WOODBRIDGE, Va. — New data from the Virginia Department of Health shows gunfire injuries seen in emergency rooms are up 72% in the Commonwealth. The figures come as Prince William County Police investigate a weekend shooting that left four young men in the hospital.
First Sergeant Jonathan Perok, Prince William County Police
Firearm Injury Surveillance dashboard compiled by the Virginia Department of Health
Lauren Yerkes, Injury and Violence Prevention Epidemiologist at VDH
“A firearm injury is a public health problem,” said Yerkes, “between the years of 2018 and 2021, statewide in Virginia, there was a 72% increase in the number of firearm injuries that we're seeing in emergency rooms throughout the state.”
Yerkes stressed it’s important to note the new dashboard considers all firearm injuries – whether self-inflicted, accidental, or criminal. Still, the numbers are staggering.
Here’s what the statewide data tells us: Since 2016, nearly 8,000 (7,928) boys and men between the ages of 15 and 34 visited ERs with gunshot wounds. The African American community is disproportionately impacted. The data shows that Black patients are more than double the number of white patients.
“It's presenting the data to the community to understand how they can implement prevention programs,” said Yerkes.
In Manassas, police said four men between the ages of 23 and 26 are still in the hospital after they were shot just before midnight Sunday, July 3. Prince William County Police believe there was a large gathering in the back parking lot of Sam’s Car Wash in the 8100 block of Sudley road. They said a fight broke out and after the shooting, the crowd scattered. One of the injured men was found a few blocks away, the other three showed up at the emergency room.
“As of right now we’re trying to ascertain what occurred; what level of involvement those who were shot had potentially in the incident itself,” said Sgt. Perok.
While a motive for Sunday’s shooting is still unclear, Perok said police are trying to analyze the trends seen statewide and in the county that points to more and more young men getting shot.
“We have a large number of firearms in this county that are stolen from vehicles and it happens pretty frequently,” the sergeant explained, “so it’s that age group committing one crime and potentially getting into another.”
He is calling on legal gun owners in the community to lock up their firearms.
Police are also asking anyone who may have information about the car wash shooting or cellphone video to contact them right away.
In the meantime, the Virginia Department of Health plans to expand its firearm data next year to include hospitalization and deaths.