George Gilmore's voice was gravelly Thursday, his thoughts scattered.
Just two days removed from having a man drive a car into him on a North Philadelphia street while he was trying to break up a fight, the 37-year-old community activist, whom friends call “Georgie,” was at Temple University Hospital waiting for at least one more surgery to address injuries to his head.
“I tried to stop it,” Gilmore said about the altercation on the street, “and the car just hit me.”
A moment later, Gilmore passed the phone to his friend, Terry Starks. “He’s in and out,” Starks said, adding that his friend was in good spirits.
Gilmore was one of six people injured Tuesday in the attack, which police said happened when a man driving a tan Buick Century plowed into a group gathered on 16th Street at Lehigh Avenue about 3:45 p.m.
Police said Thursday that the driver, whom they identified as 44-year-old John Lewis of West Philadelphia, was driving to meet his 42-year-old brother when he saw the fight. Lewis then turned his car off Lehigh the wrong way down 16th Street, police said, striking six people, including his brother, whom they did not identify.
None of the victims, three women and three men who ranged in age from 17 to 42, appeared to suffer life-threatening injuries, police said. Lewis was charged with six counts each of aggravated assault, causing a catastrophe, and related counts, police said.
It was that spirit, he said, that Gilmore was employing the moment before he was run over.
According to Starks, an altercation broke out between people north of where Gilmore had been setting up to grill, so Gilmore made his way through the large group of people on the block to try to calm tensions. Another mentor with the group, Fatimah Martin, said Gilmore was trying to play peacemaker when Lewis turned his car off Lehigh and began driving the wrong direction on 16th.
Gilmore, from his hospital bed, said all he remembered was: “I turned my back and I got blindsided.”
At the scene Thursday, blood was still visible on the block where Starks said Gilmore was taken to the ground. He shared a picture of Gilmore’s head and face in the hospital which showed significant injuries to the left side of his face.
Starks said Gilmore has been a regular presence at the youth group on the block, which Starks, a longtime anti-violence activist, helps run. The goal is to empower individuals by helping set them up with advice, business plans, and mentors, Starks said. A casket also sits in the street across from the shop in an effort to dramatize the dangers of gun violence.
Brandon T. Jones, who credits the program with helping him get his life on track after spending time behind bars, said he was moved by seeing Gilmore fight through his injuries in the hospital.