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Governor Ralph Northam calls special session of General Assembly to address gun violence

“No one should go to work, to school, or to church wondering if they will come home,” said Governor Northam. “But that is what our society has come to, because we fail to act on gun violence… I will be asking for votes and laws, not thoughts and prayers.”

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Governor Ralph Northam on Tuesday announced that he will call members of the Virginia General Assembly into special session for the purpose of addressing gun violence in the Commonwealth.

“No one should go to work, to school, or to church wondering if they will come home,” said Governor Northam. “But that is what our society has come to, because we fail to act on gun violence… I will be asking for votes and laws, not thoughts and prayers.”

The Governor’s remarks can be read in full below:

Thank you, Secretary Moran. Good morning. Thanks to all of you for being in attendance. I’d like to start by thanking all of our first responders, state and local police, and public health and state officials for all that you do. It has been a long few days here in the Commonwealth.

12 years after the mass shooting at Virginia Tech, our Commonwealth has suffered another terrible tragedy.

Once more first responders displayed heroism, and ordinary Virginians showed extraordinary courage and compassion.

Once more, hearts are broken, lives are shattered, and families are crushed.

Once more, a community is in shock and pain and grief.

And once more we will hear folks offer their thoughts and prayers.

We do appreciate and need them. As I said this weekend in Virginia Beach, God is in control.

But we must do more than give our thoughts and prayers. We must give Virginians the action they deserve.

Virginia is heartbroken. We are heartbroken for the families who have lost their loved ones. Their lives are forever changed. The pain and suffering that Virginia Beach is experiencing is the same pain communities across Virginia and around the country suffer every day due to gun violence.

As an Army doctor, I have seen firsthand what a bullet does to a body, and I saw it again this weekend. I can’t imagine the devastation these families are suffering.

It is wrong, it is outrageous, it is unforgivable to turn our municipal centers, our schools, our churches and synagogues and mosques, into battlefields. No one should go to work, to school, or to church wondering if they will come home. Our elementary school children regularly practice lockdown drills. That is what our society has come to, because we have failed to act on gun violence.

It is wrong that we now view these mass shootings as the new normal. In fact, it is wrong that we view gun violence in general as the new normal. Tragic mass shootings draw our attention, but shootings happen in our communities every day. A 15-year-old boy was shot and killed in Norfolk Sunday. A little girl was shot and killed at a cookout in Richmond on Memorial Day weekend. Four people were shot, and one killed, in Portsmouth this past weekend.

It is past time to change it.

Back in January, I asked the Virginia General Assembly to work with me to stop this violence. I asked them to ban magazines that hold more than 10 rounds.

I asked them to make background checks universal—a policy that 90 percent of the public supports. I asked them to create an Extreme Risk Protective Order – a way for law enforcement to ask a court to keep guns away from someone who poses a substantial danger to themselves or others, a concept supported by President Trump’s own School Safety Task Force.

I asked them to reinstate Virginia’s successful “One Handgun a Month” policy. I asked for tougher penalties for anyone who leaves a loaded gun around a child, and to require anyone whose gun has been stolen to report the theft within 24 hours.

And I have supported, and will continue to support, legislation giving localities more authority to regulate firearms, including in their own government buildings.

None of these ideas are radical. None of them violate the Second Amendment. None of them would impair any of my fellow Virginia hunters or sportsmen.

None of them would limit anyone from owning a gun who wasn’t a felon or a domestic abuser or declared by a judge to be a danger.

And none of them passed. In fact, some failed with just four votes against them in small subcommittees.

We lost 1,028 Virginians due to gun violence in 2017. That’s almost three people a day. Incredibly, that is more deaths than those due to vehicle accidents.

This weekend’s tragedy, as well as the tragedies that happen every day across Virginia, must instill in us a new level of urgency to act. If we can save one life because we acted now, it is worth it.

And so, by the power vested in me by Article IV, Section 6, and Article V, Section 5 of the Constitution of Virginia, I will summon the members of the Senate and the House of Delegates to meet in Special Session for the purpose of passing common sense public safety laws.

I will propose many of the same ideas that we have proposed before:

  • Universal background checks;
  • A ban on assault weapons, to include suppressors and bump stocks;
  • An extreme risk protective order;
  • Reinstating the one-gun-a-month law;
  • Child access prevention;
  • Requiring people to report lost and stolen firearms; and
  • Expanding local authority to regulate firearms, including in government buildings.

I will be asking for votes and laws, not thoughts and prayers.

And I ask that the Members of the General Assembly engage in an open and transparent debate, and that the bills brought before the legislature are put to a vote by the entire General Assembly.

That is why our legislators are voted into office and sent to Richmond.

Business as usual, with leadership shielding most of their members from taking tough votes by setting early morning hearings before small subcommittees, won’t cut it. Virginians deserve leadership, and they will be watching. The nation will be watching.

From the moment the first shots were fired in Virginia Beach, our first responders knew what to do.  They rushed to the sound of the gunfire. They responded in less than two minutes to the shooting.  Our first responders acted to save lives—and indeed, they did save lives.

Now, I am calling on the elected officials of this Commonwealth to become second responders.  Your duty is clear: rush to the scene, and put a stop to this violence. Heal our Commonwealth. Show Virginians that it doesn’t matter what party you are in, we are all Virginians first, and we care about the safety and security of every Virginian, no matter who they are or where they live.

There will be those—there are already those—who say it’s too soon after the tragedy to talk about responses. I would ask those people, when is the right time?

Delay only means what it always means—that there will be a next time, another tragedy, more deaths of innocent people, and when it happens, those same voices will again proclaim that it is too soon to talk about protecting our citizens.

I want this to be the last time.

I know this will be hard. Doing the right thing is often hard. But this work is not nearly as difficult as the task ahead for the Virginia Beach families who now have to carry on. Or for the more than a thousand Virginia families who lost a loved one due to gun violence.

It is right to respond to this tragedy with decisive action. Let Virginia set an example for the nation that we can respond to tragedy with action. That we can turn pain into purpose.

Let’s get to work.

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Trevor Dickerson is the co-founder and editor of RVAhub.com, lover of all things Richmond, and a master of karate and friendship for everyone.

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Police make arrest in Chamberlayne Avenue homicide

At approximately 7:06 a.m. on January 3, officers were called to a motel in the 2600 block of Chamberlayne Avenue for the report of a shooting.

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The Richmond Police Department, with the assistance of the United States Marshals Service, has made an arrest in connection with a homicide on Chamberlayne Avenue that occurred earlier this month.

Gerard A. Hargrove, 44, of the 2900 block of Chamberlayne Avenue, was captured by the U.S. Marshals Regional Fugitive Task Force last week. He has been charged with murder and use of a firearm in the commission of a felony. His booking photo is attached.

At approximately 7:06 a.m. on January 3, officers were called to a motel in the 2600 block of Chamberlayne Avenue for the report of a shooting. When police arrived, they found William O. Hurt down and unresponsive in a motel room. He had suffered an apparent gunshot wound and was pronounced dead at the scene.

Anyone with further information on this homicide is asked to call Major Crimes Detective M. Godwin at (804) 646-5533 or contact Crime Stoppers at (804) 780-1000 or at www.7801000.com. The P3 Tips Crime Stoppers app for smartphones may also be used. All Crime Stoppers methods are anonymous.

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Crime

Data: More pedestrians are dying on Virginia’s roads

In 2018, 123 pedestrians died on the state’s roads — the highest death toll in a decade. Preliminary figures show that in 2019, at least 120 pedestrians died in traffic accidents in the commonwealth.

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By Kelly Booth and Judi Dalati

On a Friday night in October, Katelyn Tilts was walking to a convenience store with a group of friends when she saw headlights coming at her.

“A car came around the corner really quickly and was swerving. The driver was swerving but started going directly at me and hit me head-on,” Tilts later told WTVR. “I remember thinking that it hurt so bad that I didn’t know how I would be able to make it until the ambulance got there.”

The hit-and-run incident left Tilts, a freshman at Virginia Commonwealth University, hospitalized and on crutches. She survived, but many pedestrians hit by vehicles do not.

According to data from the Virginia Department of Transportation and the Department of Motor Vehicles, 123 pedestrians died on the state’s roads in 2018 — the highest death toll in 10 years.

Preliminary figures show that at least 120 pedestrians died in traffic accidents in the commonwealth last year.

Not only are more pedestrians being killed, but they also are making up a greater proportion of all traffic fatalities:

  • In 2015, 10% of the people killed in roadway accidents in Virginia were pedestrians.
  • That figure jumped to 16% the following year. Last year, it was 15%, according to VDOT and DMV data.

“The vast, overwhelming majority of people who die on our streets are killed by drivers of cars,” noted Ross Catrow, executive director of RVA Rapid Transit, an advocacy group for regional public transportation.

“And the further sad truth is that these deaths and serious injuries often go unnoticed, underreported, and, even worse, usually nothing is done to build better streets and make them safer for people,” Catrow wrote on Streets Cred, his website about urban issues affecting mid-sized American cities.

Catrow has pointed out that some people say pedestrians are at fault for the rising number of traffic accidents. He rejects that notion.

“I’m so ultra-tired of engineers, elected officials and everyone else blaming ‘distracted pedestrians’ for the increase in injuries on our roads,” he said on his “Good Morning, RVA” podcast.

Catrow advocates traffic-calming measures such as painted curb bulbs and posts that can narrow intersections, increase visibility and slow down drivers to prevent pedestrian accidents.

Some people blame elderly drivers for causing accidents. But 25% of the motorists involved in traffic accidents that have killed pedestrians since 2013 were in their 20s — and half of them were under 40. About 22% of the drivers involved in pedestrian fatalities were 60 and older.

Ralph Aronberg, a traffic engineer consultant in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, said some people in their early 20s have poor driving habits.

“Drivers in that age group are more likely to use social media such as Instagram on their cellphone, are more likely to have groups in vehicles leading to distractions and are less likely to realize the consequences of taking their eyes off the road,” he said.

Aronberg, whose firm focuses on accident reconstructions, said people in their early 20s are also more likely to drive at night, drink and drive, or be under the influence of THC or other mind-altering substances while operating a car.

Pedestrians killed in traffic accidents in Virginia since 2013 have ranged in age from infants to 96. About a third of the victims were under 30; slightly over a third in their 40s and 50s; and the rest 60 or older.

Since 2013, Fairfax has had the most pedestrian deaths — more than 80, according to VDOT data. Then come Henrico County (43), Norfolk (40), Richmond (31) and Newport News (27).

The roads with the most pedestrian fatalities during that time period were:

  • Jefferson Avenue, Newport News — seven
  • Route 11, Washington County — three
  • South Street, Front Royal — three
  • Southbound Route 288, Goochland County — three
  • Chamberlayne Avenue, Richmond — three

Weather was not a factor in most pedestrian deaths.

“Most vehicle-pedestrian accidents happen in good weather,” said Daniel Vomhof, a traffic safety expert in California and a member of the Accreditation Commission for Traffic Accident Reconstructionists.

More than 85% of the pedestrian fatalities in Virginia happened in clear or cloudy weather conditions, the VDOT data showed. About 13% occurred in rain, mist or fog, and 1% in snowy weather.

To stay safe, Vomhof recommends that pedestrians wear white or reflective shoes at night and light-colored clothing that doesn’t blend in with the surroundings.

“Visibility increases when the object is in eye contrast to the background,” Vomhof said.

About the data in this report:

The data for this project was downloaded from the Virginia Department of Transportation’s Virginia Crashes | Virginia Roads website. It covers every vehicle crash in the state from 2013 to July of this year.

The data set contains more than 828,000 records. We filtered it for pedestrian accidents (about 11,000) and then for fatal pedestrian accidents (660).

We analyzed the data using Microsoft Excel, aggregating the data by locality, weather conditions and other columns in the spreadsheet.

We also used the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicle’s online “Traffic Crash Data” tool to confirm and refine our analysis. We also ensured that the numbers were consistent with those published in the DMV’s report, 2018 Virginia Traffic Crash Facts.

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Crime

Police Looking for Suspect in Robberies in Carytown, Westover Hills, and Broad Street

Police believe the same individual robbed all three locations.

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Richmond police are looking for a suspect in a series of apparently related commercial robberies that happened Sunday night and early Monday.

Police said these three locations were robbed:

  • Jimmy John’s at 3314 W. Cary Street at 9:10 p.m. Sunday
  • Fasmart at 1201 Westover Hills Boulevard at 9:40 p.m. Sunday
  • 7-Eleven at 4601 W. Broad Street at 12:17 a.m. Monday

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