PHILADELPHIA - Philadelphia’s pattern of violent incidents involving children began back on Oct. 14.
Around 10 p.m. that night, police say a 4-year-old girl and her 10-month-old sister were fatally shot by their own mother, Damyrra M. Jones, inside their Tacony home. Their father was also killed.
On Oct. 19, 11-month-old Yazeem Jenkins was critically wounded after being shot on West Luzerne Street in Hunting Park. Francisco Ortiz, 29, was charged with attempted murder in connection with the case.
Yazeem’s own father was also charged in the shooting and was accused of using his son as a “human shield” after using counterfeit money to purchase drugs.
The very next day, on Oct. 20, 2-year-old Nikolette Rivera was shot and killed on North Water Street in Kensington. Freddie Perez, 30, was charged with murder in connection with the case. Authorities allege that Francisco Ortiz supplied the gun used in the killing.
On Oct. 30, officers responded to a report of a child who had fallen from a window in the city’s Francisville neighborhood. The 4-year-old girl succumbed to her injuries after several days in the hospital.
Officials now say the girl had not fallen out of a window but was repeatedly physically abused for years by Samilya Brown, a 38-year-old woman who was considered her guardian. Prosecutors called it one of the worst cases of child abuse they've ever seen.
Damyrra M. Jones, 28, has been arrested after allegedly shooting and killing her two small children and the father of the children. (Facebook)
On the same day, police say they found the bodies of a family of four, including a 7-year-old boy, inside a West Philadelphia home. A 29-year-old man has been charged in the deaths of his mother, stepfather, and his two younger brothers.
Then, on Thursday, Nov. 7, a 10-year-old boy was critically injured following a drive-by shooting on Margaret Street in Frankford. His shooter remains at large, but his uncle was charged in connection with the incident.
Semaj, 10, was injured in a drive-by shooting in Frankford in early November.
An 11-year-old boy was shot and killed on Nov. 11. His 19-year-old brother, Nikeem Leach, was charged with involuntary manslaughter and related offenses in the incident.
Finally, on Nov. 12, officers responded to a report of an unresponsive child. A 2-year-old boy was rushed to the hospital, where he later succumbed to injuries police say were consistent with blunt force trauma. Police have identified the boy as Jasah Hicks and have ruled his death a homicide. No charges have been filed at this time.
“It’s been the most heartbreaking month with young children, children killed in their homes, children shot on the highway, and every one of those jobs was because of a personal decision that somebody made to pull the trigger at that time,” Police Commissioner Christine Coulter said of the recent incidents earlier this week.
In recent weeks, these incidents have sparked some conversation from City Hall. After he was re-elected, Mayor Kenney echoed sentiments he’s presented several times before about the prevalence of illegal weapons on the city’s streets.
“Sadly, as our homicide rate continues to go in the wrong direction the potential of a 2-year-old girl named Nikolette will never be realized. She was senselessly and tragically gunned down with an AK-47 a few weeks ago,” Mayor Kenney said at his victory speech. “These weapons should not be in the hands of any civilians. Period. We must stand up to the NRA and demand passage of common-sense gun control legislation and the ability to enforce our own laws, and common-sense reforms.”
The total number of homicides in Philadelphia stood at 311 as of Thursday, Nov. 14. A 7% increase over the same date last year. There were 353 homicide victims in Philadelphia in 2018, according to the police department's website.
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