Isiaka Meite, who died in a hail of bullets that also injured five other people at a Father’s Day party celebrating recent high school graduates, was himself a graduate of South Philadelphia High School who had worked at an Old City restaurant to help support his parents, who came from Ivory Coast.
“He made an impression,” said Ellen Yin, co-owner of the restaurant Fork. “He was somebody who was ambitious and wanted to do well. When you see somebody like that, it’s remarkable. It makes other people around you want to do the same.”
On Tuesday, Yin recalled that Meite, 24, was motivated to earn money to help take care of his family. He started as a dishwasher in 2014, was promoted to busboy, left to take college classes, then returned last year and was promoted to back waiter, said Yin, adding that he left again in March to pursue his goal of being a filmmaker.
“I watched him grow from a teenager to a man,” said Yin, who on Monday set up a GoFundMe account to raise money to assist the family with funeral expenses. The $5,000 goal was exceeded and stood at more than $6,000 as of 9:30 p.m. Tuesday.
Among messages left on the GoFundMe message board was one signed Christian Jimenez, who wrote:
“I can’t believe such a dedicated and hard working young man has left us. Isi knew exactly what he wanted to do with his career and what he had to do to get there and always had the greatest spirit that would lift anyone’s mood. You will be missed by many and continued to be loved by even more RIP Isiaka.”
A funeral service for Meite was held at Masjid Ahlus-Sunnah Wal-Jammah in Philadelphia on Friday.
On Tuesday, Meite’s sister Naminata Meite, 21, said, “He was a very outgoing person. You couldn’t have a problem with him; no one had a problem with him. He was just full of life. That’s the type of person he was.”
Naminata said her brother dabbled in photography and was a fitness buff, often jogging in the morning and playing soccer with friends in the evening.
When gunfire erupted just after 10 p.m. Sunday, about 10 recent high school graduates were being celebrated on the ball field at Finnegan Playground. Food was cooking on a handful of grills, a DJ was spinning music, and partygoers were dancing on the grass.
Earlier that evening, Naminata Meite said, she caught sight of her brother. “I saw him from a distance. He was having a good time. He was real happy that day,” she said.
She, her brother and their two sisters, Awha, 17, and Kaeidia, 10, were born in the United States. Naminata Meite said their parents wanted to give them a better life.
Meite was listed as Philadelphia’s 151st homicide victim of the year. But while his slaying garnered national headlines, his status as the city’s latest victim of a surge in deadly violence was short-lived.
Less than an hour later, Marlita Ann Smith, 68, was found fatally shot in the chest in the living room of her home in the 5000 block of North Seventh Street in Olney, said a Police Department spokesperson. Smith became the city’s 152nd homicide victim, said the spokesperson, who added that a suspect had been arrested.