‘We will not be held hostage’: Philly police seek 4 suspects after 8 teens injured in mass shooting

Nearly a dozen children have been hurt in the recent string of shootings. Mayor Parker vowed to “use every legal tool in the toolbox" to address the violence.

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Philadelphia Police Commissioner Kevin Bethel speaks with members of the media following a shooting in Northeast Philadelphia on Wednesday, March 6, 2024.

Philadelphia Police Commissioner Kevin Bethel speaks with members of the media following a shooting in Northeast Philadelphia on Wednesday, March 6, 2024. (AP Photo/Joe Lamberti)

Philadelphia officials are searching for four people who they say were involved in a mass shooting in Northeast Philadelphia that left eight high school students injured.

The incident marks the fourth shooting in as many days involving a SEPTA bus. The combined incidents have resulted in at least three deaths and more than a dozen injuries. Eleven of the victims have been children, according to police.

“It’s hard to sit here and see in three days, 11 juveniles shot who were going or coming from school,” Philadelphia Police Commissioner Kevin Bethel said during a rain-soaked news conference. “The cowardly acts that we’ve seen over the last three days are unacceptable. The downstream impact when we do not address gun violence, when we do not address guns, is what we see today.”

Wednesday’s shooting happened near the intersection of Rising Sun and Cottman avenues as students from Northeast High School were waiting for the bus. One of the teenagers is listed in critical condition after being shot nine times.

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Video released Wednesday night shows three suspects exiting a dark blue 2019 Hyundai Sonata and opening fire at people waiting at the bus stop. Police say roughly 30 shots were fired. Authorities are looking for a fourth person who was allegedly involved in the handoff of the getaway car.

A vehicle matching that car’s description, which police say was stolen, has been impounded. Detectives confiscated the Hyundai Sonata on the 400 block of Roselyn Street in Olney.

Evidence markers are seen following a shooting in Northeast Philadelphia on Wednesday, March 6, 2024.
Evidence markers are seen following a shooting in Northeast Philadelphia on Wednesday, March 6, 2024. (AP Photo/Joe Lamberti)

The mass shooting follows a string of shootings involving SEPTA buses. Just one day earlier, a man was fatally shot on a Route 79 bus in South Philadelphia, and on Monday, a teen was killed and four others were hurt during a bus stop shooting in Philadelphia’s Ogontz neighborhood. Sawee Kofa, 27, was fatally shot Sunday during an argument on a SEPTA bus in the Oxford Circle neighborhood.

Philly Mayor Cherelle Parker on Wednesday declared “enough is enough,” adding that law enforcement throughout the city “is actively engaged” and working together to solve the crimes.

“This is what’s extremely important to me as mayor of this city — that the people of this city know that we will not be held hostage,” Parker said. “We will use every legal tool in the toolbox to ensure the public health and safety of the people of our city.”

When Parker was asked if “stop and frisk” measures would be implemented, Commissioner Bethel stepped in, retorting if “this is the moment” to discuss the controversial practice.

“We’re talking about the work we need to do to deal with the issues that we have,” Bethel said. “We have 11 children shot today. This is not about stop and frisk. This is not about that right now. It’s about what we’re going to do as a city to address the violence that we’re seeing now.”

Stop and frisk measures, or “Terry stops,” allow officers to stop people they suspect have committed or are about to commit a crime. In the past, it’s been disproportionately used against Black and brown Philadelphians. The topic became a major talking point of last year’s mayoral election in Philadelphia after Parker emerged as a vocal supporter of the practice.

Prior to Wednesday’s shooting, SEPTA’s police force said it was taking an “aggressive” approach to combating gun violence on the city’s mass transit system.

Tony Watlington, superintendent of the School District of Philadelphia, said trained crisis professionals will be at Northeast High School on Thursday to provide support to students and families.

Northeast High School will operate on a virtual schedule through the end of the week, and students will be offered mental health help via Kooth, a confidential online mental health and well-being platform.

“On behalf of all of our children and families in the school district, we are just absolutely heartbroken and angry that innocent children walking home from school would be impacted by gun violence,” Watlington said. “We agree with the mayor, enough is enough.”

Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner called the shooting a “horrifying event.”

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“This does not just kill and harm the people who are struck with the bullets,” Krasner said. “This is a devastating, disabling, horrifying event for every child who was out here, every child who goes to that school, every parent whose child goes to that school, every person who rides public transit, and a city lives by its schools and it lives by its public transit.”

A spokesperson for SEPTA told WHYY News no passengers on board the bus were injured. A bus struck by gunfire is being held at Frankford Transportation Center for further investigation.

If you or someone you know has been affected by gun violence in Philadelphia, you can find grief support and resources online.

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