After Wednesday night’s quintuple shooting at Roberto Clemente Playground in Spring Garden, a woman emailed City Council President Darrell L. Clarke and the mayor. “I am writing yet again, less than a month since my last email, to beg for help,” she wrote. “The situation on and around Wallace St. is escalating. 55 shots fired tonight. In a children’s playground.”
There have been eight people shot in three separate incidents in Spring Garden this year. Three weeks ago, the woman emailed Clarke after another Wallace Street shooting.
“The expectation is we should be able to walk our streets without being shot,” she said Thursday, on the condition her name not be used for fear of retribution.
Wednesday night’s shooting on the 1800 block of Wallace Street was “what we were trying to avoid,” she said. “But we’re here now.”
Her concerns have been echoed by other residents in Spring Garden, an economically and racially diverse neighborhood, with gentrifying areas and sections of deep poverty.
Gun violence has been a problem across Philadelphia this year. There have been 323 homicides in the city as of Wednesday night, a 32% increase from the same period last year, and more than the year-end homicide counts for almost every year from 2009 through 2017, according to police statistics.
There have been 1,475 shootings in the city as of Wednesday, a figure that exceeds the year-end count of shootings from the last five years. From 2015 to 2017, there were about 1,250 shootings each year. In 2018, there were 1,401 shootings and 1,463 last year.
Mayor Jim Kenney, in an emailed statement Thursday, said the city is “devastated” by a violent year, and “our hearts go out to the families of everyone affected by last night’s shooting.”
“We will continue to do everything we can do,” Clarke said in an interview, but one factor is an ongoing problem — “the availability of illegal weapons.”
In Wednesday’s shooting at the park’s basketball court, police responded about 8:10 p.m. to numerous 911 calls about gunfire. Two men, ages 18 and 21, were fatally shot.
Surveillance video showed three assailants opening fire on a group of about 15 people, Chief Inspector Scott Small said. Police found 55 spent shell casings from two separate caliber firearms, he said. No arrests were reported as of Thursday evening.
Officers found 21-year-old Khalid Henderson, of the 1600 block of Wallace Street, unresponsive on the court and carried him to a 9th District patrol car. Before they left for the hospital, medics arrived and pronounced him dead at 8:25 in the backseat.
Police said an 18-year-old, with gunshot wounds to his torso, was pronounced dead about two hours later. He was identified as Jayden Lucas, of Oxford Circle.
Three other men, one 18 and two who are 19, suffered gunshot wounds. One 19 year old was in critical condition; the two other victims were stable — all at Jefferson University Hospital.
Police detained a 19-year-old man who was trying to get into his Lexus. He was later released.
In the August shooting on the 1600 block of Wallace Street, an 18-year-old man was injured.
Police said Thursday that Kareem Parson-Moore, 18, of the same block, was arrested Sept. 4 in that shooting. Court documents show he was charged with aggravated assault and gun offenses, and is out on bail. The District Attorney’s Office sought bail of $999,999; a bail magistrate set it at $400,000. A preliminary hearing is scheduled for next week.
It was not immediately known if the two shootings were related.
Justino Navarro, vice president of the Spring Garden Community Development Corp. and a past president of the Spring Garden Civic Association, said recently there has “no doubt been an uptick in the last several years” of gun violence in the neighborhood, which he said reflected an overall increase in the city.
“The Spring Garden community is no exception,” he said, attributing the violence to people’s “willingness to use guns to settle scores in Philadelphia.”
A source of crime in the area sometimes stems from drug activity at the corner of 17th and Wallace Streets, he said.
“We’re a very diverse neighborhood and unfortunately we’ve been touched by the crime wave,” said Navarro. “Detectives are doing a great job resolving them when they occur. We just don’t want them to occur.”
Elaine Petrossian, another Spring Garden resident, said Thursday: “My heart is breaking for the families of the victims. It’s deeply distressing that folks ostensibly coming to enjoy outdoor recreation are at risk of gun violence.”
Staff writers Robert Moran and John Duchneskie contributed to this article.