More than a year after her daughter was killed in a drive-by shooting, Nicole Gardner still refers to her death as “the accident.” To an extent, it was. Richmond police do not believe that Ronique Gardner-Williams was the intended target, just an innocent, random victim.

Gardner-Williams, a 20-year-old College of Marin student, was in the passenger seat of a friend’s car texting on her phone when a gunman pulled up and opened fire, spraying bullets into the road. Several vehicles were hit, according to police, but she was the only casualty.

The unsolved killing is not unusual in the East Bay city of 110,000 residents. Once considered one of the nation’s most dangerous cities, Richmond has made strides in recent years to decrease violent crime and improve community relations. But suspects were arrested and charged in fewer than 1 in 3 homicides from 2011 through 2016, a Chronicle examination of federal and local police data shows, even as the number of homicides has experienced a long-term decline.

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