Philadelphia police say they took a person of interest into custody Friday in connection with the fatal shooting of 55-year-old Eloise Harmon, a South Philadelphia woman who became the city’s 500th homicide victim, a record matched only in 1990.
The man, whose name hasn’t been released, had barricaded himself in a home on the 500 block of North Gross Street for two hours. Authorities reported recovering a weapon at the house and took the man into custody without incident.
Harmon’s killing on Wednesday occurred in the neighborhood she’d spent decades trying to improve.
“She didn’t bother nobody,” said block captain Bonnie Lucas, 74. “She was just very concerned about the block.”
Lucas said she and Harmon became close as they fought to keep drug dealers off the 600 block of Jackson Street in the late 1990s. Harmon would accompany Lucas to the District Attorney’s Office and City Hall to pitch community policing as a way to address the drug dealers plaguing their block.
Even when the women succeeded in making their block safer, Harmon participated in community-building efforts as new residents moved in.
“I don’t know where my help at now because she really supported me trying to keep the block together,” said Lucas, a block captain for 35 years.
Harmon, who took care of her mother, father, and daughter on the block, was taken to Thomas Jefferson University Hospital, where she was pronounced dead at 5:19 p.m. Wednesday.
Her death marked a grim milestone for the city, which it only narrowly avoided in 2020 as it ended the year with 499 homicides. The only other year on record in which the city reported 500 homicides is 1990, during the height of the crack-cocaine epidemic.
According to police, Harmon was shot repeatedly in the chest on the 2200 block of South Seventh Street, around the corner from her home.
Police did not immediately offer more details about what led to the shooting but told 6ABC they believed it was “domestic in nature.” Video obtained by the TV news station shows Harmon yelling “Call 911” as she runs down the street. Shots are heard shortly after.
Reports of domestic violence against women surged in the early months of the pandemic as families dealt with financial hardships and other stressors while spending more time at home during COVID-19 lockdowns.
According to the American Journal of Emergency Medicine, law enforcement agencies in cities like New York City experienced a 10% increase in domestic violence reports in March 2020 compared to the same month the previous year. The San Antonio Police Department reported an 18% jump in calls that month.
Locally, researchers sounded the alarm last year after finding calls to domestic violence hotlines in Philadelphia started to gradually increase after an initial drop.
Harmon’s death is a further reminder of how homicides disproportionately affect Black and brown communities and how women are increasingly caught in the cross fire. Women made up 6% of Philadelphia’s fatal gunshot victims in 2020. This year, that number has almost doubled, according to the most recent data.
Residents on the block near where Wednesday’s fatal shooting occurred said their slice of the neighborhood is relatively quiet and they described Harmon as a friendly neighbor.
“She was a nice person. You might talk about how dirty the street gets from the leaves,” said Romaine White, 80, who lives a few doors from Harmon’s house. “You know, general talk, like the weather.”