Philadelphia woke up Tuesday morning to the tragic and disheartening news of a shooting on the 2100 block of North Fourth Street in which a 14-year-old boy died from a gunshot to the head. His name was Tyree Bates and he would have turned 15 next month. Three other children — ages 15, 14 and 11 — were wounded along with a 24-year-old man.
People are quick to point fingers and pass judgment, blaming lack of adult supervision, easy access to guns, a culture of gun violence, socioeconomic factors … the list drags on.
The cruel crushing and haunting reality is that a child was shot and killed on the streets of this city.
Will people be so outraged that they will flood the streets in protest, demanding change to gun laws and the perpetual gun violence that has plagued disadvantaged neighborhoods? That remains to be seen.
Another thought: According to news reports, police were called to the intersection of North 4th and Susquehanna streets last week. Would better community policing have helped by building familiarity, relationships, and trust with the neighborhood instead of fear? Possibly.
And although this tragedy, and others like it, don’t happen as frequently in “safer” neighborhoods, we are all still affected by the senseless loss of life. We think about it, we talk about it, and we remember it happened. Why do we eventually forget? Because we have become desensitized and because it didn’t happen to us or our family.
A $20,000 reward for information on the killing of Tyree Bates won’t bring him back to life, nor is it a solution. Neither are prayers and our hearts going out to the family. What is desperately needed is strong, decisive leadership and action to stop the killing. It is every citizen’s right — not a privilege — to be protected.
Peter Tobia was a staff photojournalist for The Philadelphia Inquirer from 1993-2008. petertobiaphotographer.com