Seven people were wounded in a shooting Saturday night during a cookout at a city playground in West Philadelphia’s Overbrook neighborhood, police said.

At around 8:55 p.m., police were called to the Baker Playground at 54th Street and Lansdowne Avenue for a report of a shooting.

Several hundred people were in the park for a cookout and basketball games when shots broke out, Police Commissioner Richard Ross said.

A witness outside the playground told police that two young men had appeared to open fire on the crowd. About five to six people who were wounded could walk on their own, suffering wounds to the arms and legs, or graze wounds to the face or head. One person was shot four to five times, Ross said. Officers found more than 20 shell casings on the ground in the playground, he said.

Police looking for evidence at the West Philadelphia playground where seven people were shot and wounded Saturday night.
Aubrey Whelan / Staff
Police looking for evidence at the West Philadelphia playground where seven people were shot and wounded Saturday night.

Police officers rushed some victims to the hospital; others went in private cars. Five men and a woman were being treated at Penn Presbyterian Medical Center; a 19-year-old man was at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania with bullet wounds to the left side and left arm. All were reported in stable condition as of 10:30 p.m., Ross said.

It was at least the second mass shooting at a city playground in less than a month.

On June 14 — Father’s Day — a 24-year-old man was killed and five people were wounded when gunfire erupted at the Finnegan Playground in Southwest Philadelphia during a party by the neighborhood’s West African community to celebrate recent high school graduates.

Saturday night, panic struck as people in the crowded park realized shots had been fired. Across the street, neighbors watching the cookout said that they first thought someone had set off fireworks — and then saw the crowds running from the playground.

Mason James, 27, was down the block and headed to the cookout when he recognized the sound of gunshots. He had been excited to attend — “it was a popping cookout,” he said, smiling — but dove back inside his home as people fled.

Social media posts said the event, billed as the “Love Again” cookout, was slated to run from 3 until 9 p.m.

The scene was so chaotic, Ross said, that it was not immediately apparent to those playing basketball that someone had opened fire; the first officers responding to the scene had to tell the players what had happened.

“Amazing we didn’t have any fatalities thus far,” Ross said. “It’s just a sad indication of where we are in society. To pull out a gun and fire aimlessly into a crowd — it just seems to be so callous, the disregard for life. It just frustrates you beyond belief. Are we at a point where we have to police a playground at night? It just makes no sense.”

Ross said police had not yet received information about a motive for the shooting. He described the suspects as between 18 and 25, with one wearing a black T-shirt.

“We know nothing, literally,” he said. “It took a while to get that limited description, and obviously it’s not much to go on.” He urged anyone with information to contact the police.

“When you let people walk around with impunity, we give the impression that these things are OK,” he said.

Police said Saturday night’s shooting victims at Penn Presbyterian were an 18-year-old woman who was shot in the left leg, an 18-year-old man who suffered a graze wound to the back of the head, a 29-year-old man who was shot in the right side of the face, a 21-year-old man who was shot in the left elbow, a 26-year-old man shot twice in the left side, and an 18-year-old man who was shot once in the left arm.