ARMED WITH white balloons and candles, hundreds of mourners gathered last night to remember a 22-year-old man killed Sunday during a shooting rampage in a section of Kingsessing that has endured a recent surge of gun violence.
The large crowd huddled together at 54th Street and Florence Avenue in front of the Los Papi Deli and Grocery where Devin Hatch and six other people were shot.
Police said four or five men wearing hoodies approached a group standing at the corner and opened fire. Hatch, who lived two blocks away, was declared dead at the scene. Five of the victims - including a person who showed up at a local hospital Monday night - are in stable condition, while a sixth remains in critical condition.
Many of the mourners sniffled as family members held each other, and a man recited prayers in Arabic. The crowd then released their balloons into the air, which drew a collective wail.
Loved ones described Hatch, who was a twin, as a sweet person who was well-respected and had an affinity for dirt bikes.
"He was very respectful, good-hearted, loved to ride his bikes," said Joy Smith, who identified herself as a distant relative. "It's a lot of people out here to show some support. . . . He was just a young man, full of life."
His girlfriend of seven years, Nini Bynum, said the two had plans to go to Las Vegas to celebrate his 23rd birthday, which was next month, and her 21st birthday, which is in January.
"He was a very, very, very caring person. He was funny. He was so full of humor," Bynum said. "We had plans to get married one day. I had planned on taking him on vacations and stuff like that."
Hatch had previously been arrested for drug possession, but investigators said it is unclear if he was the intended target. The motive is also unknown.
Sunday's shooting was at least the seventh within a 10-block radius in Kingsessing since the beginning of September. On Sept. 25, Raheem Williams, 26, was shot and killed at 57th Street and Florence Avenue. Investigators are trying to determine whether any of those shootings were connected to Sunday's rampage, in which police recovered 52 shell casings.
"We're hoping the public comes forward," said Lt. John Walker of Southwest Detectives. "We're aware that people may have some information that could help us."
He added, "It's obviously a complex investigation since we've got seven people shot."
There was a heavy police presence at the vigil. Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey told the Daily News this week that the department will increase patrols in the area to combat the recent surge of violence.