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Fear in Fairhill: Resident relives chaotic ride to hospital after son and nephew are shot

Ten people had been shot in the six-square-block section of North Philadelphia over the weekend — and two more were shot Monday morning, police said.

James Hines ran out of his home late Sunday and stumbled into the aftermath of a shooting that wounded six people, including his son and nephew. Hines said the violence on his block in Fairhill is getting out of hand and has prompted him to consider moving.
James Hines ran out of his home late Sunday and stumbled into the aftermath of a shooting that wounded six people, including his son and nephew. Hines said the violence on his block in Fairhill is getting out of hand and has prompted him to consider moving.Read moreJessica Griffin / Staff Photographer

James Hines sat Monday morning on his front porch in Fairhill and said he was done fighting. The gun violence that started Saturday and stretched into the new week had turned the section of North Philadelphia where he lives into a six-block war zone.

“I want to move when the time comes and never look back, and it’s a shame,” Hines, 37, said in a quivering voice. “I used to have tunnel vision, but after what I saw yesterday I can’t ignore it anymore.”

Five men and a teenage boy collapsed in the street Sunday, in what police believe was a drive-by shooting at Eighth and Clearfield Streets. Two of the shooting victims were Hines’ son Jahmir, 20, and nephew Robert Smeed, 22.

Fueled by adrenaline, Hines reflexively grabbed them, threw them into the backseat of a nearby car, noticing to his shock that two other men also were lying there wounded. He pushed the man in the driver’s seat aside and sped the crowded car to Temple University Hospital.

“It’s crazy," Hines said of the recurring violence. "It’s something you try to hide in the back of your mind.”

Hines and his neighbors spent Monday morning reeling, trying to make sense of the mass shooting, which also wounded Quaseen Thompson, a 14-year-old whose right hand was shattered by a bullet.

Investigators said they had no information on a possible motive or suspects. Hines said that when his son awoke in the hospital, he told him the group had been standing on the corner listening to music when the gunshots came from a dark-color Jeep. Cameras that Hines had installed outside his front door recorded the vehicle as it sped down the block — footage that detectives recovered as part of their investigation, he said.

It was just before 5:30 p.m., a day after four other people were wounded, one fatally, in another shooting just four blocks away, police said.

And still it wasn’t over. About an hour after Hines spoke on his porch to a reporter, two more people — a 21-year-old and 24-year-old — were shot Monday in Fairhill, on Somerset Street near Fifth, police said. The younger victim was listed in critical condition, and the older one in stable condition.

Fairhill has grown accustomed to such violence. In the last three years, 137 people have been shot there, according to city crime data. Those victims in the small section of North Philadelphia account for 3% of the shooting victims in the city during that span.

In Sunday’s shooting, Jahmir Hines was shot in the stomach. Smeed was hit in his back, his arm shattered by the projectile, according to his uncle. The names of the other victims were not released by police, but they were described as a 21-year-old shot in the shoulder; a 27-year-old shot in his right hip and foot; and a 20-year-old whose injuries were unclear. All but the unidentified 20-year-old were listed in stable condition Monday.

Karen Leake, Thompson’s great-aunt, said that drug dealing and the violence that often accompanies it are an unwelcome constant on the block, where she’s spent most of her life. Most recently, in September, a 19-year-old was grievously wounded, shot several times at the same intersection.

“Something needs to be done about this,” she said Monday morning. “The victims keep getting younger and younger.”

Leake said she spent the summer trying to rein in her great-nephew, who she said has shown little interest in school or life beyond his neighborhood. She blames that in part on the older crowd with whom he hangs out.

“He wants to live a fast life; he told me he could make millions on the corner,” Leake said. “I didn’t want this to be his wake-up call, but maybe this is what it needs to be.”

Hines hopes that reaction will stretch beyond the victims, and beyond the neighborhood.

“They don’t care," he said. "It’s not just the young people. It’s our leaders. Nobody does anything until someone gets shot, but we all know what’s going on and where it’s happening.”

The Fairhill shootings were part of a larger-than-normal amount of violence in Philadelphia over the weekend, with two people slain in separate incidents. At about 3 a.m. Saturday, a 22-year-old man was fatally shot in the 700 block of West Russell Street in North Philadelphia. Then, Saturday afternoon, a 20-year-old man was shot throughout his body on 10th Street near Girard Avenue just after 1 p.m.

Graphics editor John Duchneskie contributed data for this article.