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2 arrested in fatal shooting of student outside Richfield school

Police say another student was critically injured when shots were fired just outside South Education Center Tuesday afternoon.

RICHFIELD, Minn. — Two suspects are in custody following a shooting outside a Richfield school Tuesday that left one student dead and another critically injured. 

At a news conference Tuesday afternoon, Richfield Police Chief Jay Henthorne told reporters the two victims were shot on a sidewalk outside the District 287 South Education Center around 12:07 p.m., and the suspect or suspects fled in a vehicle immediately afterwards.  

The two students were rushed to Hennepin County Medical Center, where one was pronounced dead and the other is reportedly in critical condition. 

Richfield police said Tuesday evening that two suspects, ages 18 and 19, were arrested in connection with the shooting. Records show they were booked into the Hennepin County Jail at 11:15 p.m. A gun was recovered by officers serving a search warrant, but at this point it is unclear if it is the same weapon used in Tuesday's shooting.

Police say they're not currently looking for any other suspects.

Law enforcement has not identified the victims, but Richfield High School football coach Kris Pulford confirmed the teen killed was Jahmari Rice, son of local activist Cortez Rice. Pulford was one of dozens who gathered at the site of the shooting to support each other and mourn the victims. 

"They don’t have to have answers and it’s ok to feel bad and it’s ok to feel sad," said Pulford of the young people remembering Jahmari.

The coach said he talked to Rice just last week, calling him a "good kid," and saying Jahmari's sudden death leaves many grappling with what happened.

"If I knew that was the last time, I probably would have said a little bit more," Pulford said.

"I know how it feels to lose somebody, so we’re going to stand here in solidarity with the family," said Damik Wright. Wright's brother Daunte was shot and killed by Kim Potter, the former Brooklyn Center police officer recently found guilty in his death.

"We will get justice and we’ll keep fighting for you until we can’t fight no more," said Damik about Jahmari, who had just transferred to the South Education Center two days earlier.

"This is a tragic day in the city of Richfield," Chief Henthorne said at the earlier press conference. "Our community, our hearts, our prayers, our thoughts go out to District 287, their students, their families and our community." 

The chief asked anyone who has information on the shooting to call 888-ATF-TIPS or 800-CALL-FBI.

District 287 Superintendent Sandra Lewandowski said staff members and police responded immediately after the shooting, and implemented lockdown procedures. 

"We express our deepest condolences to the family and friends of the victims. To us there are students who come through the doors every day, we care for them, and this is a terrible tragedy and loss," Lewandowski said, her voice breaking. "We are deeply saddened by this incident, and will do everything we can to work to support the families, classmates and staff in whatever way possible." 

Earlier on Tuesday, multiple squads were dispatched shortly after noon to the South Education Center in the 7000 block of Penn Ave. South. Images from the scene reflected a strong police presence that included special agents from the FBI and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF). 

Shortly after 1:30 p.m. District 287 sent a message to families. "We have just become aware of a police situation at South Education Center. We are still gathering information at this time, the site is on a hard lockdown as of this email. We will be communicating updates with families as soon as we have more information."

That lockdown was lifted shortly before 2:30 p.m. when it was determined there was no remaining danger. On Tuesday evening, officials canceled school on Wednesday and Thursday.

One parent on scene at South Education Center waiting for her child shared a text she received as the incident unfolded. "Mom, there is a shooter in the school I love you," the message read.

Police and school officials established a pickup area at nearby Donaldson Park where students were reunited with their parents. 

Richfield City Council released the following statement in response:

Like everyone in Richfield and the region, we are still processing the tragic school shooting that took place just after noon today at the South Education Center. These headlines appear far too often, and our hearts sink that such a tragedy has landed in our community. We join our partners at Intermediate School District 287, South Education Center, all Richfield families and students who are grieving.

We were heartbroken to learn that one of the students was killed in the incident, and another is in critical condition. We offer our condolences to the family of the victim who was killed and our compassion to the victim in critical condition and to those directly impacted by the shooting.  We thank the brave school staff, teachers, police officers, firefighters and all cooperating jurisdictions for their assistance in responding to this incident.

Richfield has long been a close-knit, safe and welcoming community. Everyone in our community deserves to feel safe in their schools and in their community, and today this safety was threatened. Please check-in on your neighbors, hug your children and be there for your friends and family.

As more information develops on the situation, we will be updating the community.

Veteran KARE 11 photojournalist Craig Norkus lives across from the school. He said he was preparing for work when he heard the siren of one squad, and then they were "non-stop." Norkus called the response "overwhelming," saying he counted between 30 and 40 squads from various agencies, and a minimum of five ambulances.  

Superintendent Lewandowski told reporters that the South Education Center is part of District 287, a partnership of 11 metro-area school districts. The campus in Richfield serves about 200 students pre-K through Transition with unique needs in a variety of programs.

Superintendent Lewandowski released a statement Tuesday evening:

With a heavy heart we report that on Tuesday, Feb. 1, there were shots fired outside at South Education Center near the front entrance. Two students were injured in the incident.

Our staff members and police responded immediately to the situation and followed our security procedures. The two injured students are receiving medical care for their injuries. As of now, one has passed away, one is in critical condition (HCMC)

There are no words to describe the bravery exhibited by our staff at SEC and local authorities today. No one should ever have to respond to a tragedy like this and we commit to supporting staff, students, and families’ well-being as they recover from this incident.

We remain in constant contact with the police department as they continue their investigation. We are unable to confirm any reports due to the ongoing police investigation. Please refer questions about the investigation to the Richfield Police Department.

We express our deepest condolences to the family and friends of the victims. We are deeply saddened by this incident and will work to support the family, classmates, and staff as much as we can.

The safety of our students and staff is a top priority. We will continue to update you as we learn more details.

It is always difficult to understand an incident like this and it is an especially important time to reach out for support. District 287 stands ready to support our students and staff as needed as we recover from this tragedy.

According to a statement from Richfield Middle School, which is located near the South Education Center, but part of a separate district, emergency personnel responded to the school "accidentally," saying that at no time were students at RMS in any danger. In their statement, school officials say officers had weapons drawn and were wearing bulletproof vests, however, they don't believe many students witnessed it since it occurred while they were in class.

"It is important that you are aware of the incident in the event that your child hears about it, as some children may be deeply impacted by this type of news," the statement reads in part.

Police were previously called to the campus in September of 2021 on reports of a student with a handgun. South Education Center was locked down, and officers took a student into custody near the school entrance. They found a loaded handgun in that student's possession. 

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