One Virginia State Police trooper was killed and two civilians were wounded when a gunman opened fire Thursday afternoon at a Greyhound Bus Station in downtown Richmond, according to law enforcement authorities.
The suspected gunman was shot and killed when troopers fired, police said.
Virginia State Police Col. W. Steven Flaherty, the superintendent, identified the trooper as Chad P. Dermyer, 37. He announced his death “with an incredibly heavy heart” and noted that the trooper is survived by his wife and two children. Police said the injured civilians suffered injuries that did not appear to be life threatening.
The shooting occurred about 2:45 p.m. in an area of the city known as the Diamond after the nearby baseball stadium and near an entrance to I-95. Corinne N. Geller, a state police spokeswoman, said a trooper and the suspect were talking in the station’s entranceway, when the suspect “pulled out a gun and shot the trooper.”
Flaherty said the troopers were at the station as part of a training exercise in criminal interdictions.
Geller said two other troopers in the station fired back and the assailant was killed. She said a weapon was recovered. The trooper who was shot was wearing a dark blue utility uniform.
Flaherty said he learned of the shooting of his officer while Flaherty was attending a chiefs of police event and was in the midst of a candlelighting ceremony recalling officers killed last year.
Reva Trammell, a Richmond city council member, said she hugged a crying state trooper at the scene. “This is one of the saddest days I’ve ever seen in the city of Richmond,” she said. “A senseless act in the city. Cruel.”
Charles Leazott, 44-year-old who works for an electrical company across from the bus station, said he heard “the largest amount of sirens ever” just before 3 p.m.
“It seemed like every police officer in Richmond was arriving on scene,” said Leazott, adding that authorities told employees to lock all doors. “I’ve never seen so many police officers in one place.”
He said officers wore body armor and riots shields and even forced a door open. Leazott described the situation as “intense” and said time moved very slowly, but estimated it was under control about 30 minutes after police arrived.
Authorities said Richmond police along with the FBI, the U.S. Marshals Service, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the Henrico County Police, and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security are assisting in the investigation. A representative at the FBI’s Richmond Field office said agents were “assembling resources, and we’re gathering information.”
Thursday’s shooting in Richmond comes after several recent attacks on police officers in the Washington area – shootings that claimed the lives of four members of law enforcement in Maryland and Virginia.
Two sheriff’s deputies were fatally shot 30 miles northeast of Baltimore in early February by a man wanted in the shooting of his wife, followed by the shooting of an officer in Prince William County, who was killed on her first day of patrol answering a domestic disturbance call.
On March 13, a Prince George’s County police officer was killed in a shootout with a gunman who police said wanted to die in gun battle and had brought his brothers to videotape the encounter. The plainclothes officer was killed by a fellow officer who mistook him for a suspect, police said.
After the latest attack on Thursday, Gov. Terry McAuliffe said he spoke to Richmond’s mayor and the state police superintendent. In a statement, the governor said he “offered whatever state resources may be necessary to respond to this situation.” As darkness fell, a minivan drove by the area of the bus station flying an American flag and a sign reading, “Police Lives Matter.”
The bus station is in an industrial part of Richmond on a main thoroughfare across from a minor league baseball stadium and the Arthur Ashe Jr. Athletic Center. The city has struggled to revitalize the area, where there’s a hodgepodge of industrial businesses and a UHaul self storage center. Lights flashed on police cruisers lined up in the center of the street, and the city police mobile command center remained outside the bus station nearly five hours after the shooting.
Greyhound said in a statement that the Richmond bus terminal will be closed until further notice. Service in and out of Richmond has been canceled, the carrier statement said, adding that Greyhound will reroute customers where possible.
The statement said no Greyhound employees were injured, and that counselors are being made available to workers and people who were in the station.
(c) 2016, The Washington Post · Peter Hermann, Jenna Portnoy