‘Like being in a war zone’: Although routine, shootings still rattle North Philly residents, merchants
North Philly shootings kill one person, injure a second and rattle neighbors as police search for clues and the gunman or gunmen.
His baby granddaughter strapped to his chest, Frank Lane stood with four neighbors Friday morning in front of a deli at 16th and Diamond Streets in North Philadelphia reliving the horror of the night before.
“We didn’t see it, but we lived it," said Lane, 59. "Oh, my God, it was so scary.”
It was an explosion of gunfire shortly before 9:30 p.m. Thursday. Bloodstains were still visible inches from their shoes, and light-blue chalk circles ringed where dozens of bullet shell casings had landed on the pavement, not far from Temple University.
Lane, who lives nearby on 17th Street, recalled hearing more than 20 shots fired in rapid succession. “It was like being in a war zone,” he said.
He and his neighbors had run out into the street to see what was happening, but by the time they got to the scene, first responders already had taken the victims to Temple University Hospital, he said.
Christopher Gardner, 24, of Upper Darby, shot throughout his body, was pronounced dead minutes later, police said. Sharita Hardy, 35, who had been standing next to Gardner, was shot near her right hip and is expected to recover, said her mother, Sonjah Thrower. The motive for the shooting was unclear.
“They were talking, they were friends,” she said of her daughter and Gardner. “I was in the house and I heard about 27 shots. My daughter came in the house, she sat down and said, ‘Dial 911.’ I looked down and she was bleeding, so we dialed 911 and they came and put her in the ambulance.”
Hardy, a home health-care aide and mother of sons ages 18 and 6, never lost consciousness, Thrower said. “I really don’t know what to say. It’s too much,” Thrower said while hugging a stream of neighbors who consoled her in front of her house several doors from the crime scene.
The deli operator said Gardner also was shot in 2018. Sam Chey, 35, who with his wife runs T & Y Deli, said Gardner was a regular customer who had been shot in the back in front of 1538 Diamond St. last year.
Chey said the immediate area around his store has about three shootings a week, which is why he has a thick, bullet-resistant barrier to protect them while they sell food, drinks, condoms, and knickknacks.
“This is not good. My wife is scared, too,” said Chey, who added that the area’s violence reminds him of crime in his native Cambodia.
Temple student Katie Canter, 20, and new graduate Steph Egitto, 23, who walked by the crime scene Thursday, said the university sent them emergency alerts about the shootings but they did not know someone had been killed.
“We figured it was more serious than all the other Temple alerts because of all of the police caution tape, but we had no idea what actually happened,” said Egitto, an English major who graduated May 11. “So that’s pretty shocking.”
“We live right down there closer to 18th Street, and I didn’t even hear it,” said Canter, a junior advertising major. “I typically feel fine here, that’s why it’s kind of surprising.”
A police spokesperson said Friday no arrests had been made in the double shooting, or in another shooting Thursday evening in the 1300 block of North 11th Street. That 7:48 p.m. shooting claimed the life of Virgil Ross of the 1200 block of West Master Street.
Ross, who suffered several gunshot wounds, was taken by Philadelphia Housing Authority Police to Hahnemann University Hospital, where he was pronounced dead shortly after 8 p.m.
As of midnight Thursday, Philadelphia had recorded 129 homicides, an 11 percent jump from the same date last year when there were 116, according to crime statistics posted on the Police Department’s website.