Police are searching for a gunman who they say killed a 16-year-old outside a 7-Eleven in Southwest Philadelphia last week because the teen looked at him in a way that made him feel disrespected.
“What are you looking at?” police say the man asked the teen when the two encountered each other inside the store.
“What are you looking at?” Kahlief Myrick responded, according to his family.
The man, believed to be in his mid-20s, waited outside for the teen to leave the store and then shot him in the chest, police said.
The shooting occurred about 4 a.m. Feb. 18 outside the 7-Eleven on the 2900 block of 70th Street. Police responding to the scene rushed the victim to Penn Presbyterian Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead an hour later.
Police released surveillance video of the alleged gunman inside the store with a female companion. In the video, the suspect could be seen casually picking out potato chips just moments before the shooting.
The victim’s grandparents, Norman and Crystal Boyce, said their grandson was visiting relatives and went to the store with a 19-year-old cousin. The cousin, who they said was too upset to talk to a reporter, told them what happened. The teens did not know the gunman who grew upset over a simple glance, the family said the cousin told them.
“He killed a kid that didn’t deserve that,” Crystal Boyce said of the shooter. She and her husband raised Kahlief and his three younger siblings in their South Philadelphia home.
Kahlief, a junior at South Philadelphia High School, loved rap music, drawing, and was learning how to print images on T-shirts, his grandparents said.
“He wasn’t a kid that hung in the street carrying guns,” Norman Boyce said. “He was a typical, inquisitive young kid.”
“He was a bit of a happy-go-lucky person,” Crystal Boyce said. “In our eyes, he was a good kid. He was respectful to adults.”
That he was killed for looking at somebody the wrong way seemed unfathomable, they said. But experts say such perceived slights all too often trigger violence.
Elijah Anderson, a Yale University sociology professor, who taught for 32 years at the University of Pennsylvania, said something that may seem minor, like the wayward glance of a stranger, could lead to gunfire.
“That man took that as disrespect,” said Anderson, when told of the shooting.
“From the perspective of the person who lives on the street, you don’t talk that way to a grown man. If you violate the rules, there may be hell to pay,” said Anderson, emphasizing that he wasn’t blaming the victim.
Kahlief was one of 57 teens shot in the city this year, a 137% increase compared to 24 teens for the same period last year, according to police statistics. Of those, he was one of eight teens killed, compared to four for the same period last year.
His family and friends held a vigil in his memory on Wednesday outside the 7-Eleven where he was shot.