Drive-by shooting strikes student on way to Overbrook High School

The student, who is in stable condition, was shot three times in the arm and the thigh, according to a district spokesperson.

Students walk out of Overbrook High School.

Overbrook High School students leave school on Jan 31, 2023. A 15-year-old freshman was shot and wounded on his way to school that morning. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

Working on a solution to gun violence and want to share it? Get in touch with gun violence prevention reporters Sammy Caiola and Sam Searles.

A West Philadelphia teenager is in stable condition after he was shot walking to his high school Tuesday morning, representatives from the Philadelphia Police Department and the School District of Philadelphia said.

The 15-year-old and a classmate were a few blocks from Overbrook High School when a car pulled up and started firing a few minutes before 8:30 a.m., district spokesperson Monique Braxton said.

More than 30 shots were fired and the student was hit three times in the arm and the thigh. “It’s a miracle this student is alive,” Braxton said. No one else was injured, she said, including the student who was walking with him.

  • WHYY thanks our sponsors — become a WHYY sponsor

Overbrook, which starts classes at 7:30 a.m., was placed on lockdown for about an hour.

No weapons were recovered at the scene and police had not made any arrests as of Tuesday evening.

Lin Ford Johnson, 70, was walking his dog when heard gunfire and had to take cover. He said it’s not the first time he’s heard gunshots at the corner of 61st Street and Jefferson Street, where the shooting happened.

“Always got something going on around there,” he said. “We’re sick of it.”

More than 90 public school students have been shot in Philadelphia since classes started in late August, 13 of them fatally, Braxton said.

Students wait at a bus stop.
Overbrook High School students leave school on Jan 31, 2023. A 15-year-old freshman was shot and wounded on his way to school that morning. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

Some students leaving school at the end of the day Tuesday said they weren’t worried about the shooting. Others seemed unfazed, joking, and laughing.

This isn’t the first time gun violence has touched Overbrook and the surrounding neighborhood. Four students were injured in a shooting after school in November and the school has also lost multiple students to gun violence in recent years.

During dismissal, a student told WHYY News after the lockdown was lifted, administrators called students into the school’s auditorium to talk to them about the shooting and how to stay safe.

The district’s emergency response team, made up of social workers and counselors, was at Overbrook on Tuesday to provide support, Braxton said. A letter was sent to families explaining the incident.

Braxton said the level of impunity shooters are operating with is alarming. In September, 14-year-old Nicolas Elizalde was killed and four other students were injured following a football scrimmage near Roxborough High School, after multiple gunmen ambushed the team.

“It’s outrageous that kids cannot walk to a community school safely,” Braxton said.

  • WHYY thanks our sponsors — become a WHYY sponsor
A sign outside of a building reads Overbrook High School.
Overbrook High School on Lancaster Avenue in West Philadelphia (Emma Lee/WHYY)

She said the district is doing everything it can to keep kids safe on school property and make sure they travel to and from school safely. But controlling the conditions in surrounding neighborhoods is challenging and often beyond the district’s control.

Overbrook High School is part of the district’s Safety Zone program, which stations police officers around middle and high schools in high-violence areas to look for suspicious activity during dismissal. There were multiple police cars outside Overbrook when school let out Tuesday.

The district’s Safe Path program, which trains community members to prevent trouble after school, is also set to expand to Overbrook. Monitors are instructed to stop fights and escort students home or to transit stations on request. The program, which is currently at six schools, only operates at dismissal. Braxton said the district does not have the money to add the program to the morning hours.

Last week, the district’s school board approved a nearly $545,000 grant-funded contract to pay city police officers to patrol areas outside schools, support athletics and special events, provide active-shooter training, and “respond to high-risk threats against school communities.”

District Superintendent Tony Watlington has repeatedly said safety is his top priority and that he feels he has to spend more money on security given the level of gun violence in the city.

Board President Reginald Streater echoed Watlington’s comments at Tuesday’s biannual meeting between district officials and City Council, which started shortly after the shooting near  Overbrook.

“We are moving our resources further and further outside of the school to help support the city in this role and its responsibility for making sure that our children are safe,” Streater said.

“Just as a reminder, every time we move resources outside of the school, that’s one less resource that we can use to educate our children.”

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

Get the WHYY app!

WHYY is your source for fact-based, in-depth journalism and information. As a nonprofit organization, we rely on financial support from readers like you. Please give today.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

Together we can reach 100% of WHYY’s fiscal year goal