The third gun-related incident in the Town of Farmville within the past three months took place on Friday, February 7, as the Longwood University community was alerted of a report of shots fired on Oak Street near the Centra Southside Community Hospital at 3:16 p.m.
The previous two events, which law enforcement believe to be connected, took place on Dec. 16 at the Days Inn Hotel in Farmville, and after that on January 12 at the McDonalds Restaurant in town. A reward was placed out for information leading to the arrest of those responsible on January 21, which was announced in a press conference with multiple members of law enforcement present. Authorities are still searching for the suspects responsible for these shootings, according to Farmville Chief of Police Andy Ellington.
Ellington said this most recent incident on Oak Street could possibly be connected to the previous two, but it is purely speculation as the investigation is still ongoing into the matter and there is no evidence that links the crimes directly.
“As far as we can tell right now, our investigation has determined that it was two male subjects, two black males, that allegedly were arguing in the back parking lot (behind the units of the 100th Block of Oak Street),” said Ellington. “At some point, there became distance between them and which one of the individuals, we can’t determine which one, ultimately pulled a firearm and then shots were fired.”
Ellington said both suspects, allegedly, then ran in opposite directions, and several minutes later an individual was detained at the Centra Southside Community Hospital. The individual was “very belligerent and uncooperative” to law enforcement, according to Ellington.
Due to the behavior of the suspect, there is no known motive for the incident, per Ellington.
The campus community was notified just under an hour later at 4:06 p.m. that the scene was secure and normal activities could be resumed.
According to Student Body president Haleigh Pannell and confirmed by Assistant Vice President of Communications Matthew McWilliams, one of the shots that were fired struck a house that students were renting, and while no one was injured, those students have been relocated as a result.
Pannell, who said she lives on Oak Street, said, “Obviously it is very scary the moment that it happened, and to have three gun incidents in the same semester is a lot, you know. But I am glad everyone is okay and I saw the tape that they had put off to bring up the section and Farmville PD and Longwood PD working together on the whole thing. So I’m glad it got resolved quickly, but it was definitely scary.”
She encourages students to utilize the SGA Virtual Open Forum and utilize the SGA as much as possible to voice any concerns they may have.
Allison Schubring, a junior at Longwood, said she had just returned to her home after class only to be startled by the sound of gunshots.
“I was just getting inside of my bedroom window that faces the front of Grove Street and all of the sudden I hear ‘pop, pop, pop’ and immediately go to the window and less than 30 seconds later see this guy walk from behind the house across the street from me and walk towards the street, across the street and then he starts jogging and he’s jogging down what looks like past Grove Street Park,” said Schubring.
She continued, “He looked like he was trying to hide back behind my house on Grove Street just kind of in the area that’s like wooded, it’s like bush, it’s kind of a protected area, like it looked like he was probably going to go hide.”
She said herself and her roommates continued to look out of the window to monitor where the person was going until “within five minutes” when police arrived on the scene.
The events from this semester have caused Schubring to become more aware of her surroundings and feelings of un-safeness when walking around by herself, she said.
“I just feel like I cannot let my guard down as much as I would, or used to,” said Schubring.
With these incidents happening in the succession of months, Ellington said the growing trend of shots fired calls is “certainly very troublesome” and asks for residents of the Town of Farmville to be vigilant and not be afraid to report an instance if it seems out of place.
In a new outlet for any with information to report, Ellington said FPD has recently purchased a tip-line through an application called “TIP411”, where information, such as videos and pictures, can be reported and be 100 percent anonymous. The application should be up and running soon, according to Ellington.
“I am very excited with this app because I think, right now, we have a disconnection with the underground, so to speak, and people are scared to come forward with information,” said Ellington. “But this is totally anonymous, we have no idea who it is, all we see is a number. So we’re hoping that this is going to open a communication line for us to gather a lot of information.”
Ellington said there is no way to not consider these events as being gang related with the amount of shots that have been fired.
“When you get that number of people, and two different sides, unfortunately I don’t think you can tag it with anything else but,” said Ellington. “It’s unacceptable, and we’re not going to tolerate it. One way or another we’re going to get to the bottom of it.”
However, he did say that the level being dealt with in the Town of Farmville is much lower than those of the bigger cities as these suspected groups are less organized and are not as well driven from the inside. These are groups of people who come into contact, get into confrontations and it will then escalate quickly and possibly turn violent, according to Ellington.
Dr. Virginia R. Beard, an associate professor of criminal justice and criminal justice area coordinator, said groups like these can drive themselves off of pure emulation of the more widely known gangs across the United States.
“Emulation for the pure act of it is something we see in more rural formed or suburban formed gangs that are more emulating rather than actually attached to one of the major criminal syndicates we typically think of in the United States,” said Beard.
Ellington said evidence from all three incidents has been sent off to forensic labs to analyze, but could take “two to three months” to get any returns.
The backlog of cases that get sent to the laboratories is the cause of the lengthy time frame of getting the results back, according to Ellington.
“We’re just a small town, but you’ve got to think of the many cities within the state and towns that the state is dealing with,” he said. “You turn on the news every morning in Richmond and someone’s been shot, and our evidence is going to the same place as their evidence goes, but they’ve got a much bigger case load than what we have.”
Continue to stay with The Rotunda for more updates into these stories, as they are still ongoing.