It was a deadly weekend in Philadelphia. Between Saturday morning and midnight on Sunday, 25 people were shot in the city and seven were killed.
Police say they still don’t have suspects in most of the 14 separate shootings.
The motives for and circumstances of the shootings varied, and the people who were shot — all but three of whom were men — ranged in age from 17 to 64. But Homicide Captain Jason Smith says it’s reasonable to assume at least some of the incidents were retribution for previous shootings.
And in a press conference Monday, he added that these cycles of violence are continuing, in part, because the people involved don’t trust police and the legal system to provide justice.
“Rather than providing us with information that will help us solve these homicides, they decide to take matters into their own hands,” he said of the groups involved in the shootings.
Police have identified the seven men killed in the weekend’s shootings.
The most details are available in the death of Tyree Roundtree, 31, who police say was shot in the back Saturday morning and was pronounced dead at the hospital. Police have named a suspect in his case: 25-year-old Naheem Williamson, who worked at the same construction site as Roundtree. Smith said his office believes Williamson had attempted to rob Roundtree, who may have been carrying wages for day laborers at the site.
The other people killed in several separate incidents were 20-year-old Sebastian Brown, 18-year-old Khalil Burgess, 19-year-old Nazir Veasy, 23-year-old Markel Amir Smith Rafi, 17-year-old Samir Lindsey, and 26-year-old Aaron Parker.
Philadelphia has long grappled with ways to build trust between police and the communities they interact with most — especially after widespread outcry over police violence following George Floyd’s murder last summer at the hands of a former Minnesota police officer.
Philadelphia Police Chief Inspector Frank Vanore says part of any investigation after a shooting involves the city’s Office of Violence Prevention sending people to the affected neighborhood and trying to identify the people who might retaliate.
“We speak to them,” he said. “We try to prevent that retaliation by telling them what they’re doing is not going to help. It’s only going to further the violence.”
Some anti-violence activists maintain police are just part of the solution. They have called for more funding and support for violence intervention programs in hopes they can stop shootings, and keep young people from ending up entangled in the criminal justice system.
“We need to connect young people to the services and support they need to get their lives on a different and better path,” said Councilmember Jamie Gauthier, one of the most vocal advocates of that approach, at a press conference last month.
In his response to the violent weekend, Mayor Jim Kenney highlighted his administration’s attempts to do just that. He noted, he has proposed putting $18.7 million in new funding into anti-violence initiative in the next fiscal year, and plans to increase city spending on violence reduction by $70 million over the next five years. That would include new funding to expand the city’s Group Violence Intervention strategy and the Community Crisis Intervention Program. However, anti-violence activists and several members of City Council have said that is not enough money to stem the bloodshed and does not reflect the level of the crisis.
Kenney also said he was “devastated” by the shootings, and that his thoughts were with the victims and their families.
“I want all Philadelphians to know that our administration does not take this issue lightly,” he said. “No priority is greater for us than reducing violence and creating a safer and more just city for us all.”
The weekend’s shootings brings Philadelphia’s total homicide count to 185 for the year. Gun violence was the leading cause of death for young Black and Latino men in the city in 2020, according to officials.
Smith estimates the department’s rate of solving all homicides is around 46% — lower than last year, though the number of homicides is significantly higher. He adds, officers are still working through the evidence from the weekend, which includes more than 120 rounds collected from the scenes.
The city offers cash rewards for anyone who helps solve a homicide.
Find a list of resources for people affected by gun violence here.
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