A 13-year-old boy was fatally shot on his way to school Friday morning in North Philadelphia, according to police and School District officials — another bleak example of how the city’s ongoing gun violence crisis is leaving a record number of young people dead or wounded.
The victim, whom authorities declined to identify, was shot once in the chest on the 3100 block of Judson Street just after 9 a.m., police said. He was taken to Temple University Hospital, where he was pronounced dead about 20 minutes later.
Chief Inspector Frank Vanore said detectives believe the boy and several other young people had been sitting in a car parked on the block when at least one gunman walked up and fired shots into it.
Lunette Ray, 86, heard the shots — at least 10 — right outside her house. She peered out the window and saw several boys jump out of a vehicle and run away. One was severely bleeding and fell in the street. She called 911.
“He laid there,” she said, “and I thought ‘Oh my God, he couldn’t make it.’ ”
Monica Lewis, a School District spokesperson, said the victim was a student at nearby Rhodes Elementary School and was headed there when he was struck. His killing devastated his peers and teachers, she said, adding that many of his classmates had “this look of shock and sadness in [their] faces.”
The boy’s slaying was the 428th homicide in the city this year, according to police statistics — the most through early October in at least 35 years. Those same statistics show that 165 children have been killed or wounded in shootings this year — by far the highest pace since at least 2015.
Vanore said the motive behind Friday’s shooting was not immediately clear. The gunman ran away, he said, and investigators were still seeking details about what the person looked like. No one was arrested and no weapon was recovered. Detectives were searching for nearby surveillance video and interviewing some of the other young people in the car, he said.
Lewis said some witnesses being interviewed by police were also Rhodes students, but she was not sure if they were in the car when shots were fired.
Vanore said some neighbors said the car had been parked on the block for “quite awhile,” so it was not clear if any of the people inside had been able to drive it.
After the shooting, Rhodes Elementary was temporarily placed on lockdown due to the investigation, police said. The lockdown was lifted just before noon.
Lewis said one of the victim’s teachers described him as “just a very good student, a happy child.” Attempts to reach his relatives were unsuccessful Friday.
By 1:30 p.m., police had largely cleared the crime scene. A red PT Cruiser on the corner of Judson and Clearfield Streets had bullet holes in the windshield, and 13 circles made with pink chalk dotted the street.
A woman who lives nearby said she heard the shots from inside her home and came outside to see the boy wounded in the street. She heard someone scream: “He’s a kid! Call the cops!”
The woman, a 40-year-old who asked not to be identified for fear of retaliation, took off her sweatshirt and gave it to a neighbor who held it on the boy’s chest, trying to stop the bleeding. There was a backpack lying next to him, she said.
The homicide was the second shooting on the block in a matter of weeks. On Sept. 5 around 8 p.m., police said, a 43-year-old man was shot several times in the body. That case remains unsolved, according to court records.
Ray said she’s lived in the same house for 52 years, and for the first time in years, she won’t hand out candy for trick-or-treat.
“It’s the teenagers just killing and killing and killing,” she said. “I don’t know what’s going on.”
Carl Day, an antiviolence advocate and pastor whose church is two blocks from where the shooting took place, said, “We should be stirred up right now, all of us.” The killing is a mandate for adults in the community, he said, to reach out to more children and teenagers and provide alternatives to violence.
“We in this community and in this zip code need to put all hands on deck,” he said. “We have to let our youth know this doesn’t have to be life. This world is so much bigger than what they think they see in front of them.”
Lewis, the district spokesperson, said far too many students have felt the impact of this year’s shootings crisis.
“It has to stop,” she said, “because these children don’t deserve it.”