Skip to content
Link copied to clipboard

Two teens were killed and another was wounded in West Philly, police say, continuing the city’s surge in violence

The shooting marked a continuation of a violent stretch: More than 200 people have been killed or wounded in shootings in just 20 days in July, according to police.

A police officer lifts crime scene tape for Ramon Harris and his son Sekani Brown-Harris, who he picked up from daycare at 56th and Vine Streets, on the same block where police were investigating a triple shooting, Wednesday, July 21, 2021.
A police officer lifts crime scene tape for Ramon Harris and his son Sekani Brown-Harris, who he picked up from daycare at 56th and Vine Streets, on the same block where police were investigating a triple shooting, Wednesday, July 21, 2021.Read moreJESSICA GRIFFIN / Staff Photographer

Two teenagers were fatally shot and another was wounded Wednesday afternoon in a triple shooting in West Philadelphia, police said — another incident in a troubling surge in violence plaguing the city.

The shooting happened at 12:10 p.m. on the 200 block of North 56th Street, when unidentified gunmen opened fire on the teens as they sat in a car, said Deputy Commissioner Benjamin Naish.

Two males, ages 16 and 18 — whom police did not identify — were pronounced dead at Penn Presbyterian Medical Center after each was struck several times. The other teen, a 16-year-old boy, was taken to Lankenau Medical Center in stable condition, police said.

No one was arrested, no weapon was found at the scene, and Naish said it was “way too early” to determine a possible motive.

At least 11 people have been killed in the city since Friday, according to police statistics. Already this year, at least 310 people have been slain, the statistics show — a 34% increase compared with the same date last year, and more than were killed in all of 2016.

Nearly 1,300 people have been killed or wounded in shootings citywide this year, about 120 of them age 17 or younger, police statistics show.

This month has featured an exceptionally high level of gunfire: Through Tuesday, 210 people had been injured or killed in shootings in the last 20 days, the statistics show — already one of the highest monthly totals of the last decade, with more than a week still remaining in July.

Twenty-five people were shot on Monday and Tuesday alone.

Mayor Jim Kenney said during an afternoon news conference Wednesday that the triple shooting represents “a sadness that should affect every Philadelphian.”

“We are losing a generation of young people who could be great contributors if they keep their lives and not lose it,” he said.

Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw added: “This gut-punches me each and every time.”

“I don’t want us to live in fear,” she said. “We all live here. We’re all residents. And we have to take back our community. We have to take back our blocks.”

Still, Kenney again reiterated that he does not intend to declare a state of emergency over the violence, in part because he does not believe it would make a significant difference over the efforts the city already has underway to address the issue. His stance has angered some community activists and City Council members, who have criticized his administration for failing to treat the crisis with urgency.

“Gun violence is tearing our community apart,” said Helena Fontes, founder and CEO of the New View Institute, which counsels victims of domestic and violent crime. “We, the community leaders, see this as an emergency, but it’s the government officials who have the power to bring in additional law enforcement and resources. If they do not identify it as such, then we will continue to see the killing and dying and we’ll wipe out an entire generation.”

In the aftermath of the shooting on 56th Street on Wednesday afternoon, police closed the block off with crime-scene tape, while detectives examined the four-door blue Hyundai Touring hatchback parked in the street where the teens were shot.

About a block away, George Dowdy sat on his porch. He said that he was the grandfather of the 16-year-old who was wounded and that the teen ran to him after being shot. Dowdy and his wife, Ida, said their grandson was alert at the hospital and expected to physically recover. Still, Dowdy said he had been concerned for the boy’s safety recently because of the number of shootings citywide.

“Everything that’s going on in this city, it’s sickening. Every day something’s happening like that, that’s sickening,” Dowdy said. “We just worried, because every day, you never know.”

The incident was part of a violent week in the city.

On Tuesday around 9:15 p.m., a pregnant woman was shot on the street in the 5400 block of Pearl Street in West Philadelphia, police said.

The woman, 30, was struck in the left side of her head, left wrist, and left chest and was recovering at Penn Presbyterian, police said. A man who was there at the time was shot in the left shoulder and left hip and is recovering at Mercy Hospital. Naish said both were expected to survive, along with the woman’s unborn child.

He said that no arrest has been made but that police believe the gunfire was the result of “some kind of an ongoing dispute” and that it “looks like somebody brought somebody else to settle a score.” He did not provide additional information.

Terry Starks, an antiviolence activist and director of the North Philly-based Expressurself Urban Crisis Response Center, said of a pregnant woman getting shot: “It’s hard to even sleep hearing about things like that.” He attributed much of the city’s ongoing violence to interpersonal clashes made deadly with the widespread availability of illegal guns.

Not far from the scene of the triple shooting Wednesday, 46-year-old Kofi Brooks, who lives on Race Street, said he was cleaning his car when he heard shots, then saw one of the teens running and falling to the ground.

Recalling the events of the day, Brooks became emotional.

“What is going on?” asked Brooks, tears welling in his eyes. “What is causing this?”

Staff photographer Jessica Griffin contributed to this article.