Skip to content
Link copied to clipboard

A mom remembers her ‘baby,’ and neighbors search for hope as Philly’s gun violence crisis brings another unrelenting weekend

Over the holiday weekend, 44 people were shot, 15 fatally, as Philadelphia's unrelenting gun violence crisis continues.

Vanessa Frame with her daughter Janiyah Parks, 7, with a photograph of her son Jamel Parks, 9, who was shot and killed along with his father on Sunday.
Vanessa Frame with her daughter Janiyah Parks, 7, with a photograph of her son Jamel Parks, 9, who was shot and killed along with his father on Sunday.Read moreJESSICA GRIFFIN / Staff Photographer

When the shots rang out, Vanessa Frame threw on her robe and ran outside.

It was around 10:30 p.m. Sunday, and her husband and son were expected home any minute from a cousin’s birthday cookout.

A neighbor yelled that a car had been shot. Inside was Frame’s husband, Jerry, and in the passenger seat was their 9-year-old son, Jamel.

“I just grabbed my baby and screamed,” Frame said Tuesday, her knees still scraped from holding her son in the broken glass shattered by more than a dozen bullets that pierced the Nissan Sentra.

Gerald Parks, 37, and his son had been shot multiple times. They died at the hospital a short time later.

They were among 15 people killed over Memorial Day weekend as Philadelphia’s unrelenting gun violence crisis continued. From Saturday through Monday, 44 people were shot — a spike that brought the city’s total shooting victims to 917, an 8% increase over this time last year, when the city set an annual record for shootings.

More than 200 people have been slain this year, just slightly under the total this time last year.

So as Americans gathered on the holiday to honor fallen members of the military and late relatives, dozens of Philadelphians faced the fresh trauma of having to bury loved ones lost to gun violence.

“There’s enough trauma in this city to create a whole ’nother city,” said Karaina Beckett, a cousin of Jerry and Jamel Parks.

Homicide Capt. Jason Smith said Tuesday that police believe the father and son were victims of mistaken identity.

There are ongoing disputes between men from Larue and Carver Streets in Wissinoming, Smith said. A red car had been circling the block, he said, and Parks pulled into a parking spot that a vehicle had just pulled out of — potentially taking the place of the intended target.

That’s when another car pulled up alongside his, and two gunmen fired 13 shots into the car, then drove off. No arrest has been made.

Vanessa Frame remembered her son Jamel — the middle child of three — as a well-behaved boy who loved video games, anime, and playing with his little sister and best friend, Janiyah. On Tuesday, Janiyah played with her Barbies on the stoop, wearing a shirt that said “Daddy’s Girl.”

Jamel was a third grader at Mastery Charter Smedley Elementary, where his classmates built a memorial on his desk with Legos and notes Tuesday.

Frame, 34, met her future husband when she was just 13, she said, and they grew up on the same block in Olney.

“He was my childhood crush,” she said. And although the couple were divorcing after almost 10 years of marriage, Frame said he was a good father who worked as the corporate manager of a local Pretzel Factory store.

Just hours after Parks and his son lost their lives to gunfire, four people, including two teenage girls, were shot just after 1 a.m. Monday on the 2900 block of East Tioga Street in Port Richmond when multiple shooters opened fire into a crowd of at least 60 young people at a street party, Smith said.

Andrea De Los Santos, 16, and Pamela Merijo-Medina, 22, were killed.

» READ MORE: A look at Philly’s gun violence crisis through the eyes of those experiencing it.

A 21-year-old man was hit three times in the thigh and is in critical condition, Smith said. A 14-year-old girl was shot in the shoulder, and was treated at the hospital and released. Police recovered 61 shell casings at the scene. No arrest has been made, but there were multiple witnesses and the investigation is continuing, Smith said.

On the 1700 block of Oxford Street in North Philadelphia, residents still reeling from the shootings of five people less than two weeks earlier heard shots ring out around 6:30 p.m. Monday.

Four shooters fired at least 68 rounds, Smith said, in a bout of gang-related violence. Daniel Spady, 26, was killed and another man was shot. No arrests have been made, Smith said, but clear video was recovered.

On Tuesday, multiple cars on the block were dented and their windows shattered. At one house, a bullet struck the brick less than a foot from the first-floor window.

James Dandy was sitting on the couch and paying bills when shots erupted.

“I hit the floor. I’ve never heard so many shots,” he said Tuesday, envelopes still scattered across his couch.

Dandy, who has lived on the block for 23 years and is a local judge of elections, said he and his neighbors sometimes feel like hostages inside their own homes.

An avid gardener, Dandy selects a theme each spring for the flowers he plants. This year, he said, it’s hope and prosperity.

“A lot of people around here don’t have a lot of hope,” he said. “It’s just apathy.”

His neighbor Anthony Johnson, 69, sits only in his backyard now, never the front, he said — hoping his home of nearly 50 years would shield him from any violence in the street. That’s where he was when the shots rang out.

Part of him didn’t even want to know what happened or who was hurt, he said: “I became numb.”

On Tuesday, a group of Philadelphia schoolchildren gathered outside City Hall to rally against gun violence. According to a survey, at one school, 59% of students have seen shootings in their neighborhood, 42% have family members in jail because of gun violence, and 66% have had a family member die of gun violence.

Before school was dismissed for the day, three more people were shot.

Staff writers Oona Goodin-Smith and Kristen Graham contributed to this article.