During the evening of Monday, a shooter equipped with a bulletproof vest and a ski mask indiscriminately opened fire on vehicles and pedestrians in southwest Philadelphia, resulting in the tragic deaths of five individuals and injuring two others, as confirmed by authorities.
At a press conference held on Tuesday afternoon, Philadelphia Police Commissioner Danielle M. Outlaw expressed her profound disgust and horror over the incident, describing the assailant as armed and protected, and explaining that the victims included a mother driving her twins home in the Kingsessing neighborhood.
Upon hearing the gunfire, responding officers courageously rushed towards the source and pursued the suspect, who fired a rifle while attempting to escape. Fortunately, the assailant was apprehended without further confrontation in an alley, according to Commissioner Outlaw.
District Attorney Larry Krasner informed the public that the suspect is expected to appear in court on Wednesday and will face multiple charges, including murder. It is worth noting that the Philadelphia District Attorney’s office has chosen to use they/them pronouns for the suspect, based on the available information at this time, as stated by a spokesperson. However, during a press conference on Tuesday, Philadelphia officials previously referred to the suspect using he/him pronouns.
The District Attorney expressed confidence that the judge will deny bail for the suspect.
Additionally, a second individual who was detained on Monday night after discharging a firearm has been released. Authorities believe that this person acted in self-defense, and their actions were deemed lawful, though the investigation is still ongoing.
The deceased victims have been identified by Philadelphia police as Lashyd Merritt, 20; Dymir Stanton, 29; Ralph Moralis, 59; and 15-year-old Daujan Brown, initially estimated by the police to be between 16 and 21 years old. The fifth victim, discovered around 12:30 a.m. on Tuesday, has been identified as Joseph Wamah Jr., 31, according to a news release.
As stated in the release, two boys, aged 2 and 13, suffered multiple gunshot wounds to their legs but are currently in stable condition. Additionally, a 33-year-old woman and another 2-year-old boy sustained injuries from shattered glass. During the news conference, authorities confirmed that the 2-year-olds were twins who were inside a vehicle targeted by the shooter.
The suspect, who has not been identified, had an AR-style rifle, a 9 mm handgun and a scanner that tracks emergency response radio traffic, authorities said. Outlaw said earlier she thinks the suspect is 40 years old, and early evidence doesn’t show a connection to the victims.
“We believe it appears this individual acted alone” Philadelphia Police Staff Inspector Ernest Ransom said Tuesday, adding that it didn’t appear the suspect was targeting specific individuals.
During a Monday night news conference, Commissioner Outlaw revealed that the shooting incident covered multiple blocks, resulting in at least 50 shell casings and damaged vehicles.
The discovery of the fifth victim occurred early on Tuesday, after the other victims were found in a residence in the Kingsessing neighborhood. Chief Inspector Scott Small provided this information during a separate news briefing, noting that the neighborhood is situated on the west bank of the Schuylkill River in southwest Philadelphia.
The outbreak of gunfire in Philadelphia coincided with an ongoing epidemic of gun violence plaguing the United States. This was further exemplified by another shooting in Fort Worth, Texas, on Monday night, which resulted in the death of at least three people and eight others wounded. Additionally, an incident in Baltimore early Sunday claimed the lives of two individuals and left 28 others injured.
These shootings in all three cities contribute to the staggering tally of at least 345 mass shootings in the US thus far this year, as reported by the Gun Violence Archive. It is important to note that both CNN and the archive define a mass shooting as an event where four or more individuals, excluding the shooter, are shot.
Mayor Jim Kenney of Philadelphia expressed his frustration and outrage, urging national lawmakers to address firearms legislation. He emphasized the need for the country to examine its conscience and implement measures to prevent dangerous individuals from obtaining firearms. Mayor Kenney appealed to Congress, urging them to take action and protect lives in response to America’s gun problem.
District Attorney Krasner directed his call for action towards Pennsylvania legislators, expressing his disgust at the lack of reasonable gun regulations compared to neighboring states such as New Jersey and Delaware. He stressed that some of the absent legislation might have made a difference in this particular incident.
President Joe Biden condemned the ongoing “wave of tragic and senseless shootings” taking place across the nation. In a statement, he and First Lady Jill Biden expressed their grief for the lives lost and offered prayers on Independence Day, hoping for a future where communities are free from gun violence.
Furthermore, President Biden highlighted that this particular day marks one year since a mass shooting occurred at a July Fourth parade in Highland Park, Illinois, resulting in the deaths of seven people and numerous injuries.