There’s another epidemic in Philadelphia, and, increasingly, it’s claiming the lives of young people.
Teenagers, and children even younger, are being caught in the crossfire. Since the start of 2021, there have been nine homicide victims under the age of 18, up from three at this point last year.
“It’s horrible,” Philadelphia Police Homicide Capt. Jason Smith said. “It is a disturbing trend that we’re seeing over and over again in Philadelphia.”
Antonio Walker, 15, was enjoying the warmer weather Tuesday evening, playing basketball with his 14-year-old cousin on the 5200 block of S. Pentridge Street in Kingsessing, when he heard gunshots, police said.
The pair tried to duck for cover but saw that a silver Ford Taurus with tinted windows was heading in their direction, with someone in the rear driver’s seat firing indiscriminately, according to Smith.
Antonio was hit multiple times in the chest and arm, and he died a short time later at Penn Presbyterian Medical Center.
“Following the gunshots, you can hear laughter coming from inside the vehicle,” Smith told reporters Wednesday. “At this time, we have no reason to believe that these two kids were actually targeted.”
Several hours after Antonio’s death, another 15-year-old was struck by gunfire.
Police said the boy was shot at around 3:30 a.m. Wednesday on the 7600 block of Frankford Avenue in Holmesburg. He sustained a wound to his right knee and is expected to survive.
Embaba Menegesteabe, 15, died after being shot two weeks ago in West Philadelphia. Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw called her “a beloved daughter, sister, and friend.”
Authorities this week charged 15-year-old Malachi Johnson, of Southwest Philadelphia, with Embaba’s murder. He was apprehended during an attempted armed carjacking in Yeadon, Smith said.
He said a warrant has been issued for another suspect, 18-year-old Ousmane Fine, but he is still on the run.
Investigators believe they were targeting Embaba’s 20-year-old brother, Emmanuel, who was injured in the shooting, as part of ongoing gang violence in West Philadelphia.
Many of the recent shootings, Smith said, are the result of petty Instagram beefs. It doesn’t help matters that most children are not attending in-person school and that guns are widely available on the street, he added.
“I implore the community to be proactive and remain vigilant,” Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw said in a statement Wednesday. “The duty to protect these children belongs to all of us.”