A shooting that left five people injured, including a baby and 14-year-old girl, has seemingly exposed a rift between Mayor Jim Kenney and District Attorney Larry Krasner amid the outbreak of the COVID-19 virus.
Kenney criticized the DA’s Office for its handling of cases involving gun-related charges. He said offenders caught with an illegal gun often end up back on the street.
“We believe something needs to be done differently from what we’re doing,” he said Tuesday. “People do not believe that there is a consequence for carrying an illegal gun, and we need to change that mindset.”
Krasner’s office, in reply, said it has accepted 71 illegal gun cases since March 20 and asked for high bail 64 times, only declining to do so when the suspect had no criminal history.
The DA’s Office “has vigorously prosecuted and has not declined to charge a single individual arrested by police during the COVID-19 emergency for a shooting, homicide, or other violent crime,” spokesperson Jane Roh said in an email.
Kenney began his daily coronavirus briefing showing a clear level of frustration about the city’s gun violence, which he calls Philadelphia’s other public health crisis.
Last night, police responded to a shooting just after 10 p.m. on the 2300 block of W. Harold Street in North Philadelphia after a suspect fired on a group that was reportedly together for a family party.
The victims included a 1-year-old boy and a 14-year-old girl, both of whom are in critical but stable condition, authorities said. An 18-year-old girl and 25-year-old woman were also critically wounded, and a 41-year-old woman was in stable condition after being shot in the arm.
Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw said Tuesday afternoon that detectives are still investigating the shooting.
Not long after the Harold Street incident, a 28-year-old man was shot multiple times in the back on the 3500 block of Indian Queen Lane in East Falls. He died hours later at Temple University Hospital, authorities said.
Homicides are up 20 percent compared to this time last year, and Kenney blamed people with illegal guns and armed felons for the uptick in gun violence the city has experienced over the past few years.
“Our officers are on the street valiantly putting their lives in harm’s way to take gun after gun after gun off the street, and it seems that the same characters wind up back on the street with another gun,” Kenney said.
People charged with firearms-related crimes should be kept behind bars, he said. It’s even more important during the coronavirus pandemic, the mayor added, to reduce shootings and maintain hospital beds for people infected with COVID-19.
Officials reported 242 new cases in the city Tuesday, bringing the total to 1,315. Health Commissioner Thomas Farley said there have been five additional deaths, for a total of 14.
City Managing Director Brian Abernathy said the DA’s Office is charging gun-toting criminals, but the administration is worried about how the cases end up and how Kranser’s prosecutors are handling bail procedures.
Outlaw, who arrived in Philadelphia less than two months ago, backed Kenney’s claims.
“There has to be teeth,” she said. “There needs to be consequences. We can’t see a revolving door.”
Between 2014 and 2017, 44 percent of people charged with firearms offenses received a bail of $100,000 or more, according to data from the DA’s Office. It’s a number that’s decreased 14 percent under Krasner.
In 2020, 42 percent of firearms cases have been dismissed or withdrawn, a big decrease compared to pre-Krasner years. The data reflects information through February.
Roh, the DA’s spokesperson, said prosecutors have been successful in holding murder suspects without bail since March 20. The office pushed for a bail of around $1 million for three out of four people charged in non-fatal shootings with injuries, she added.
Since COVID-19 came to the city, Krasner has been working to depopulate Philadelphia’s prison system to prevent the spread of the disease. He has said certain inmates, including those facing charges that are not violent or serious and those being held on parole violations, should be released.
Protestors gathered outside City Hall on Monday to demand that people be freed to prevent coronavirus hotspots in jails and prisons.
“We recognize the need for us to keep the prison population low, but we also recognize the need to keep folks who are causing harm to our communities segregated from those communities,” Abernathy said Tuesday.
At least one jail employee and one inmate have contracted COVID-19.