Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Shooting at city vigil blamed on teen gangs

A war between teenage gangs injected terror and chaos into a West Philadelphia antiviolence vigil when an 18-year-old woman was shot in the back, police said.
Gunfire erupted about 8 p.m. Tuesday as about 150 people attended the vigil in the 6000 block of Market Street for Terrence Walker, 19, who had been shot in the head as he left a bar early Sunday, said Lt. John F. Walker of Southwest Detectives.

A gold Mercury Grand Marquis stopped in the middle of the intersection of 61st and Market, and a group of teenagers from 60th Street emerged, said Walker, who is not related to the homicide victim.

Some girls from 56th Street in the crowd hurried into a gold Oldsmobile 88 and tried to drive away when a male associated with 60th Street fired three to five times, striking Bianca Junious, Walker said. The Oldsmobile then crashed into a police cruiser.

Police took Junious to the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania. She was treated there and released.

Walker said police knew the identity of the shooter and expected to obtain an arrest warrant soon.

"The respect for society has diminished so much that [a gang] shows up at a vigil where there are infants, children, and adult family members of a murder victim and just fires recklessly at people," Walker said.

Teenagers from 56th and 60th Streets have been feuding for years, partly because of a fight among girls when they were in sixth grade, Walker said.

The feud has spilled into Sayre High School at 59th and Spruce Streets, where most of the teens are or were enrolled.

In January, a 17-year-old student was shot twice on the school's property. The male victim, who survived, reportedly also had a gun.

Other gunfire around the school has been connected to the battle between the 56th and 60th Streets crews, Walker said. Street-by-street warfare is common in the city's poorer neighborhoods, and is responsible for much of the rising gun violence that has plagued Philadelphia.

Yesterday, a memorial of stuffed animals, candles and handwritten messages surrounded an El pillar near a closed section where SEPTA is renovating the Market-Frankford Line.

Some messages suggested Terrence Walker, who graduated from West Philadelphia High School and had a son, was friendly with 60th Street. "6-0 will always miss U," someone wrote.

A flyer advertising Tuesday's vigil remained posted to the pillar. It urged people to attend to remember Terrence Walker and "help send a message to the community to stop the senseless violence in Philadelphia."

Some who visited the memorial yesterday said they were at the vigil when the shots rang out and everybody scattered in a panic.

"People ran off without their shoes," said Robert Porter, 46, who was at the memorial to return two sets of keys people dropped as they rushed for cover.

Ashley Harbin, 19, who attended the vigil with her two young children, said she had hidden behind a massive trash bin after hearing the shots.

Noting Terrence Walker's age - and maybe thinking of her own - Harbin said: "They're not even making it to 20 here."

Inside Jess & Ron's Place, the bar Terrence Walker allegedly exited when he was killed, Albert Smith, 68, a retired machinist, nursed a bottle of Ballantine Ale and said the city needed to be placed under martial law.

"Tell Rendell to bring in the National Guard," Smith said.

Pat Jackson, 53, the daytime bartender, said she didn't know whether Walker had been inside the bar the night he died, but he would not have been served alcohol, she insisted.

The neighborhood is filled with shuttered storefronts and burned-out buildings, and Jackson dismissed trying to plead with public officials for help.

"They don't care," she said.