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RPS employee shot in building slated for closure

Jeremy Lazarus | 5/5/2017, 6:56 p.m.
Delays in closing the A.V. Norrell school buildings in North Side may have helped put Richmond Public Schools staff who ...
Richmond Police Chief Alfred Durham, right, and Richmond Schools Superintendent Dana T. Bedden talk with reporters after Monday’s shooting inside the school system’s Norrell Annex building at 201 W. Graham Road on North Side.

Delays in closing the A.V. Norrell school buildings in North Side may have helped put Richmond Public Schools staff who work there in harm’s way Monday.

A school employee at the Norrell Annex at 201 W. Graham Road was shot and wounded when three juveniles entered the building after 5 p.m. and ran into the employee who was working late. Police said one of the youths pulled out a gun and fired.

The employee’s injury was deemed by police to be traumatic, but not life threatening. The individual, who was not identified, was taken to a nearby hospital.

This is the first significant criminal incident at either the Norrell Annex or at the A.V. Norrell Elementary School building nearby at 2220 Fendall Ave.

Both buildings were closed to students in 2006 following flooding from Tropical Storm Ernesto. The buildings have been used as offices for various schools departments in recent years.

Both buildings, named for one of the first African-American principals in Richmond, were to close this school year to save money. But they have remained in use because of slower than expected relocation of staff.

School nutrition personnel who manage the cafeterias and other food operations work at the Norrell Annex. It is a secure facility that requires a person inside to hit a buzzer to release the lock on the front door, according to schools spokeswoman Kenita Bowers.

“I am not aware of a door being left open,” she stated, when asked about Monday’s shooting.

Responding police officers reported having to breach the locked front door to enter. The juvenile suspects were gone by the time police arrived.

Authorities are asking for the public’s help to identify them.

In a search of the building police found a backpack that did not belong to any of the employees.

Police Chief Alfred Durham said investigators are reviewing recordings from cameras located at the outside doors and inside the building to determine if the youths bypassed the door locking system or gained entry without being buzzed in.

Earlier on Monday, the Richmond school system reported an unlawful entry during the weekend after staff members said they found items out of place. However, the police report did not state that any items were missing.

In late spring of 2016, the Richmond School Board, straining to balance the budget, voted to move the offices out of the two buildings to save $300,000. According to the plan, staff were to be moved before the September 2016 opening of schools. But renovation of the replacement space in three other buildings, including the third floor of the Richmond Alternative School on Leigh Street, the former Ruffin Road school building and the school operations center on Hopkins Road, was delayed.

Police are asking for the public’s help in identifying the three juveniles who got inside the locked building and shot and wounded a schools employee.

Police are asking for the public’s help in identifying the three juveniles who got inside the locked building and shot and wounded a schools employee.

Schools officials said struggles to get city permits set back renovation work during the summer. It also took time to get bids and to allocate limited personnel to prepare offices and undertake the moves.

Some staff members were moved from the Norrell Annex building just after Thanksgiving, as the Free Press reported.

At the time, Assistant Superintendent Tommy Kranz indicated both buildings were to be closed by Christmas. But that schedule proved too ambitious.

Currently, Head Start, Driver’s Education and the Teacher Supply Depot are still in the Norrell Elementary building, while School Nutrition is the only remaining office operating in the Norrell Annex.

All were slated to relocate to new quarters by the end of the current school year, but Ms. Bowers said RPS is “in the process of expediting those moves” as the result of Monday’s incident.

Anyone with information is asked to call Crime Stoppers at (804) 780-1000. Anonymous tips also may be submitted online at www.7801000.com or by texting Crime Stoppers at 274637 and using the keyword “ITip” followed by the tip.