‘Please help,’ Spring Garden residents tell city leaders after quintuple shooting that killed 2 men

After Wednesday night’s quintuple shooting at Roberto Clemente Playground in Spring Garden, a woman e-mailed City Council President Darrell Clarke and the mayor. “I am writing yet again, less than a month since my last email, to beg for help,” she wrote. “The situation on and around Wallace St. is escalating. 55 shots fired tonight. In a children’s playground.”

a man standing next to a fence: The basketball courts at Roberto Clemente Playground are chained closed on Thursday morning at 18th and Wallace in Spring Garden section of Philadelphia, September 17, 2020. This was the scene of a Wednesday night quintuple shooting that killed two people.

© ALEJANDRO A. ALVAREZ/The Philadelphia Inquirer/TNS
The basketball courts at Roberto Clemente Playground are chained closed on Thursday morning at 18th and Wallace in Spring Garden section of Philadelphia, September 17, 2020. This was the scene of a Wednesday night quintuple shooting that killed two people.

It was the eighth shooting in Spring Garden this year. Three weeks ago, the woman had e-mailed Clarke after another Wallace Street incident.

“The expectation is we should be able to walk our streets without being shot,” she said Thursday, on the condition her name not be used for fear of retribution.

Wednesday night’s shooting on the 1800 block of Wallace was “what we were trying to avoid,” she said. “But we’re here now.”

Her concerns have been echoed by other residents in Spring Garden, a neighborhood with both economic and racial diversity, with gentrifying areas and blocks of deep poverty.

Gun violence has been a problem across Philadelphia this year. There have been 323 homicides in the city as of Wednesday night, a 32% increase from the same period last year, and more than the year-end homicide counts for almost every year from 2009 through 2017, according to police statistics.

There have been 1,475 shootings in the city as of Wednesday, a figure that exceeds the total year-end number of shootings from the last five years. From 2015 to 2017, there were about 1,250 shootings each year. In 2018, there were 1,401 shootings and 1,463 last year.

Kenney, in an e-mailed statement Thursday, said the city is “devastated” by a violent year, and “our hearts go out to the families of everyone affected by last night’s shooting.”

“We will continue to do everything we can do,” Clarke said in an interview, but one factor is an ongoing problem — “the availability of illegal weapons.”

In Wednesday’s shooting at the park’s basketball court, police responded about 8:10 p.m. to numerous 911 calls about gunfire. Two men, ages 18 and 21, had been fatally shot.

Surveillance video showed three assailants opening fire on a group of about 15 people, Chief Inspector Scott Small said. Police found 55 spent shell casings from two separate caliber firearms, he said.

Officers found 21-year-old Khalid Henderson, of the 1600 block of Wallace Street, unresponsive on the court and carried him to a 9th District patrol car. Before they left for the hospital, medics arrived and pronounced him dead at 8:25 p.m. in the backseat.

Police said an 18-year-old man, with gunshot wounds to his torso, was pronounced dead about two hours later. He was identified as Jayden Lucas, of Oxford Circle.

Three other men, one 18 and two others who are 19, suffered gunshot wounds. One 19 year old was in critical condition; the other two victims were stable — all at Jefferson University Hospital.

Police took into custody as a person of interest another 19-year-old man who tried to drive away in a Lexus, and then ran. Small said a handgun was partially visible underneath the driver’s seat of the car. It was not immediately clear Thursday if he was arrested and charged with a crime.

In the August shooting on the 1600 block of Wallace Street an 18-year-old man was injured.

Police said Thursday that Kareem Parson-Moore, 18, of the same block, was arrested Sept. 4 in that shooting. Court documents show he was charged with aggravated assault and gun offenses, and is out on bail. A preliminary hearing is scheduled for next week.

It was not immediately known if the two shootings were related.

Justino Navarro, vice president of the Spring Garden Community Development Corp. and a past president of the Spring Garden Civic Association said recently there has “no doubt been an uptick in the last several years” of gun violence in the neighborhood, which he said reflected an overall increase the city.

“The Spring Garden community is no exception,” he said, attributing the violence to people’s “willingness to use guns to settle scores in Philadelphia.”

A source of crime in the area sometimes stems from drug activity at the corner of 17th and Wallace Streets, he said. Property records show that several homes near 17th and Wallace and on the 1600 block of Wallace are owned by the housing authority.

“We’re a very diverse neighborhood and unfortunately we’ve been touched by the crime wave,” said Navarro. “Detectives are doing a great job resolving them when they occur. We just don’t want them to occur.”

Elaine Petrossian, another Spring Garden resident, said Thursday: “My heart is breaking for the families of the victims. It’s deeply distressing that folks ostensibly coming to enjoy outdoor recreation are at risk of gun violence.”

Staff writers Robert Moran and John Duchneskie contributed to this article.


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