the Huguenot High School’s commencement ceremony on the campus of Virginia Commonwealth University.
The suspect is expected to be charged with two counts of second-degree murder in addition to other offences, interim Richmond Police Chief Rick Edwards told a news conference.
He called the shooter’s behaviour “disgusting and cowardly”, since his dispute appeared to be with just one person.
“When you have a crowd like this, innocent people are going to be caught up in the mayhem, and that’s what happened today,” Mr Edwards said.
“Obviously, this should have been a safe space… It’s just incredibly tragic that someone decided to bring a gun to this incident and rain terror on our community.”
The mass shooting was the 279th to take place in the US in the first 157 days of 2023, according to the Gun Violence Archive. It defines a shooting as a mass shooting when four or more people are shot or killed in a single incident, not including the shooter.
Among those killed was an 18-year-old male student who had just graduated and a 36-year-old man, Mr Edwards said.
He did not confirm a local TV report saying the victims were father and son.
A 31-year-old man suffered life-threatening injuries and four other males aged 14, 32, 55 and 58 were expected to survive, he added.
Nine-year-old injured in chaos
Mr Edwards said a nine-year-old girl was struck by a car in the ensuing chaos and several other people were injured in falls or suffered from anxiety.
The suspect fled the scene on foot and was captured in possession of four handguns, three of which may have been fired, Mr Edwards said.
The school district said a different graduation scheduled for later on Tuesday was cancelled “out of an abundance of caution” and schools would be closed on Wednesday.