A South Philadelphia teen was arrested Friday in connection with Tuesday's shooting deaths of two 16-year-olds, killings that shook their schools and put that part of the city on edge.
Brandon Olivieri, also 16, turned himself in around 6:30 p.m. after a warrant was issued for his arrest, police spokesman Officer Troy Brown said. His surrender came hours after his family's house was peppered with gunfire the previous night.
Police believe that Olivieri shot and killed Caleer Miller, a junior at a Mastery Charter school, and Salvatore DiNubile, a junior at St. Joseph's Preparatory School, both 16. They were shot at 12th and Ritner Streets, outside DiNubile's home and about seven blocks south of Olivieri's residence.
The arrest capped an apparent simmering feud among South Philadelphia teens. But many details remain unanswered, including why the victims – two well-liked boys who attended selective schools in the city and seemed to be thriving – were targeted.
Police Commissioner Richard Ross said Friday morning that police were working to defuse the dangerous situation brewing in the neighborhood.
Earlier Friday, Center City criminal defense lawyer James A. Lammendola said he had been retained by Olivieri's parents, Luis and Marta Yvette, who were "scared out of their minds that their house was shot." He said he also feared for their son's safety: "The first thing I'm going to do when I get him is take him over to the Homicide Unit to talk," Lammendola said. "He's a lot safer with the police than he is on the street."
Bullets hit the Olivieri house on the 1600 block of South Juniper Street about 1:30 a.m. Friday. No one was injured. Homicide Capt. John Ryan said that the house was struck 14 times and that 11 cartridge casings were recovered. He said two people were inside at the time. A police source said the teen's father was one of the people who was at home, but he was not hit.
Later Friday morning, the tidy, tree-shaded block of Juniper was buzzing as neighbors stood in clusters, chatting and gazing at the house. The front window was covered by a wooden board. A man who answered the door declined to speak with a reporter.
A next-door neighbor, clutching her 7-month-old boy, said the gunfire awakened her and her husband about 1:30 a.m. "My husband and I just rolled out of bed and dropped to the floor," said the woman, 34, who said she was fearful about her name being used and requested anonymity.
"It was extremely startling and confusing. It was just like rapid fire — pop, pop, pop, pop, pop, 14 in a row. We immediately ran and got the baby and just hunkered down in our hallway, because we didn't know if they were going to come back or not."
The woman said she had last seen Brandon Olivieri a day or two after Tuesday's shootings, sitting in front of his house with his friends.
Neighbor Kathy Natale, 61, said the gunfire had awakened her, too. "I thought it was fireworks," she said.
Her son, Blaise, 22, said: "We never had anything like this on this block."
"It's a shame to think about, even what happened to the two kids that got murdered," he said. "I hung around that neighborhood my whole life when I was growing up. If there was a fight or a scuffle, it never amounted to anyone pulling [a] gun. You could get a black eye, but that's it. Now you have to worry about that."
Another neighbor, Vanessa Veloski, 30, said: "I feel like I can speak for everyone when I say we're all really shaken. We had our block party last weekend. This is a really tight-knit, quiet, safe, close community."
DiNubile was shot twice and Miller once about 8:25 p.m. Tuesday on the 2300 block of South 12th Street. DiNubile was found lying on the ground next to the Hot Waves hair salon on the southwest corner of 12th and Ritner. Miller was lying on the ground about 20 yards west of the intersection. Both teens, each shot in the chest, were taken to Thomas Jefferson University Hospital, where they were pronounced dead.
Ryan, the homicide captain, said Friday that the shootings resulted from a dispute between two groups of teens who knew one another. He said police believe that Miller and DiNubile were on opposite sides of the dispute. Investigators believe that one person fired three shots from a .45-caliber handgun. Police still were investigating the origin of the argument.
Those who knew the slain students reacted with shock and sadness.
Fran Daly, principal of the Mastery Charter School Thomas campus in South Philadelphia, said Miller already had made an impression in the 3½ weeks he was enrolled there.
"He asked a lot of questions," Daly said. "He was a real quiet kid. He had a good sense of humor, and he told us he was glad to join us. … He commented on people being nice to him here, but otherwise, he was a sweet kid who was rather quiet."
Ghymin Lane, 16, with whom Miller attended Spanish class, called him a "a quiet person. He always kept to himself. But two days ago, he spoke to me in Spanish, and I helped him with classwork."
"It's messed up," Lane added. "I just talked to him, and my last words to him were, 'Be safe.'"
A candlelight vigil for Miller — who lived on the 1100 block of Dorrance Street in Point Breeze — was held Thursday night at Chew Playground, near his home.
A separate candlelight vigil for DiNubile was held Wednesday night at 12th and Ritner. A viewing for DiNubile will be held at 8:30 a.m. Saturday at Epiphany of Our Lord Church, 1121 Jackson St., followed by a Funeral Mass at 11 a.m. He is to be buried at Locustwood Memorial Park in Cherry Hill.