Teen shot to death at North Philadelphia playground

Police investigate a fatal shooting Monday, Sept. 10 at Cecil B. Moore Recreation Center playground in North Philadelphia. (Morgan Zalot / Daily News Staff)

Gunfire shattered the peace of a late-summer evening at a crowded North Philadelphia playground Monday, leaving a teenager dying on the pavement of a gunshot wound to the chest.

Chief Inspector Scott Small said police were called to the Cecil B. Moore Recreation Center playground, on 22nd Street near Huntingdon, just before 6 p.m. for the report of a shooting. When they arrived, they found the 18-year-old victim lying on his back in the middle of the playground, unresponsive.

He was rushed to Temple University Hospital, but doctors were unable to save him. He was pronounced dead at 6:11 p.m. of a single gunshot wound through the heart, cops said.

Small said there were about 25 people on the playground at the time of the shooting, plus a youth football team practicing on a field next to it and people playing pickup basketball games on nearby courts. Witnesses told cops they heard one shot, and most people who were there at the time scattered. Two witnesses were taken to speak with homicide detectives, police said.

The shooter was described as a 20-year-old man who is 5 feet 7, weighs about 200 pounds and wore a multicolored sweater, blue jeans and multicolored sneakers. He was last seen westbound on Huntingdon Street from 22nd on a bicycle, accompanied by another young man, also riding a bicycle.

Cops were working on obtaining surveillance footage from a camera at 23rd and Huntingdon to see if it captured footage of the shooter fleeing.

As investigators scoured the cordoned-off playground for evidence, football practice carried on at the field nearby like normal.

But across from the practice, for a relative of the teen who lost his life, it was anything but. A young man who identified himself as the victim’s cousin stepped up to the yellow crime-scene tape around 8 p.m. and asked a policeman on the scene, “Is he gone?”

When the officer nodded, the man dropped to the ground, crying.

The shooting was the fifth in about a month at a playground and the second homicide on a playground in a week, after a 17-year-old boy was shot to death at a playground in East Mount Airy Friday night. On Aug. 24, a 15-year-old boy suffered a gunshot wound to the arm at a basketball court in Tacony.

Ten days before that, a 37-year-old man was fatally shot at the playground at Parkside-Evans Recreation Center in West Philadelphia, and on Aug. 9, two men and a teenager were wounded in a shooting at Wister Recreation Center in East Germantown.

The recreation centers did not have surveillance cameras in several of the shootings, according to police.

The homicide remained under investigation late Monday night, and no arrests were made.