At a press conference Friday morning, Chester police announced some good news: They'd solved a homicide from last summer's crime surge, which threw the city into a monthlong state of emergency.

But before the day was out, there was a new crisis: Nine teens were shot at a birthday party attended by about 100 kids at Minaret Temple No. 174. The shooting prompted the all-too-familiar accusations and recriminations that plague the riverfront city of 37,000 - even as the local economy shows signs of life.

"We need an army out here!" said Vanessa Melendez, cousin of Robel Laboy, 18, who was shot at the party late Friday night and died in the emergency room at Crozer-Chester Medical Center.

A second teenage boy was later pronounced dead, and three other victims were still in the hospital yesterday.

"Oh, my God . . . oh, my God . . . " Laboy's father, Israel, repeated yesterday as he crumpled beside a memorial of stuffed animals and candles outside the social hall at 4th and Ward streets.

"My son, my firstborn," he said. "He was about to graduate and go to the prom. All that just got X'd out."

Some Chester residents say they'd actually prefer a return to last summer's state of emergency, which included an all-ages nighttime curfew in five high-crime sections of the city. If not that, they say, at least a stricter curfew that would apply to young adults.

"I'm not going to live in fear sitting on my own porch," said Bernadette Thomas, who had just returned from a party Friday night when a bleeding teenager emerged from the party and sat on her porch.

Mayor Wendell Butler Jr. said yesterday that he would not declare a crime emergency in response to Friday's shooting. The city had recorded only one prior homicide this year.

"It was just one incident," Butler said. "It started indoors and because of the panic and all, it went outside."

Three partygoers were arrested over the weekend, but none had been charged in the shooting. Police are examining the guns to determine who fired the shots.

"It appears at this time, it might have been multiple shooters, based on shell casings and weapons that were recovered," Police Chief Darren Alston said.

Alston said the kids at Minaret Temple No. 174, some as young as 12 or 13, were not properly supervised, and the security was inadequate. He's pleading with Chester parents to take an active role in their children's lives.

"Some of the parents might not have even known their children were there. We have to do a better job, and it starts at home," Alston said. "It's about showing them some love. Right now, they believe they're invincible and they're not going to die. I'm tired of seeing these young folks dying in the streets."

Robel Laboy didn't have a mother while was growing up because his mother left when he was an infant. He met her for the first time a couple of months ago and he didn't hold a grudge, his father said.

"He's not that type of person. He accepted her as flesh and blood," Israel Laboy said, as relatives consoled him at the memorial on Ward Street.

Moments later, two Chester police cruisers went blazing down Route 291, on their way to the next call.