Jacqueline Maddalo stood Friday outside New Star Pizza in Strawberry Mansion and lamented the beating death of a man who allegedly had stolen a car with three children inside from near the pizza shop Thursday night.
“People should not take the law in their own hands,” said Maddalo, 62, who works as a clerk in an adjacent grocery store. “Catch him, yes, you want to stop him with three kids in the car, but to actually pull him out and beat him to death, that’s not appropriate. That’s involuntary manslaughter. They absolutely went too far. They committed another crime.”
Maddalo was among Strawberry Mansion residents who were left to wrestle Friday with the issue of mob justice after the alleged carjacker, identified as 54-year-old Eric Hood of North Philadelphia, was fatally beaten by a group of neighborhood men — a brand of revenge that Philadelphia Police said should not be tolerated.
“I’m not a fan of street justice,” Homicide Capt. Jason Smith said at an afternoon news conference at Police Headquarters. “I think that everything should play out through us when it comes to criminal action.”
Details of the incident remained largely unclear Friday as police continued investigating. District Attorney Larry Krasner said it was too early to comment on any potential charges arising from the incident, and Smith said a decision on charges would await the Medical Examiner’s Office’s determination of the cause of death and a toxicology report.
The incident unfolded about 9:15 p.m., when Hood allegedly took a Hyundai parked outside New Star Pizza at 28th and Dauphin Streets while the 25-year-old mother, who left the car’s engine running, went inside to visit the father of two of the children, said Chief Inspector Scott Small.
The 27-year-old father, who works at the pizza shop, and the unidentified mother chased the vehicle, which became stuck in traffic at 29th and York, police said. Pulled from the vehicle by the couple, Hood ran about a half-block before the father caught him and an altercation ensued at 29th and Gordon Streets.
Other men nearby began assaulting Hood and he lost consciousness, Small said. Hood was taken to Temple University Hospital, where he was pronounced dead at 10:05 p.m.
The parents stayed at the scene and police took them to be questioned by homicide detectives. The children, 7 months to 5 years old, were placed with family members.
Meanwhile, the neighborhood was abuzz Friday with conversation about the incident.
Maddalo said she was not surprised that some people thought the killing was justified.
“There’s a lot of street justice in this area,” she said. “Crime’s not going to come down if people keep taking care of crime instead of letting the courts handle it. We’re becoming uncivilized.”
On Friday at 29th and York, where Hood was pulled from the car, and at 29th and Gordon, where he was fatally beaten, people had strong opinions about what happened and whether the “street justice” should be met with legal justice.
Antonio Williams, 44, and his son Yasir, 20, who were having breakfast Friday at Triple Joy Breakfast & Lunch, a restaurant next to the pizza shop, had differing reactions to the incident.
“I don’t think they should get charged, because he was trying to take somebody else’s kids,” said Yasir Williams. “They was protecting them kids. Say he did get the car, what would have happened to their kids? You never know, the kids could have died. You never know.”
“I can understand the parents being upset," responded his father. “But everybody else, somebody’s going to get charged. I am not saying that they should, but somebody is going to get charged.”
Calvin V. Mack, 39, who was reading a book in the restaurant Friday morning, said the killers must be brought to justice. He saw the aftermath of the incident Thursday night, and asked people outside what had happened. He said they thought the victim deserved what he got, but he didn’t agree.
“Of course they should be charged. We have the power to give life and I don’t think we should take life. If you do want to play that judge or ruler, then there are consequences for that, for taking somebody’s life away,” said Mack, who owns an online health products company.
“Two wrongs don’t make a right. Those people who killed that man have to deal with karma. If the state don’t come down on them then their karma will.”
John Phillips, 59, of Southwest Philadelphia, who works in the area rehabbing houses, said what happened was old-fashioned street justice and the attackers should not be prosecuted.
“They got to him before the police came,” Phillips said as he walked into the restaurant for breakfast. “They could have held him until the police came. They didn’t have to kill him. But I don’t think they should be charged.
“What if the man would have gotten away with the babies in the car and crashed and killed the babies? Anything could have happened. They was only trying to fend for their children. That’s street justice.”
LaDelle Taylor, 65, a retired SEPTA bus driver born and raised at 29th and York Streets, said she believes that the carjacking was wrong but that the killers should not be charged.
“That man had no business stealing that car with those children in it,” she said. "It’s bad enough he was stealing the car, but to have babies in there. What the hell was wrong with him? People are tired of crime. It’s a mess. Our city is a graveyard. People’s minds are not right. Anybody who puts children’s lives on the line, they get what they deserve.”
Smith, the Homicide captain, said Hood had an “extensive criminal history” including 24 arrests, most recently in 2007. Most of the charges were drug-related, he said.
Smith said surveillance video of the attack “is very clear” and police were optimistic they would be able to identify those involved. He declined to say how many people took part in the attack but urged those who did to come forward.
“It’s a much better idea for them to make contact with us rather than us making contact with them,” he said.