On Thursday night in Monroe Ward, a student from Virginia Commonwealth University was ki!!ed when the debris from a two-car collision poured onto the pavement next to the business school building.
Just before 6:40 p.m., Richmond and VCU police were called to the 300 block of West Main Street. This is a short distance from where Mahrokh Khan, a VCU student, was ki!!ed in January after being hit by a car near the Altria Theater.
When police arrived, they discovered two cars were traveling west on West Main Street when they collided, sending one of the cars onto the sidewalk where it hit a pole and a person.
Shawn Soares, a student at VCU pursuing a master’s degree in business administration, was named as the victim in a message released to students, professors, and staff on Friday morning by VCU President Michael Rao.
Soares passed away from his injuries at the site, according to police, who confirmed the identification on Friday afternoon.
“On behalf of the entire VCU community, we extend our most sincere prayers and condolences to Shawn’s family, friends and all who knew him,” Rao said. “I knew Shawn and worked with him on many issues. He was an exceptionally positive force in our world and was living to make the lives of everyone better. He was one of the best students I’ve ever known.”
Shawn’s death is tragic and heartbreaking. On behalf of the entire VCU community, we extend our most sincere prayers and condolences to Shawn’s family, friends and all who knew him.
— VCU (@VCU) May 5, 2023
Soares, 26, an Ashburn native and the longtime partner of Richmond Times-Dispatch reporter Anna Bryson, worked as a policy manager for the Virginia Conservation Network, a collaboration of more than 150 nonprofit organizations devoted to safeguarding Virginia’s natural resources, in addition to his studies at VCU. Soares and Bryson met while working together as interns at the university.
Before that, Soares worked in state and federal politics for over three years.
He served as the office’s outreach director for the late U.S. Representative Donald McEachin, the then-Gov. Ralph Northam’s office’s director of Asian-American and Pacific Islander outreach and the office of Del. Suhas Subramanyam’s legislative aide.
According to a tribute the group shared on Twitter, Soares was also a board member of Virginia Young Democrats and had been selected to serve as their national committee representative.
It is with a heavy heart that I share with you all that yesterday evening, we lost Shawn Soares after a car accident in Richmond, Virginia near Virginia Commonwealth University’s campus. Today, our VAYD community has been rocked losing one of our own. pic.twitter.com/z3Fgq3y7wN
— Virginia Young Dems (@VAYD) May 5, 2023
Friday afternoon, Democratic Party of Virginia Chairwoman Susan Swecker issued a statement in which she expressed the sadness of the state party at losing a passionate young leader.
“Those who knew him will remember him not only as a bright, talented, kind-hearted activist, but as a dear friend,” Swecker said. “The staff and I are thankful for the moments we had with him. He was truly a part of our family.”
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As a college intern and again when he joined the staff full-time, Soares worked in McEachin’s office alongside Tara Rountree, chief of staff for U.S. Rep. Jennifer McClellan.
Even though most people who work in politics are intelligent, driven, and ambitious individuals who want to change the world, she claimed in an interview with The Times-Dispatch that Soares managed to stand apart.
“Shawn was just pure joy,” Rountree said. “He was someone that you could count on to make you happier during times that weren’t always happy. Politics isn’t a happy place to work in all the time, and he was someone you could count on (to bring joy).”
According to data from the Virginia Department of Transportation, that portion of West Main is a member of Richmond’s High Injury Street Network, a collection of streets that the city designated in its Vision Zero plan as being responsible for just 7% of the city’s total road length but more than 60% of severe or fatal crashes.
During a ride-along in March, VCU Lt. Edgar Greer informed The Times-Dispatch that the 300 block of West Main Street was a particular problem area because westbound drivers frequently speed up as they down the hill before continuing to do so as they approach the VCU campus area.
Rao commented on making the sidewalks and streets on and around the VCU campus safer for pedestrians.
He mentioned that during the spring semester, VCU Police “dramatically increased traffic enforcement,” resulting in nearly 700 traffic stops and 61 arrests.
He also said that the school had hired an outside expert to deliver a report outlining recommendations for changes to pedestrian infrastructure and traffic patterns.
“VCU will enact meaningful change to the city streets on and adjacent to campus through our partnership with the city.”
The RPD Crash Team is still looking into what caused the collision. As of Friday afternoon, neither driver has received any charges.
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