Four people were shot Thursday night following a Louisiana high school graduation.
Police said none of the wounds was life-threatening and one suspect has been detained.
“We had a normal graduation for Hammond High School within the building,” Tangipahoa Superintendent Melissa Stilley said, according to the Hammond Star. “When our graduates were ready to dismiss and their families were outside ready to greet them outside the University Center, that’s when the shots began to fire.”
“We apologize to our families and to our students that this night, which should have been a very happy occasion for our graduates and their families ended on such a sad note,” Stilley said. “And we pray for the families that were impacted directly and our students who will always have this memory of this graduation on their minds.”
“At this time we do not believe that any students were involved; we do not believe any juveniles were struck in this incident. We do have a person of interest in custody that we are interviewing,” Hammond Police Chief Edwin Bergeron said.
“A night to celebrate the achievements of young men and women was disrupted by senseless violence. Monitoring the situation as more details become available and praying for the well-being of those injured,” Republican Sen. Bill Cassidy of Louisiana tweeted.
A night to celebrate the achievements of young men and women of Hammond High School was disrupted by senseless violence. Monitoring the situation as more details become available and praying for the well-being of those injured.
— U.S. Senator Bill Cassidy, M.D. (@SenBillCassidy) May 20, 2022
Witness Shamika Varnado, a Hammond High alumnus who attended the ceremony, recalled the confusion and panic that followed the eruption of violence.
“The scariest thing I’ve ever been through in my life,” Varnado said. “I held my daughter’s hands so tight and just ran. People were running, screaming, falling out.”
“We did get out without getting shot, but we were so close I smelled the powder,” she said.
“My daughter is not OK and probably will be jumping in her sleep tonight,” Varnado said.
She said her daughter kept screaming that she did not want to die. She said she, her daughter and her mother had reached a spot they thought was safe, then the crowd began to run away from that area.
“Then I instantly thought to run into the entrance upstairs at Gate 3 to get to a safe zone with my daughter,” she said. “People were in there finding a place to hide, running and screaming. Everyone is still in shock, but thank God my mom and daughter were safe.”
— Johann Castro (@thejohanncastro) May 20, 2022
Varnado said the incident has her pondering her future.
“As a graduate of Hammond High Class of 2010 I am hurt and sad to say I don’t want to raise my son and daughter here,” she said.
“Just to think of all the lives and young adult lives, kids, elderly could’ve been lost anger[s] me, and I will be moving away from Louisiana.”