As hundreds gathered tonight to honor the victims of Wednesday night's horrific crash in Feltonville, authorities disclosed that two men with arrest records will each be charged with four counts of murder in the deaths of three small children and a woman mowed down by a car driven by one of them while fleeing a robbery.
The District Attorney's Office confirmed the murder charges late today against the two men, who until now have been held on armed robbery charges from the theft of a motorcycle earlier Wednesday night before the crash.
Police officials in the meantime said police were not in hot pursuit when the car jumped a sidewalk in Feltonville and struck the four victims.
They said the car sped away after an officer pulled up behind it at a light, got out and tried to pull the driver, identified as Donta Cradock, 18, from the car following a gunpoint robbery of a motorcycle.
Cradock and Ivan Rodriguez, 20, are being held on armed robbery charges and officials said they are planning to charge them with homicide in the deaths of the four.
Police said Cradock, of the 300 block of East Rockland Street, has eight prior arrests, five of them for weapons, and Rodriquez, of the 4500 block of North Eighth Street, has five arrests for vehicle theft.
The victims were identified as Latoya Smith, 22; her daughter Remedy Smith, who would have turned one tomorrow; Alicia Griffin, 6, who is related to the Smiths; and Gina Marie Rosario, 7.
The four, all residents of the neighborhood, were in front of the Smith home on Third Street just south of Annsbury Street when they were hit about 7:30 p.m.
The children died last night and Latoya Smith died this morning at Albert Einstein Medical Center.
This evening, about 200 people gathered around the crash scene for a vigil. The car's violent impact was still evident from the sheared bark of a tree trunk and the jumbled stone steps of two rowhouses where the Pontiac crashed.
"If you look at those steps and that tree, they never had a chance," said a tearful Ted Canada, 45, the stepfather of Latoya Smith.
The crowd was filled with mourners hugging one another and laying stuffed animals and flowers at the site of the accident.
Verna Brown, 58, kneeled to speak to her grandson, Devon Brown Griffin, 4.
"She's left the doctor's. She gone to heaven," she told the child, who is related to the victims and played with them frequently.
Alfredo Toro, 40, stood nearby and gave long hugs to his nieces, acknowleging that the moment reminded him of how precious the children were.
"They're three little angels," he said of the young victims. "They didn't harm nobody."
That sentiment was echoed by Canada as he addressed the crowd.
"They had no time to sin. They had no time to do nothing bad," he said.
"Right now, the devil is hard at work," Canada said.
But, he added, "the devil's not going to win. He's a liar." That drew applause from the crowd.
Tammy Rosario, 31, the deaf mother of Gina Marie, also addressed the crowd through an sign language interpreter.
"I lost my daughter. Oh my God! She was my life," said Rosario, overcome with emotion.
Last night, a witness who came upon the scene immediately after the accident called it horrific.
Samuel Colon, 41, who lives nearby, heard the crash and went to investigate, he said. He saw the bodies of two children who appeared to be have been dismembered and a girl pinned under the car.
"I checked her pulse, and she was gone," Colon said.
The accident scene was frenetic, with scores of officers guarding a large perimeter to keep back the many people who had gathered, some overcome with emotion. At one point, police led two women away, one screaming: "She's only 7! She's only 7!"
Mayor Nutter, who arrived with his police commanders, spoke briefly with reporters.
"This is an incredible tragedy," he said.
"Three children killed senselessly through the action of this individual. All we can ask is that the citizens of the city pray for these children, pray for these families," he said.
Cradock was taken to a hospital with injuries that were not life-threatening, Police Commissioner Charles H. Ramsey said. A gun was recovered from the Pontiac, police said.
The stolen motorcycle was recovered several blocks from the accident scene in the 4100 block of North Eighth Street, police said.
Police said they took Rodriguez suspect into custody there after he tried to run into a house, where more weapons were recovered.