Five Dead in Philadelphia Shooting That’s Nation’s Worst Violence around July 4

Yong Kim/The Philadelphia Inquirer via AP
Philadelphia police stand at the intersection of 56th Street and Kingsessing Avenue after multiple people were shot in Southwest Philadelphia, late Monday, July 3, 2023.

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — A 40-year-old killed one man in a house before fatally shooting four others on the streets of a Philadelphia neighborhood, then surrendering to police officers after being cornered in an alley with an assault rifle, a pistol, extra magazines, a police scanner and a bulletproof vest, police said.

A 2-year-old boy and a 13-year-old were also wounded in the Monday night violence that made the working-class area of Kingsessing the site of the nation’s worst violence around the July Fourth holiday.

Police called to the scene found gunshot victims and started to help them before hearing more shots. Some officers rushed victims to hospitals while others ran toward the gunfire and chased the firing suspect. Officers ultimately arrested the assailant in an alley, Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw said at a news conference. The shooter had no connection to the victims before the shooting, she said.

“On what was supposed to be a beautiful summer evening, this armed and armored individual wreaked havoc, firing with a rifle at their victims seemingly at random,” she said Tuesday afternoon.

Staff Inspector Ernest Ransom, the homicide unit commander, said witness interviews and video indicated that the suspect went to several locations in a ski mask and body armor, carrying an AR-15-style rifle.

“The suspect then began shooting aimlessly at occupied vehicles and individuals on the street as they walked,” he said. The vehicles included a mother driving her 2-year-old twins home, and one was wounded in the legs and the other hit in the eyes by shattered glass.

Philadelphia police on Tuesday afternoon identified the victims as 21-year-old Lashyd Merritt, 29—year-old Dymir Stanton, 59-year-old Ralph Moralis and 15-year-old DaJuan Brown, all pronounced dead shortly after the Monday night gunfire; and 31-year-old Joseph Wamah Jr., who was found in a home early Tuesday, also with multiple bullet wounds.

Investigators believe Wamah was the first victim killed, but he wasn’t found by family members until hours later, Ransom said.

A 2-year-old boy shot four times in the legs and a 13-year-old shot twice in the legs were in stable condition, as were a 2-year-old boy and a 33-year-old woman injured by shattered glass.

Police said the suspect is believed to have acted alone and there was no reason to believe anyone else was involved. Police and prosecutors said no charges were planned at this point against a second person taken into custody who is believed to have obtained a gun somewhere and fired back at the shooter.

“When you are under fire in a mass shooting, there are rights to protect others and rights to protect yourself,” District Attorney Larry Krasner said.

Authorities asked for patience as they investigate every aspect of the shooting. That investigation, Outlaw said, “includes the ‘why.'”

Krasner said the suspect would face multiple counts of murder, as well as aggravated assault and weapons charges, and was expected to be denied bail.

Outlaw praised the bravery of officers who tended to victims and rushed them to hospitals as others “fearlessly ran toward the sounds of gunfire,” and captured the suspect.

“Their swift actions undoubtedly saved additional lives,” she said.

At a holiday weekend block party in Baltimore, about 90 miles (145 kilometers) to the southwest of Philadelphia, two people were killed and 28 others were wounded in a shooting. More than half of the victims were 18 or younger, officials said.

About four hours after the Philadelphia shooting, gunfire at a neighborhood festival in Fort Worth, Texas, killed three people and wounded eight.

Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney renewed his oft-repeated call to “do something about America’s gun problem.”

“A person walking down the city street with an AR-style rifle and shooting randomly at people while wearing a bulletproof vest with multiple magazines is a disgraceful but all-too-common situation in America,” Kenney said. “I was today at Independence Hall where they wrote that Constitution, and the 2nd Amendment was never intended to protect this.”

Krasner said that the morning after the shooting, he saw “completely empty streets” in the traumatized neighborhood on an otherwise beautiful morning.

“I saw every porch empty. I saw every door closed. I saw every curtain where there was a curtain pulled. I saw no kids playing,” he said, describing a bicycle left on a corner, apparently untouched for 12 or more hours, “as if everybody understood what happened here was so horrible that for right now this is a desert, and for right now everything that we associate with celebrating Fourth of July is off.”

Tim Eads said that on Monday night he heard fireworks, then gunshots, and saw police cars “flying by.” His wife was on the second floor “looking out the bay window and saw the shooter actually coming down this street here behind me.”

Eads saw the other man with a pistol who, he said, may have been firing at the shooter.

“He was using my car as a shield shooting out into the street,” Eads said.

A resident named Roger who declined to give his last name said he and his family were eating in the living room at about 8:30 p.m. when they heard eight to 10 gunshots.

“Everybody thought it was fireworks but … been around here about three years so I heard it enough,” he said. “I looked out the window and seen a bunch of people running.”

He said he heard about four more shots and “thought it was the end of it.” Ten minutes later, he said, police came “flying down here,” and about five minutes later he heard rapid gunfire open up right outside the house.

The Philadelphia violence was the country’s 29th mass killing in 2023, according to a database maintained by The Associated Press and USA Today in partnership with Northeastern University, the highest on record by this time in the year.

The number of people killed in such events is also the highest by this time in the year.

There have been more than 550 mass killings since 2006, according to the database, in which at least 2,900 people have died and at least 2,000 people have been hurt. ___

This story has been updated to correct the spelling of a victim’s first name to DaJuan Brown, not Daujan. His name was misspelled due to incorrect information from Philadelphia police. It has also been updated to correct the age of Lashyd Merritt. Merritt was 21, not 20.