Virginia Man Sentenced To 43 Years After Pleading Guilty To Killing Teen Who Had Just Graduated

FILE -Flowers are placed in front of the Altria Theater which was the site of a mass shooting after a graduation ceremony, Wednesday, June 7, 2023, in Richmond, Va.  Amari Pollard, 20, accused in last year's fatal shooting of a teenager who had received his Virginia high school diploma minutes earlier at a public event pleaded guilty on Thursday, Feb. 29, 2024 to first-degree murder and a firearm-related charge and was sentenced to 43 years in prison. (AP Photo/Steve Helber, File)
FILE -Flowers are placed in front of the Altria Theater which was the site of a mass shooting after a graduation ceremony, Wednesday, June 7, 2023, in Richmond, Va. Amari Pollard, 20, accused in last year's fatal shooting of a teenager who had received his Virginia high school diploma minutes earlier at a public event pleaded guilty on Thursday, Feb. 29, 2024 to first-degree murder and a firearm-related charge and was sentenced to 43 years in prison. (AP Photo/Steve Helber, File)

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — A young man accused in last year's fatal shooting of a teenager who had received his Virginia high school diploma minutes earlier at a public event pleaded guilty on Thursday to first-degree murder and a firearm-related charge and was sentenced to 43 years in prison.

Amari Pollard, 20, entered the plea during the fourth day of his trial in the shooting outside the Huguenot High School graduation that left 18-year-old Shawn Jackson dead, news outlets reported.

Richmond Circuit Court Judge W. Reilly Marchant, who sentenced Pollard, suspended 18 years of the sentence, meaning he could be eligible for release in 25 years, the Richmond Times-Dispatch reported.

Pollard entered the plea after Marchant made two decisive rulings against him earlier Thursday. The judge ruled against a motion to downgrade Pollard’s charges and the admission of certain evidence.

Both Jackson and his stepfather, Lorenzo Smith, were shot and killed at the conclusion of graduation ceremonies outside Richmond’s Altria Theater, located on the outskirts of Virginia Commonwealth University. Five other people were wounded by gunfire, and at least 12 more suffered other injuries or were treated for anxiety due to the mayhem, police said.

Pollard initially also was charged in Smith's death, but prosecutors later dropped charges, determining after a longer investigation that they lacked the evidence needed to try him for that shootings.

At the time of the violence, Richmond police said that Pollard knew Jackson and the two had been embroiled in a dispute for more than a year. A report prepared by a law firm for the Richmond Public Schools and released in January said that Jackson had been kept home for months because of fears for his safety but was still allowed to attend commencement ceremonies.

Richmond City Commonwealth’s Attorney Colette McEachin said in a news release after the pleas that Pollard's "callous and thoughtless actions in a public graduation in a public space in the middle of the afternoon are the sole reason that he is going to serve 25 years in prison. His actions and his actions alone.”