Philly hits 300 killings this year as its record pace continues

The city has not reached 300 killings more quickly in a single year since at least the 1970s

By Chris Palmer and Mensah M. Dean
The Philadelphia Inquirer

PHILADELPHIA — Someone opened fire late Thursday night on a North Philadelphia street and shot three people, one of whom died and became the city's 300th homicide victim of 2021.

Police did not identify the man who died, and released few details about the crime, which they said happened on the 1800 block of West Susquehanna Avenue around 11:30 p.m. The other victims, authorities said, were a 14-year-old girl who was shot in the chest and a 24-year-old man struck in the shoulder. Both were hospitalized, the girl in critical condition.

The fatal shooting meant that the city had reached 300 killings more quickly in a single year than any since at least the 1970s. And it kept Philadelphia on pace to top not only last year's 499 homicides, but also its all-time record of 500 slayings in a year, set in 1990.

The incident was one of at least three shootings overnight, according to police. In all, six people were wounded or killed.

Chief Inspector Scott Small told reporters at the scene of the Susquehanna Avenue shooting that the teen was struck by stray bullets on her front porch as unidentified gunmen fired toward houses on the block.

By Friday morning, the block had drawn police and antiviolence activists, some of whom held signs denouncing shootings and speaking through a bullhorn to neighbors and passing motorists. Dark tinted glass from the windows of a black SUV that had been struck during the gunfire littered the street.

Andrew Carter Bey, 22, who lives in the neighborhood, said the girl who was shot had been a babysitter at times for his 7-year old brother.

He and his mother, Mia Carter, lamented the danger that such violence poses for people who live there — including children. Bullets had pierced two first-floor windows of their home, one in the front the other on the side of the house.

"It's hard to deal with," Carter said, standing at her front door. "I couldn't even go to work today, I was so distraught."

Her son said: "This is not a safe environment if 14-year-old girls are being shot. No, it's not. They could have killed my mom."

Carter said she often hears gunshots in the neighborhood, and she does not feel safe. She said she called 911 after Thursday's gunfire, but that the phone rang and rang without a response. "Right now I don't know what my options are," she said. "I'm scared."

Leroy Muhammad, an activist who was on the block, told those listening that they as community members needed to stop up to help stop the violence and help the authorities catch those committing violent acts.

"We don't come out here as a follow-up response. We're out here every day, this is what we do. We're out in the streets every day and we're looking for others to come out with us," Muhammad said. "I woke up this morning, only to find that there had been 300 homicides in Philadelphia. Totally ridiculous. Unacceptable."

The last time the city approached 300 homicides in the summer was in the 1990s, according to department statistics. Still, even in that decade, the earliest the city reached the bleak milestone was in 1990, when the 300th slaying was recorded on Aug. 3.

Already this year, more than 1,200 people have been shot citywide, police statistics show — 24% more than through the same date last year, and more than were shot in all of 2017.

About 260 of those victims have died, the statistics say, making up the vast majority of the city's 300 killings.

The beginning of July has been marked by an even more alarming surge. In the first 14 days of this month, police statistics show, 135 people were shot, including 11 children.

After Thursday's triple shooting, Commissioner Danielle Outlaw issued a statement condemning the violence and urging witnesses to speak with detectives.

"People have a right to feel safe in their neighborhoods," she said, "and we refuse to stand idly by while yet another child has their life forever changed by a coward with a gun."

Staff writer Dylan Purcell contributed to this article.

(c)2021 The Philadelphia Inquirer

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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