A 7-year-old boy shot in the head Saturday as three men waged a shootout in front of his West Philadelphia home died from his injures Monday afternoon, according to police.
Zamar Jones was pronounced dead at 1 p.m., said Staff Inspector Sekou Kinebrew, a police spokesperson. Zamar was sitting on his porch Saturday night, next to his toy race car and scooter, when the men began firing at one another on the 200 block of North Simpson Street, police said.
The motive for the shooting remained under investigation, and police were still searching Monday afternoon for two of the three suspected gunmen.
One of the men, Christopher Linder, 27, was in custody and will be charged with murder, said Jane Roh, a spokesperson for the District Attorney’s Office. Linder was arraigned Monday and held without bail on two counts of attempted murder, aggravated assault, and a host of related crimes, according to court records.
Linder is accused of driving onto Simpson about 7:40 p.m. Saturday and unloading a barrage of bullets at a group of people standing outside, prompting two men to return fire. One of the shots hit Zamar in the head.
Zamar had been “fighting for his life” Monday morning at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, said Makeeba McNeely, a neighbor and family friend. McNeely said Zamar’s mother was with him and was “numb. She’s broken.”
Zamar “was a bundle of joy,” McNeely said. “Everybody loves him. Everybody loves Zamar.”
The city continues to experience a surge in gun violence. Almost 1,100 people have been shot this year, according to police statistics, a 36% increase over the same point last year. The city’s homicide total through Sunday was 255 people, a 34% increase over last year, and more than the annual total for 2014, when 248 people were slain.
District Attorney Larry Krasner faulted the availability of guns, as well as poverty, a lack of opportunity, and substance abuse for the ongoing spike in shootings.
“Every kid deserves to live free of violence, harm, or fear,” Krasner said in a statement. “All children deserve an opportunity to develop and grow into healthy, happy adults.”
Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw said in a statement this weekend that “it is especially tragic when the victim is among our most vulnerable; and it is our collective responsibility — police and community — to ensure that our children are safe and well-protected.”
The block where Zamar was shot has been under police scrutiny before. In 2017, after three shootings occurred near the 200 block of North Simpson within two weeks, police stationed a patrol car there 24 hours a day, installed a surveillance camera on a pole at the block’s north end, and encouraged foot patrol officers to concentrate on the area.
Inspector Derrick Wood said Monday that video footage captured the incident and could be helpful in identifying the two men who fired back at Linder. Wood and Krasner encouraged anyone with information about the crime to call police.
Police have said the incident began when Linder drove a Chevrolet Silverado south on Simpson. As Linder was driving, police said, he opened fire on a group of people standing outside, prompting two other men on the street to pull their own guns and shoot back at the truck.
Linder crashed into a GMC Yukon while trying to drive away, police said. He then jumped into the Yukon and drove that vehicle from the block. He has also been charged in the auto theft.
Linder later returned to Simpson to try to get back into his Silverado, police said. Officers were on the scene, and they chased him onto the 6300 block of Race Street and arrested him.
Authorities are still searching for the two men who traded shots with Linder. Police said they fled in a maroon Ford Taurus, which officers later found on the 200 block of North 64th Street.
Linder was on probation for a previous conviction. In 2014, according to court records, he pleaded guilty to aggravated assault, conspiracy, and robbery of a motor vehicle. He received a 5-to-15 year prison sentence, as well as 19 years of probation, records say. The details of that case were not available Monday.
Linder is being represented by the Defender Association of Philadelphia. Dan Stevenson, the association’s homicide chief, called the case “an obvious tragedy,” but said it was too early in the investigation to comment further