ON SUNDAY, the sounds of kids laughing and the thwack of basketballs on pavement filled Gratz Street.
Then, without warning, the metallic pop of gunfire cut through the air on the block, near Oxford in North Philly.
And the laughter gave way to screaming.
"It was like blam, blam, and we took off," a boy, whose identity the Daily News is withholding, said yesterday outside his home, where he and a handful of his friends were caught in the cross-fire of a gunbattle as they played a makeshift version of basketball they call "crate ball."
"We just scattered and ran; that's all we could do."
That boy escaped without injury, but his friend, Kashie Crawford, 11, wasn't so lucky: Police said he took a bullet to his right hip and collapsed in the vestibule of a nearby house.
"You don't ever think an 11-year-old is an intended target, and we certainly don't here," said Chief Inspector Scott Small, who responded to the scene. "This was just an innocent victim playing with his friends."
Crawford was recovering last night at St. Christopher's Hospital for Children, heavily sedated but in stable condition, according to his mom, Tyeesha Callie.
"Everything's looking good and we're hanging in there," Callie, 30, said last night as she stood on a block she no longer feels safe on. "All I know is, I'm outta here.
"I don't care where we move to, we just can't be here."
According to Small, the shooting broke out just before 4 p.m. at Gratz and Oxford streets. The exact details are unclear, but witnesses told investigators that two males were shooting at each other from across the intersection.
Ballistic evidence shows that at least 15 shots were fired from two semiautomatic handguns during the skirmish, Small said. One of those shots struck Crawford, who was taken to Temple University Hospital by police in critical condition.
A police source said the shooting was sparked by a petty neighborhood argument earlier in the day, a story corroborated by Crawford's neighbors.
One boy, just a year older than the victim, saw the argument unfold, but didn't think anything of it.
Then, a few hours later, he watched the shooting from his bedroom window.
He said he ran to that window when he heard the first shots, and saw three men standing outside a black SUV. One of the men had a gun and was firing down Gratz, in the direction of the kids playing on the sidewalk.
"It was quick; they shot the gun and then just drove away," said the 12-year-old, whose name the Daily News is also withholding.
At the same time that youth was peering out his window, Chris James was sitting a few doors down in his living room, in a house just feet from where the gunfire erupted.
His girlfriend was folding laundry and his kids were upstairs in their rooms. They had just walked through the front door when the first shot rang out.
"I couldn't believe it," James said. "I've lived here for three years, man; this is not a bad neighborhood."
Instead, James blames guns, and how easy it is to get a hold of them in Philly.
"We gotta get rid of them," he said. "They're the real problem."
While Crawford lay in St. Christopher's last night, the family of another 11-year-old was mourning another tragedy sparked by gunfire.
Jamara Stevens was fatally shot Saturday morning inside the master bedroom of a home on Wallace Street near 38th in Mantua, said Officer Tanya Little, a police spokeswoman.
The investigation was still ongoing last night, but initial evidence indicates the gun was taken from the home's kitchen by a 14-year-old who lives there, and placed under the bed in that bedroom.
That's where a 2-year-old boy found the gun, which he pointed at Stevens, apparently thinking it was a toy. The gun went off, and the bullet tore through Stevens' arm before entering her chest.
She died about a half-hour later at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, Little said.
- Staff writer Morgan Zalot
contributed to this report.