A tearful Sandra Mack remembered how her son, Miles, would tell her, "Mom, this is my neighborhood and these are my people."
His neighborhood was Mantua in West Philadelphia. On Thursday night, he had just wrapped up the fifth season of his X-Tra Miles Developmental Basketball League, which he founded.
After the championship game was decided, trophies were being handed out at the McAlpin Playground at 36th and Aspen Streets around 10:30 p.m. when two males in hoodies started shooting.
At least 15 shots were fired. Six men were hit.
Mack, 42, of the 3400 block of Spring Garden Street, was struck in the buttocks. The bullet hit an artery. He was pronounced dead at 10:44 p.m. at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania (HUP).
Pronounced dead at the scene was Darren Hankins, 19, of the 4700 block of North 11th Street. Hankins may have been the intended target, police said.
Three other men, ranging in age from 20 to 45, were taken to HUP. One was reported in critical condition and the other two in critical but stable condition.
An 18-year-old suffered a bullet wound to a finger.
The suspects fled and were still on the loose.
"This was a vicious and cowardly act of violence, as obviously is evidenced by most of these people were shot in the back," Deputy Police Commissioner Richard Ross said at a news conference today.
"This had nothing to do with the basketball game," Ross said.
"Mr. Mack obviously lost his life trying to sponsor some constructive activity for young people, and that's what makes this even more unfortunate," Ross said.
A grisly scene remained at the playground this morning. A chalk outline of Hankins body contained thick splatters of blood. Ripped clothing, latex gloves and used emergency medical packages were strewn around the crime scene.
A stuffed bear wearing a Harlem Globetrotters jersey sat nearby, as did a bottle of Budweiser with "Miles" written on the label.
Wendell Zellars, 43, a close friend since childhood, said he and Mack used to drink Budweisers after the games. Mack's mother said they were known as the "Bud Boys."
Besides organizing the league, Mack coached the team "10 Deep" (meaning all 10 players were good). Zellars coached "The Intruders."
"We kept lot of kids off the streets," Zellars said.
"He loved the kids in the community," said Sandra Mack, 63.
Miles Mack had two grown sons, ages 20 and 22.
For about the last 16 years, Mack worked at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital, helping move patients with wheelchairs and stretchers, said Aron Berman, manager of the patient transportation department.
"We're really all shocked and saddened. This was a tremendous loss, and everyone at Jefferson will miss him deeply," Berman said. "... He was an excellent upbeat guy."
Mack's parents were at home Thursday night when "some girl came banging on the door saying Miles got shot at the playground," his mother recalled.
Zellars was at home when he got the news and ran down to the basketball courts.
"I see my best friend laying on the ground," Zellars said.
As many as 50 people may have been present during the shooting, and police are urging anyone with information about the shooting to contact homicide detectives at 215-686-3334.
"Because of the heinousness of this act, we're hoping that people in the public come forward," he said.
Besides basketball, Mack loved watching eagles games and writing poetry. He would write poems for weddings and for funerals.
For the passing of his uncle, Frankie G. Mack, two years ago, he wrote a piece that he also read at the funeral. Part of it reads:
"How could one man's death affect so many hearts?
Just remember the first time you met him
That's where it all starts."
More information about the league and its history can be found at www.mantua1.com/xtramiles/index.html.