PHILADELPHIA – Three people were killed and 11 others injured in a mass shooting on South Street late Saturday that erupted on the famous blocks of what has been one of the area’s most popular gathering places.
“Once it started I didn’t think it was going to stop,” said 23-year-old Joe Smith, who was standing outside the Theater of the Living Arts between Third and Fourth Streets to the south, when shots were fired around 11:30. It was o’clock.
“It was chaos,” said Eric Walsh, who was closing in on a bar near O’Neills’ outdoor seating, third and south. He saw a young woman lying on the ground in the corner.
“People were walking down the street with white sneakers and skinned knees and skinned elbows splattered with blood,” said a clearly shaken Walsh. “We were literally just balling up napkins and getting them wet and handing them out to people.”
Officials did not release the identities of the dead saying that one was a 25-year-old man and the other a 22-year-old woman. The names and conditions of the injured, seven of whom were taken to Thomas Jefferson University Hospital, were unavailable. Other victims were taken to Pennsylvania Hospital and Penn Presbyterian Medical Center.
The devastation appeared to span several blocks, with broken car windows and crumpled garbage cans evident.
A police commander said officers first heard several gunshots near Second and South Streets and saw several shooters.
Philadelphia Police Inspector DF Pace said an officer fired at a shooter who was still wielding a gun in the crowd. The shooter dropped the weapon, which Paes said had an extended magazine.
Paes said it was not clear whether the officer killed the shooter.
He said the police have recovered two semi-automatic pistols from the spot of firing.
Pace said several officers were detailed to patrol an already busy recreation center, which he called a standard deployment during summer weekends. Saturday nights almost always draw traffic on South Street, and the weather was particularly pleasant this night.
“You can imagine there were hundreds of people enjoying South Street, as they do every single weekend, when this shooting started,” Pace said.
Police did not say whether they had a suspect in custody.
Some, like Smith, had come to attend a TLA concert by heavy metal band Dying Fates. And the shooting took place just a few blocks from downtown Gabourhood, where outdoor bars and restaurants were filled with ravens on the eve of the 50th anniversary of the first Philadelphia Gay Pride Day.
When he heard the shots, Smith said he immediately thought of the recent shootings in Buffalo, NY and Uvalde, Texas.
“Gutchurl was screaming,” he said. “I only heard screams.”
Smith said he and others ran a block to the south, to Forth and Bainbridge Streets, amid widespread panic and confusion. They were waiting for the police to reach the garage where they had parked.
A shooting incident was reported in the Fourth and South earlier this week, but it was unclear whether it was in any way related to Saturday’s shooting.
According to a report by WPHL-TV, around 12:30 a.m. on Tuesday, police said, someone fired several shots at the intersection, attacking homes on the 400 block of Gaskill Street. Officers at the scene found about 50 pieces of ballistic evidence spread over several blocks.
No arrests were made, but the police station said police were looking for a female suspect.
As for Saturday night’s incident, Pace said officers would have to wait until later Sunday to access surveillance footage from nearby businesses that were closed at the time of the shooting.