Philadelphia has recorded its 500th homicide this year, surpassing a bleak milestone for the second year in a row as the city’s gun violence epidemic continues at an unrelenting pace. While the homicide total so far this year is slightly lower than last year’s record-breaking figure, it’s a loss of human life the city has only twice recorded in its known history, and matches the record of 500 killings set in 1990, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports. The victims were as young as 9, like Jamel Parks, who was fatally shot alongside his father, Jerry, on their way home from a Memorial Day barbecue. Thirty of those killed were juveniles. Seven were 14 years old or younger, like Jeremiah Wilcox, 13; Nicolas Elizalde, 14, and Sincere Zy’Ree, 16. The deaths, the large majority by gun, extended to every corner of the city. Communities of color, particularly Black and brown Philadelphians whose neighborhoods and schools have faced disinvestment and been shaped by systemic racism, remained the most affected by the crisis. About 84 percent of those killed or injured in shootings this year were Black. Philadelphia has been plagued by gun violence for decades, but a spike in shootings began in the spring of 2020 and has remained persistent ever since, reaching heights unseen in recent memory. Experts have said it could take years to understand what triggered the uptick, which has been seen nationwide.
Less than two hours before city leaders convened to discuss the state of the shootings crisis Tuesday afternoon, at least 50 shots were fired outside a North Philadelphia middle school. One bullet flew through a classroom as children were learning, forcing the school into lockdown. No one was injured. Inside City Hall, officials said reducing gun violence remains their number one priority. Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw said that the violence remains at “unacceptable” levels but that the seven percent reduction in homicides over last year and small uptick in shooting cases being solved gives her some hope. So far this year, 23 percent of nonfatal shootings have been solved, compared with 19 percent in 2021, and 47 percent of homicides have been solved, compared with under 43 percent last year. Mayor Jim Kenney criticized Pennsylvania’s gun laws, saying the proliferation of guns is a driving force in the violence. “As long as you keep allowing guns to be in people’s hands,” he said, “they are going to use them in bad circumstances.” The 500th homicide was an unidentified 35-year-old man, who was shot in the right thigh in the city’s Ogontz section Sunday afternoon.