Skip to content
Link copied to clipboard

A Philly campaign worker for a progressive political group fatally shot another canvasser in East Germantown, police say

Both men were canvassing for the city’s upcoming primary election on behalf of OnePA. Police said it was not immediately clear what sparked the shooting.

Police on the scene in the 2000 block of Church Lane where a person was fatally shot.
Police on the scene in the 2000 block of Church Lane where a person was fatally shot.Read moreSteven M. Falk / Staff Photographer

A 46-year-old man was fatally shot on Monday afternoon in East Germantown while canvassing for the city’s upcoming mayoral primary, police said, in an incident that stemmed from a dispute with a 22-year-old man, who was also canvassing on behalf of OnePA, a progressive-leaning political group.

It was not immediately clear what prompted the 22-year-old to shoot the older man, and police declined to identify either of them.

The tragedy on the campaign trail came one week before high-stakes mayoral and City Council elections that have been defined by debates about public-safety issues amid the city’s ongoing gun violence crisis.

OnePA Executive Director Steve Paul said members of the group were “heartbroken, and our condolences and sympathy are with their family.”

“Today, a One PA team member tragically lost their life,” Paul said in a statement. “We are mourning this senseless loss and continuing to gather the facts and investigate what happened.”

Paul previously worked in the Council office of Helen Gym, who is now a mayoral candidate running in the May 16 primary with the backing of OnePA and other progressive organizations. The group is also canvassing on behalf of Council candidates Seth Oberman-Anderson, Rue Landau, Amanda McIllmurray, Isaiah Thomas, and Erika Almirón.

The 22-year-old — who was in legal possession of his handgun — remained on the scene after the shooting and was taken to the homicide unit to be questioned by detectives, according to Chief Inspector Scott Small. The 22-year-old’s car was also still on the street after the crime, Small said, and OnePA pamphlets could be seen in its passenger seat.

Deputy Commissioner Frank Vanore said the victim and the man accused of shooting him knew each other and began arguing after they “happened upon each other” on the 2000 block of Church Lane around 4 p.m. Vanore was not certain what the argument was about, but said detectives were investigating the possibility that it related to an existing dispute.

Staff Inspector Ernest Ransom, the head of the Police Department’s homicide unit, said that the two men “had always had a beef,” and that when they crossed paths on the street, the 46-year-old pulled out a gun — which was not registered to him — and the 22-year-old then pulled his firearm, shooting the older man once in the armpit.

The older man was taken to Einstein Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead at 4:24 p.m., police said.

The 22-year-old said he was acting in self-defense, according to Ransom.

The incident sparked shock, grief, and confusion in the city’s political circles and quickly caused controversy as conflicting information began swirling online.

Brendan McPhillips, Gym’s campaign manager, tweeted that another news outlet had inaccurately said the shooting involved employees of Gym’s campaign.

Political canvassing efforts are often organized by campaign-adjacent organizations like OnePA, which is one of a handful of outside groups that have helped propel the city’s insurgent progressive movement to a series of high-profile victories in recent elections. The movement has prided itself on its “ground game” of knocking on thousands of doors throughout the city and bringing new voters into the political process.

It was not immediately clear whether the canvassers involved in the shooting were paid or working as volunteers.

In a statement issued Monday night, Gym said she was “devastated to hear about the tragic death of a canvasser today.”

“My thoughts are with the family of the victim, the One PA community, and everyone impacted by this irrevocable loss,” Gym said. “Though the canvasser was not part of our campaign, this loss is deeply felt by all of us.”

Staff writer Samantha Melamed contributed to this article.