GAINES TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — After high school graduates walked across the stage at a Kent County high school Thursday evening, two people were shot in the parking lot, the sheriff said.
The shooting happened around 7:20 p.m. in the parking lot of East Kentwood High School located on Kalamazoo Avenue in Gaines Township. The shooting occurred after the Crossroads Alternative High School graduation, the Kent County Sheriff’s Office said.
As people were leaving the stadium, suspects in two white sedans started exchanging gunshots, Kent County Sheriff Michelle LaJoye-Young said.
She said two people were shot, a 16-year-old boy from Texas and a 40-year-old woman from Grand Rapids.
The sheriff said the two were brought to local hospitals. The teenager was shot in the wrist and is in stable condition. The woman was shot in the wrist and the abdomen and is in critical but stable condition.
She said there is no known connection between the victims and the suspects.
“It’s possible they just happened to be bystanders in the event,” she said.
She said multiple people got into the vehicles and the suspects fled the scene immediately. The sheriff’s office originally said there were two outstanding suspects but later said it believes more than two people fired guns.
Authorities do not have suspect descriptions.
She does not believe there is an ongoing public threat.
“This is very difficult to have happen in this community at this moment of celebration,” she said.
She encouraged anyone who needs mental health help to reach out to a mental health professional.
“This is a very traumatic thing to go through and I would say be empathetic to other members in the community and understand that going through something like this is something that will be difficult for them … to talk through it,” she said. “When we have an event like this our whole community suffers.”
Kentwood Public Schools has crisis counselors available for students. Students who need help can call 616.455.4400.
There were 60 students and their families and friends at the graduation, the Kentwood Public Schools superintendent said in a release. There was also a middle school concert happening at the same time in the school’s auditorium.
Families were able to leave the school afterwards safely, the school said.
The school said there were law enforcement agencies already at the school because of the graduation that were able to respond immediately.
“When violence occurs within our community, it is both troubling and tragic,” Superintendent Kevin Polston said in the release. “We remain committed to the health and safety of our community and will provide support and counseling to any students that need assistance.”
The school said Pinewood Middle School, East Kentwood High School Freshman Campus, East Kentwood High School and Crossroads Alternative High School will all be closed Friday because of the shooting. All other Kentwood Public Schools will be open.
Monez Gales is a Crossroads Alternative High School alumnus. He said he was driving by when he heard the shooting.
“It’s sad, it’s sad man. My generation was nothing like this. We had a problem we would handle it at home,” he said. “There (were) grandmothers in there, babies in there.”
He said it could have been worse.
“It usually gets like this once that weather breaks,” he said. “All we can do is pray.”
Some women eating dinner at a home nearby heard the shooting.
“We were eating dinner and we just heard a whole bunch of pops,” Zuheidy Holland told News 8. “She looked out the window and saw a whole bunch of kids running.”
She said she heard more than 10 gunshots.
Another neighbor told News 8 they also heard 10 to 12 shots and it sounded like shots ricocheted off of their yard.
The shooting comes after multiple drive-by shootings in the Grand Rapids area.
“I’m certainly concerned about the surge in violence,” LaJoye-Young said. “Communities keep communities safe. We have to work together to bring these cases to resolution. We have to know that it’s up to each person in this community to keep each other safe.”
A school camera caught some of the shooting and deputies are looking through the footage, the sheriff said. Deputies are asking anyone with photos or videos to submit them through an online form.
Anyone with information or video of the incident can also contact the sheriff’s office at 616.632.6100 or Silent Observer at 616.774.2345.