Nearly two-dozen shootings left a trail of deaths and injuries during a bloody Father’s Day weekend as homicides were on track to surpass last year’s decade-high rate.
“People should not have to live like this — worrying about gunfire,” Police Commissioner Richard Ross said while flanked by the department’s top brass inside police headquarters on Monday.
The city had 23 separate shooting incidents between Friday and Monday, resulting in 32 victims, Ross said.
Half a dozen people were killed over the weekend, of which one was an innocent bystander, one was a suicide, and one was in a road rage incident involving a vehicle and not gun violence, Ross said.
The number of homicides hit 152 as of Monday, up 13% compared with last year at this time. Firearms-related arrests continue to climb in the city, too. Police have arrested 820 people for firearm-related violations this year, compared with 464 in 2015.
That rise in the number of gun-related arrests “speaks to a willingness to carry these guns” as well as increased efforts by police, Ross said.
But the commissioner said that “people have to be held accountable” when it comes to gun violence and weapons violations, referring to District Attorney Larry Krasner’s office and others involved in the criminal justice system.
“There are many people who will disregard the law because they’re not worried about it,” he said. “Not because we’re not arresting them. … We need to make sure that we are all working together, in that there are no unintentional consequences to any policies that we’re trying to do in this city that may impact us negatively.”
The Philadelphia delegation to the state General Assembly issued a statement later Monday that echoed part of Ross’ statement and called for the commissioner, Krasner, Mayor Jim Kenney, Gov. Tom Wolf and Attorney General Josh Shapiro to work together “to reduce the scourge of gun violence in our city.” The legislators asked Kenney to issue an executive order to facilitate the efforts.
“There is no more time for thoughts and prayers. We need action before we unnecessarily lose more life in our city,” the delegation said.
“This weekend can’t set the tone for what this summer will be like in Philadelphia,” the statement continued. “More and more, these incidents are impacting our teenagers and young adults, and until we have concrete steps to take to address this public health epidemic, the number of victims will only continue to rise. We look forward to working together with all parties to find a resolution to this epidemic that works for the city now, not later.”
The DA’s office brings criminal charges in firearms cases “100 percent of the time when the law and the facts in arrests made by Philadelphia Police and other law enforcement support them,” said Jane Roh, a spokeswoman for the DA. “District Attorney Krasner is completely committed to all effective efforts at reducing gun violence in the face of reckless state and federal policies that have made it possible for deadly firearms to outnumber people in this country.”
The motives for the weekend’s spate of shootings were varied, including those related to gangs (four), arguments (four), drugs (two), and robbery (one), Ross said. The shootings occurred throughout the city in 13 of the department’s 21 police districts.
The deadliest incident of the weekend was a mass shooting at the Paschall Playground in Southwest Philadelphia.
Shortly after 10 p.m. Sunday, Isiaka Meite, 24, was killed and five others shot — including four teenagers — when a single gunman fired nine .40 caliber bullets into a crowded graduation party attended by about 75 people, said Capt. of Homicide Jason Smith.
Three men were seen in the park’s parking lot around the 6900 block of Reed Bird Place, Smith said. One of the men then “fired indiscriminately” into the party, shooting the six victims, Smith said.
The three men then fled from the park and got into a newer model silver Nissan Rogue, Smith said. Police chased the vehicle but called off the pursuit to attend to the wounded victims — a 24-year-old, three 16-year-olds and a 15-year-old. All five were transported to area hospitals and were listed in stable condition, police said.
The day before, two separate shootings in the busy commercial corridor on South Street left three injured.
A double shooting occurred around 12:50 a.m. Saturday on the 400 block of South Street, police said. A 21-year-old was shot in the left thigh and a 22-year-old was shot once in the left leg, police said. Both were transported to Jefferson Hospital and are in stable condition, police said.
Hours later, around 3 a.m. at 9th and South streets, a 22-year-old was shot once in the right shoulder and twice in the abdomen near the South Street Police Mini-Station, police said. He was transported to Jefferson Hospital and listed in critical condition.
It remained unclear if anyone was targeted in the shooting as police continue to investigate, Smith said.
Councilman Mark Squilla said, “We have to do something drastic on South Street.”
During a telephone interview, Squilla proposed a curfew for businesses operating in the South Street Headhouse District, a popular and crowded destination with bars, Jim’s Steaks and Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens.
“Bars and all — everything,” Squilla said about the proposal he was shopping around to others on Monday.
Only a single shooting occurred in an area of the city related to the department’s new anti-gun-violence plan Operation Pinpoint.
Ross said criminals were adjusting to the increased resources and presence of officers in the areas targeted by Operation Pinpoint, and he raised concerns about the displacement of officers. The department will adapt to these developments, he said.
“Clearly, there’s displacement, so we have to make adjustments for that because clearly the people who are involved in gun play have done just that,” the commissioner said. “They see where our focus has been in these areas because of persistent gun violence that we’ve had throughout the city.”
Squilla said the increase in violence in his district called for “different measures.”
The councilman credited the Police Department with investing more resources and details to the South Street area, but that has not stopped the gun violence. The councilman said he expected to meet again with police, community groups and other neighborhood stakeholders to address the violence.
“And we have to start thinking outside the box,” he said, “if we’re going to resolve these issues.”