Samuel Collington — a “phenomenal student” at Temple University, passionate advocate, and friend to all — was set to graduate in May. The 21-year-old had just received his triumphant LSAT score, nearly cementing his plan to attend law school next fall.
But after returning to North Philadelphia on Sunday after spending Thanksgiving with his family in Prospect Park, Delaware County, Collington was shot and killed. He had just parked his mom’s SUV on the 2200 block of North Park Avenue around 1:30 p.m. when a gunman approached him in an apparent robbery and carjacking. He was shot twice in the chest and died about a half-hour later.
Investigators have recovered video and forensic evidence from the scene that they hope will point to a suspect, said Assistant District Attorney Chesley Lightsey, chief of the homicide and nonfatal shootings unit in the District Attorney’s Office. No arrests have been made. On Monday, a teddy bear lay on the street where he died, a quiet block dotted with student housing.
In a statement, Molly Collington described her son as “kind and accomplished,” having been the president of his Interboro High School class, an Eagle Scout, and member of the band and National Honor Society.
“Our son was and is our hero, and this senseless act crushes us,” she wrote. “Sam spent all of his free time raising awareness for the issues that meant the most to him. In his honor, we will do everything to make sure that there is Justice For Sam.”
Family members hope to offer a reward for information leading to his killer’s arrest. They are planning a vigil for Thursday evening.
Friends also took to social media Monday to remember Collington as a caring and funny person who would do anything for his friends — such as dress up as Santa Claus for a Christmas party.
Collington, a political science major and philosophy minor, was passionate about social justice issues and racial and income equality, friends said. He was the president of the Political Science Society for the last year and an officer of the College Democrats.
Just last month, he lobbied for Temple’s funding in Harrisburg as part of “Owls on the Hill,” and in the past, he had canvassed for Planned Parenthood, the ACLU, and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders. At the time of his death, he worked as a democracy fellow in the Office of the Philadelphia City Commissioners, the agency that runs city elections.
“He was a great kid who did a lot on this campus and really reflected what a Temple student can do,” said Robin Kolodny, a professor and chair of Temple’s political science department.
Artemy M. Kalinovsky, a professor of history and political science, said that Collington was a bright star in his Modern Russia and Soviet History course, always elevating the conversation, asking smart questions, and making other students feel confident to speak up.
“He was everyone’s friend,” said Emily Tucci, a 2020 Temple graduate and fellow member of the Political Science Society. “His humor is something I’ll never forget. He was a leader and he deserved so much more than what happened.”
Tucci said Collington, who had deadpan humor, always found a way to lighten the room. She said that in a department like political science, filled with characters and bloated egos, “Sam just wanted to help. There was no hidden agenda.”
“He would fight for anybody,” said Luke Detore, a friend and classmate.
Detore, who graduated from Temple in 2019, remembered one Halloween where Collington walked into a political science meeting wearing a massive cowboy hat, dressed like Burt Reynolds from the Saturday Night Live Jeopardy! skits.
“You couldn’t be around him for five minutes without him putting you into a fit of laughter,” Detore said.
As of Monday, 506 people have died in homicides in the city this year, a number that surpasses the previous record set in 1990.
State Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta, a Temple alum and North Philly native, said in a statement Monday that Collington’s death “is another example of the tragic toll that ongoing gun violence is taking on our communities, families and institutions. Samuel was a student who deserved to be safe in his surrounding community, just as were all the people who have lost their lives to gun violence this year.”