Philadelphia Daily News | By Morgan Zalot
Bullets tore through the warm summer night, slicing through the crowd of about 200 people jamming a Logan street for an impromptu night block party.
A 2-year-old girl took a bullet to her tiny stomach as she stood between parked cars. Three other people were struck. Dozens of witnesses scattered.
In the wake of the quadruple shooting, everyone clammed up.
Infuriated, police and city officials say not a single person has come forward with a tip, not even the little girl's mother, providing yet another frustrating example of the difficulty in bringing neighborhood thugs to justice.
Though the "stop-snitching" culture is nothing new, this latest outrage has city officials steaming.
If no one in a neighborhood where whispers about the violence have traveled porch to porch for nearly three weeks will speak up to catch the monster who nearly killed a 2-year-old girl, is there anything that will make the residents take a stand against the thugs who hold them hostage?
"It's a disgrace. This is shameful," city Managing Director Richard Negrin said. "We're not asking someone to stick their neck out. This is about giving us a name so we can get an investigation started, so that we can try to do good police work around a tip, and we don't have one."
When gunfire from two different weapons erupted during what cops and city officials say was an illegal block party June 16 on 12th Street just north of Courtland shortly after 9 p.m., the first bout of shots sent partygoers ducking behind cars and running for cover.
According to police, as the crowd scattered, the 2-year-old girl remained standing between two parked cars until one woman noticed her alone on the edge of the street and scooped her up as a second round of gunfire — making it at least 10 shots total fired on the block — rang out.
It wasn't until the toddler was put into the arms of her 23-year-old mother, who'd run onto the porch of a house in the middle of the block with several others for cover, that the mother realized her little girl had been shot in the stomach, police said.
"I heard shots and thought maybe it was fireworks," said a witness who gave his name only as Anthony. "Then she was screaming that the baby was shot."
The first cops to arrive at the chaotic scene found a block so jammed with parked cars and packed with people that an ambulance couldn't drive down the street to pick up the badly wounded child, residents and officials said.
In the house where cops found the young victim, critically hurt and bleeding from the gunshot wound to her stomach, they also found a 24-year-old man suffering a graze wound to his right leg.
The child was taken to Albert Einstein Medical Center in critical condition and later transferred to St. Christopher's Hospital for Children suffering a collapsed lung in addition to her other injuries. She was released from the hospital 15 days after the shooting and is home recovering, officials said.
Around the corner on Marvine Street, cops found a third victim, a 30-year-old man, with a gunshot wound to the hand.
But the mayhem didn't stop there. As officers worked to gain control of the shooting scene and get the three victims to area hospitals, Albert Einstein Medical Center called to report a fourth victim from the shootout —a 22-year-old man who'd been hit in the calf and taken to the hospital in a private car.
Will, a neighbor who said he was there at the time of the shooting but declined to give his last name, sat on his porch and reflected on the mass chaos that erupted with the gunfire.
"There were people in the street, on the sidewalks, on porches," he said. "It's hard to identify. You can't even tell where it's coming from."
In the immediate wake of the shooting, cops announced a $10,000 reward for tips. Now, almost three weeks later, they've received none.
Multiple attempts by the Daily News to reach the wounded toddler's mother were unsuccessful. Through neighbors, she declined to comment last week.
"We've been praying for her," her neighbor said. "The story needs to get out there."
Confusion and fear
Back in the neighborhood, residents — most of whom spoke only on the condition of anonymity — agreed it's a sad state of affairs when a toddler can nearly be killed in the crossfire, but no one is willing to give police information on what happened.
Some neighbors said everyone's been talking about the shooting, but no one seems outraged, despite its young victim, signifying a jarring numbness among people in a city where violence is a constant in some communities.
"I've been hearing people say what was going on, but they're not really pissed," said one resident who declined to give his name.
"There's a total apathy ... in the community. Plus maybe, unfortunately, an acceptance that this is the way it is," said city Director of Public Safety Michael Resnick. "And maybe reliance that the city will take care of it, the police will take care of it, ‘It's not our issue' ... but unfortunately, it is. They live there. It's their neighborhood."
Another neighbor who was outside during the shooting said, "It's sad. I wish I knew more. I'd tell ya'll. It was a lot of concerned people out here."
But Negrin and Resnick said they're convinced people in the neighborhood have information about the shooting and aren't coming forward.
"That's inexcusable on the part of that community," Negin said. "We're not stupid. Human nature is human nature. When something like this happens in a community, it's not an everyday occurrence. Everybody talks about it. Everybody there knows who the shooters were."
Resnick added, "I'm sure the word's out on the street."
Both stressed that tipsters can remain anonymous. They said the police department's text-a-tip line, PPD TIP (773847), was specifically set up so cops can't tell where a tip originated.
"We specifically outsourced that so it's a third-party outside vendor taking those tips," Negrin said. "It doesn't even come to the city, so you don't even have to trust us that we're going to treat you anonymously. The vendor is instructed not to give us the number or tell us where it's coming from."
The community's silence on that shooting doesn't mean police never get tips, city officials said.
Since the police department launched its new text-a-tip line and the iWatch Philadelphia app in the spring, Resnick said cops have gotten more than 2,000 anonymous tips via the Internet, phone calls, texts and the app.
"People give tips every day," Negrin said. "There's a mechanism in place. There are people who step up and do the right thing all the time."
If residents remain mum on the details, the city now has some recourse to legally compel them to testify under oath since the Pennsylvania Supreme Court late last month approved the use of secret grand juries for indictments – a measure partially targeted at the very "stop snitching" culture in Philadelphia that cops and officials believe is keeping neighbors silent in this shooting.
Negrin said the District Attorney's Office is considering assembling a grand jury in the case. A spokeswoman for the DA declined to comment, saying in an email, "We do not confirm nor deny grand jury investigations, therefore no one in our office will be able to speak to you about this."
If a grand jury was convened in this case, it would be the first in Philadelphia under the new ruling, officials said.
Negrin said he and other city leaders are pushing for the DA's office to assemble a grand jury since no one is coming forward soon with information.
Councilwoman Cindy Bass, who represents the North Philadelphia block where the shooting happened, said her office is working on setting up a series of small community meetings over the next few weeks to talk to people, hoping to make them comfortable about sharing information.
She attributes residents' silence to the fear of retaliation. One of the victims shot on 12th Street, according to police sources, has 18 prior arrests, including two for witness intimidation. He was the only victim with a record.
"Anytime a 2-year-old can be shot in front of 200 people and no one says anything, it's a problem," Bass said. "It's beyond a problem. It's a travesty that speaks to the fear and the concern. We have to get in front of it."
"I'm the mother of a 3-year-old and I just cannot say enough how outraged I am that this should happen," Bass said. "And the perpetrators are still on the street weeks later."
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PHILADELPHIA: 200 witnesses saw toddler shot, but none will talk
Philadelphia Daily News | By Morgan Zalot