Kristopher Minners — known for his basketball and chess skills, and a warm smile that never left his face — was in the middle of a packed weekend of birthday festivities when he was fatally shot on South Street on Saturday. He’d just turned 22 on Thursday.
Minners had a lot to celebrate, said friends and family. He’d gotten his dream job in January as a residential adviser at Girard College, which he had attended. His colleagues liked him, and more important, his initial batch of sixth graders took to him quickly, as did his recently assigned second graders.
“He felt like he could make a difference,” said Minners’ cousin Marcus Dukes. “He knew that’s such a crucial age. You can make or break somebody.”
The job came with an apartment on campus that Minners was proud of. And he was getting to teach students one of his favorite games.
“He was probably one of the best chess players on campus,” said sixth-grade residential adviser Dahmeer Duvernay.
After Saturday dinner plans in Northern Liberties fell through, Minners suggested a brief stop at South Street. The soft-spoken but confident Minners was a “ladies’ man,” said friends. He wanted to flirt with women that night and the popular street seemed like the place to do that.
Minners’ aunt Marlena Selby said she and her nephew spoke at 10:17 p.m. to coordinate Sunday dinner plans — she’d be making turkey, one of his favorites. Minners responded with his signature phrase, “I got you.” And an “I got you” from Minners was a guarantee, said Selby, whether in response to a request to take out the trash or plans for a night of video games.
Within an hour of that call, Minners met with Dukes in front of the New Orleans-inspired bar Fat Tuesday at Fifth and South. Feeling a little “old” for the crowd, Dukes told Minners he’d meet him in North Philly, the group’s planned second stop. That would mark the last time Dukes saw his “little bro.”
It was shortly after their goodbye that a fistfight erupted into gunfire and chaos. Minners was one of two bystanders fatally hit. Eleven people were injured, and one of the people involved in the initial brawl also died.
Dukes learned Minners had been shot as he headed north. Police said Minners died from his injuries, shortly after he was transported to Thomas Jefferson University Hospital.
His death has been felt deeply among those who knew him.
During a Tuesday balloon release at Girard College, some of the young boys Minners advised sobbed uncontrollably into the arms of his family members. They presented the family with a poster with messages that read, “You were one of my favorite RAs” and “What will we do without you?”
Family members weren’t surprised by the impression Minners left on the children. They described him as unstoppable, wise beyond his years, and capable of accomplishing anything he set his mind to. When Minners was 12, he wanted to join a basketball league in Strawberry Mansion and was met with some skepticism about his skills.
“He turned out to be — I’m not exaggerating — the best kid in the league,” said Dukes.
Minners would grow up to stand around 5-foot-10 but had a confidence that made him seem much taller, joked his best friend, Taufiq Williams. Still, Minners had a gentle, no-nonsense way of talking to people.
Yanique Tomlinson, Minners’ cousin, said that in addition to life advice, Minners would offer fashion advice and music suggestions.
“We need a new vibe? We call Kris,” said Tomlinson.
Tomlinson was waiting for Minners in North Philly for the second part of his birthday celebration when she heard the news and rushed to the hospital.
“All I keep hearing is the surgeon’s voice in my head saying that he’s gone,” she said.