Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney on Tuesday used the occasion of a virtual news conference about the shooting of five people in North Philadelphia — including a 1-year-old boy — to slam District Attorney Larry Krasner, calling on him to charge gun offenders to the fullest extent of the law.
“His office is aware of our concerns, and we’ve expressed them and we’ll express them again,” Kenney said. “We need more people who are carrying guns on the street illegally, and carrying guns with a record, to be separated from the community.”
Kenney called gun violence “Philadelphia’s other public health crisis,” and highlighted the shooting to illustrate the difficulties police face during the coronavirus pandemic. “The fact that it comes as the impact of this virus is still in every neighborhood in Philadelphia is gut-wrenching,” the mayor said.
“We are calling on the district attorney to vigorously enforce all firearms-related charges during this time of crisis. It is imperative that we send a clear message: Gun violence will not be taken lightly.”
Krasner’s spokesperson, Jane Roh, responded that the District Attorney’s Office “has vigorously prosecuted and has not declined to charge a single individual arrested by police during the COVID-19 emergency for a shooting, homicide, or other violent crime.”
Roh challenged city officials’ contention that the office has been soft on gun suspects during the coronavirus shutdown. Since March 20, she said, the office has charged suspects in five homicides, all held without bail. In three of four non-fatal shootings in which someone was injured, the office sought $999,999 bail, higher than called for by state guidelines and over the opposition of the Public Defender’s Office, she said.
In five shooting cases in which no one was hurt, all five suspects were held on $999,999 bail requested by the office, she said. The only non-fatal shooting since March 20 for which the office did not seek that amount involved a woman licensed to carry a gun who shot her domestic partner in a leg.
Since that date, the office has accepted all 71 cases of unlawful carrying or unlawful possession of a gun referred by police for prosecution, and high bail amounts were requested for all but seven suspects who did not have prior criminal records, Roh said.
Krasner “has warned the public repeatedly that individuals charged with serious and violent crime are likely to be incarcerated through this health pandemic — the worst possible time for anyone to be in a jail or prison,” Roh said.
According to the District Attorney’s Office website, 42% of firearms cases this year were dismissed by judges or withdrawn by the office, a higher percentage than in any year since the start of 2014.
The 1-year-old boy was among five people hospitalized after they were shot Monday night during a rowhouse birthday party for a dead man, while the gunman remained at large, police said. The shooting just after 10 p.m. in the 2300 block of West Harold Street also injured the boy’s 18-year-old mother, two other women, and a 14-year-old girl.
The five victims, found in the house and in an adjacent alley, were taken to Temple University Hospital. The boy was transferred to St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children. Listed in critical but stable condition were the boy, shot in the buttocks; the girl, shot in the lower back; the 18-year-old mother, shot in the lower back; and a 25-year-old woman shot in both legs. A 41-year-old woman shot in the left arm was in stable condition.
Police did not release a description of the gunman or a motive for the shooting on the small street just south of Lehigh Avenue. It capped a bloody start of a week in which two men were killed in two shootings Monday, one on a SEPTA train, pushing the city’s 2020 homicide count to 95 as of Monday night, a 20% increase from the same point last year, police statistics show.
Very early on Tuesday morning, a 28-year-old man was shot on the 3500 block of Indian Queen Lane in East Falls. He was pronounced dead at Temple at 4:22 a.m.
No arrests were reported in any of those shootings.
A police source on Tuesday said Monday night’s birthday party on Harold Street was for Rafi Johnson, who died Friday after being shot Feb. 12 in East Germantown. Johnson would have turned 22 on Monday. His mother was at the party, as was his 20-year-old girlfriend, in whose house the party was held, the source said. Neither woman was shot.
Johnson had been the subject of a search warrant by police in August 2018, when a SWAT team went to his grandparents’ house on the 4800 block of Knox Street looking for him, but ended up fatally shooting his 59-year-old grandfather, Ricardo Giddings, and wounding Giddings’ wife. Giddings had mistaken the police for intruders and opened fire, hitting one officer in the face.
Kenney, Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw, and City Council President Darrell L. Clarke condemned Monday’s shooting and warned criminals that they would face harsh consequences even as the city is preoccupied with the pandemic.
Managing Director Brian Abernathy said the Kenney administration has concerns about “where people end up,” indicating that it is especially important now for people charged with gun violations to be kept off the streets.
Kenney’s remarks represented a marked change from previous statements about Krasner, with whom he had not been at odds publicly. Kenney often touts his administration’s record of reducing the city’s jail population by 40%.