Hyram Hill, the son of a Philadelphia police officer who was gunned down in North Philadelphia early Monday, may have been followed from a nearby business where he worked as a bouncer, police said Tuesday, adding that detectives were investigating the possibility that the slaying was a targeted attack.
Hill, 23, was carrying a legally registered gun when he was shot nine times around 4:40 a.m., police said. Hill drew his gun when he was approached by two men as he got out of his car in front of a store at Broad Street and Allegheny Avenue, said Homicide Capt. Jason Smith.
As detectives hunted the two killers and reward money for tips was set at $30,000, the victim’s mother, Philadelphia Police Officer Edwenna Ferguson, a 17-year veteran, mournfully noted that her career did not exempt her from the agony of the city’s mounting gun violence.
“I wear the face of many parents in the city,” Ferguson said Tuesday, flanked by family and friends at a news conference at the offices of the police union, Lodge 5 of the Fraternal Order of Police
“There’s nothing I can say bad about that boy. When they get older they do things that you don’t agree with. But I was proud of everything my son did,” she said. “Every move he made, I told him you take 10 steps, I’ll take 50 for you.”
Ferguson noted that giving birth to him at 15 gave her direction in her life. She said she was far off in the Poconos when she learned that her son had been shot. “I wasn’t able to be with my baby” in his final moments, she said.
Smith, the homicide captain, said police had yet to settle on a motive for the killing.
“It could be a robbery, but it could also be a targeted attack,” Smith said. “I can’t get into why we believe that.”
Detectives believe the killer went through Hill’s pockets and took his pistol, an FN Five-seveN, Smith said.
The attack on Hill underscores not only the gun-driven homicide crisis roiling parts of the city, but also a rise in the number of stolen guns, which some say is helping to fuel the homicides.
The number of stolen guns in the city reached a new peak in 2021, when 1,388 weapons were stolen, The Inquirer reported in December. That is 11% higher than 2020, 38% higher than in 2019, and the highest tally since 2011, the first year figures were available.
Police found one bullet from Hill’s gun at the scene. The condition of the bullet leads them to think he may have pulled his firearm and racked it, ejecting that bullet from the gun without firing it, Smith said. They also recovered seven cartridge casings shot from a 9mm handgun used by one of the assailants.
Ferguson lamented the decision too many young people make to pick up guns and commit violent crimes just to make “a name for themselves.”
Her son graduated from West Catholic High School, where he played on the football team and once had dreams of being a professional football player, Ferguson said.
Two semesters shy of a bachelor’s degree from Cheyney University, Hall had worked full-time for Vision Quest, mentoring troubled teens in New Castle, Del., she said. She described her son as ambitious and family-oriented.
Hill’s close friend Shaka Toney, who was drafted in 2021 by the Washington Football Team, attended Tuesday’s news conference.
Ferguson emphasized her son had no criminal record. She said he was about to become a father with his girlfriend in two months to a girl they planned to name Hyrah.
She called for peace, and asked members of the public to “stand down” and let the police do the job of finding the gunmen. ”I work for a team of the best homicide detectives here in the city of Philadelphia. They’re the best in the world,” she said.
Hill was the 38th person killed in Philadelphia this year, up from 36 at the same time last year, the deadliest year in the city’s history with 562 homicides, according to the Police Department’s website.
The two men who converged on Hill wore masks and may have fled in a Chevy Malibu, Smith said. Detectives are hoping that video evidence will help them determine if he was followed from his place of business.
“We don’t have a lot of direction in this case,” he said. “Not yet.”
On Tuesday, the FOP announced a $10,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of a suspect. The city, as is standard with homicides, is offering $20,000.
“Somebody has information on this case that can lead to an arrest in the homicide of Hyram Hill,” said FOP president John McNesby. “Enough is enough in Philadelphia. We have too many guns and violent offenders on our streets.”
Anyone with information about the crime is asked to call police at 215-686-TIPS or the Homicide Unit at 215-686-3334.