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8 teens wounded by gunfire at Philadelphia bus stop in city’s 4th transit shooting in as many days

Mar 6, 2024, 7:22 AM

Evidence markers are seen following a shooting in Northeast Philadelphia on Wednesday, March 6, 202...

Evidence markers are seen following a shooting in Northeast Philadelphia on Wednesday, March 6, 2024. Four shootings over four days in Philadelphia left three dead and 12 injured, many of them children — violence that put renewed focus on safety within the sprawling mass transit system and gave ammunition to critics of the city's progressive chief prosecutor. (AP Photo/Joe Lamberti)
Credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS

(AP Photo/Joe Lamberti)

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Police say eight Philadelphia high school students waiting to board a city bus after classes Wednesday were wounded by gunshots from suspects who jumped from a car and opened fire, the fourth shooting on the transit system in as many days.

The previous three shootings each involved a fatality. At least one student was critically wounded at the bus stop, a 16-year-old who was hit nine times, Kevin Bethel, the city’s police commissioner, said at a news conference. The others were in stable condition.

Bethel said the Northeast High School students, ranging in age from 15 to 17, were waiting for the bus around 3 p.m. when three people emerged from the car, which was waiting at the scene, and fired more than 30 shots.

Police then received numerous 911 calls about a “mass shooting on the highway near Dunkin Donuts,” in northeast Philadelphia, according to police spokesperson Tanya Little.

The injured teens were taken to Einstein Medical Center and Jefferson Torresdale Hospital, according to John Golden, a spokesperson for the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority, or SEPTA. Two buses — a Route 18 bus and a Route 67 bus — were hit by gunfire, but there were no reports of injuries to passengers or the driver.

Hospital nursing supervisors either declined to comment on the conditions of the patients they received, or did not immediately return a message seeking comment.

Monique Braxton, deputy chief of communications for the Philadelphia school district, said the shooting occurred near Crossan Elementary. Northeast High School is more than a mile from where the shooting took place and the largest public high school in the city, with more than 3,000 students.

The elementary school was dismissing students at the time but pulled them back inside and locked down, she added. It was later given the all-clear from police.

Mayor Cherelle Parker, standing at the scene with the city police commissioner and prosecutor and the school superintendent, said she wanted people to know that “we will not be held hostage, that we will use every legal tool in the toolbox to ensure the public health and safety of the people of our city.”

Superintendent Tony Watlington Sr. said officials were “absolutely heartbroken and angry that innocent children walking home from school would be impacted by gun violence, and we agree with the mayor: Enough is enough.”

The scene was cordoned off with yellow police tape in the aftermath of the shooting, with dozens of evidence markers lying on the rain-slicked pavement.

Wednesday’s shooting followed shootings the previous three days in which someone was killed while riding, entering or leaving a SEPTA bus.

Tuesday’s shooting occurred around 6:35 p.m., when police said a verbal argument and then a physical fight began. One of the two passengers exited, turned and fired two shots from a 9 mm handgun, hitting a man later identified as 37-year-old Carmelo Drayton. He died shortly afterward at a hospital.

The shooter, who officials said was wearing one of the kinds of masks not allowed on the transit system, fled. Authorities were investigating possible motive, and no other injuries were reported.

SEPTA’s chief of transit police, Charles Lawson, said the shots were fired at the victim while the driver was “immediately behind.”

On Monday, a 17-year-old student was killed and four other people were wounded when gunfire erupted at a bus stop. The victims included two women who were riding on a bus.

And on Sunday, around 11:30 p.m., a 27-year-old man was killed by another passenger moments after they both got off a bus. Witnesses said the two had argued, but a motive remains under investigation.

No arrests have been made in any of the shootings, Frank Vanore, deputy commissioner of the Philadelphia police department, said Wednesday.

While serious crime overall is down along the transportation system, Lawson said, a pattern that has emerged over the past year and a half is people carrying weapons, usually illegally, getting into an argument and then opening fire. He vowed that officials would enforce crime aggressively and unapologetically and use “every legal means at our disposal to target illegal gun possession.”

“We’re going to target individuals concealing their identity. We’re going to target fare evasion. We’re going to target open drug use,” Lawson said. “We’re going to target every criminal code on the books, and when the law provides for our officers the ability to protect themselves through frisks, through learning if individuals are armed, we’re going to do that, in every case.”

Lawson added officials were increasing monitoring of security cameras and looking into ways to let employees report potential problems discreetly and safely.

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8 teens wounded by gunfire at Philadelphia bus stop in city’s 4th transit shooting in as many days