Unintentional shootings involving children in Philadelphia

Police gather at a home in the 1800 block of North 20th Street where a 4-year-old girl died after being shot in the head June 23, 2016.

Over the past year, Philadelphia has seen a disturbing string of unintentional shootings involving children. Three children were unintentionally shot in a two-day span in late August; earlier in the month, two 6-year-olds were struck by gunfire in the same week.

In some of the shootings, the children have been wounded while they or others were playing with firearms. In others, the children were bystanders who became the unintended victims of gunfire.

•  A 4-year-old boy playing with a handgun he found shot and wounded his 2-year-old cousin in a North Philadelphia home while their family was preparing for Thanksgiving dinner on Nov. 24.

 

  • A 12-year-old girl was hit by a stray bullet when she was walking out of a grocery store in Fairhill on Aug. 31.  Two men were also wounded.
  • A handgun accidentally fired when a 13-year-old boy was playing with it in South Philadelphia on Aug. 29, leaving both the boy and an 11-year-old girl wounded. The boy has been charged with aggravated assault and other offenses.
  • On the evening of Aug. 11, a 6-year-old boy was wounded when an apparent gun battle erupted in East Germantown.
  • A 6-year-old girl sitting in front of her East Germantown house was critically wounded when she was shot in the chest after a man opened fire, apparently targeting another man on the street, on Aug. 9. 
  • On July 31, a 5-year-old boy was shot in his hand in what police described as an accidental shooting in an East Germantown home.
  • A 10-year-old girl was struck by gunfire when she walked between two men who were fighting in North Philadelphia on July 28.
  • On July 6, a 16-year-old girl was an innocent bystander hit by gunfire in Juniata Park. A man, who may have been the target of the shooting, was also wounded. The girl, who survived, was shot in her leg.
  • Also July 6, a 14-year-old girl was mistakenly shot when her friend was playing with a gun in an East Germantown rowhome. She was struck in her hand and chest; a 17-year-old boy has been charged in the shooting.
  • A 13-year-old boy was shot while playing outside in Hunting Park on July 5. A man fired bullets into a crowd in an incident apparently stemming from a neighborhood dispute that did not involve the wounded teenager.
  • A 16-year-old boy was slain July 3 in a drive-by shooting. Asir Brown was shot to death when someone opened fire from the back seat of a car that rolled up outside a holiday barbecue he was attending in South Philadelphia.
  • On June 29, 13-year-old Chris Mackey was shot to death while several juveniles were playing with a gun in an East Germantown backyard. A 15-year-old boy has been charged with involuntary manslaughter.
  • Also in late June, a 4-year-old girl fatally shot herself in her North Philadelphia home. The child's mother, Shakeya Holmes, has been charged with third-degree murder and is accused of covering up the circumstances of the girl's death, initially telling authorities that her daughter had been struck by an outside bullet, and failing to get immediate medical attention.
  • In April, a Kensington father was "playing around" with a gun in his home when the firearm went off, killing his 4-year-old daughter. Maurice "Stephon" Phillips has been charged with third-degree murder and other offenses in the death of Tahirah Phillips. Police say Phillips fled after the shooting and people at the house originally told investigators that the slain girl's 5-year-old sibling had been playing with the gun when it accidentally went off.
  • Earlier in April, a 9-year-old boy shot himself in the hand by accident while playing with a gun he found in his parents' bedroom at their Grays Ferry home. The boy survived and was released from the hospital within a day.
  • In December, an 11-year-old girl was shot in the foot while walking home from school in Hunting Park. The shooter was believed to have been firing at an unknown man who was walking nearby.
  • Last August, an 8-year-old boy unintentionally shot himself in the foot after finding a gun at an East Germantown playground. Police said the boy found a bag with a firearm, took out the gun and accidentally shot himself.
  • Also last August, 16-year-old Corey Tunnell died when his brother was playing with a gun Southwest Philadelphia and accidentally shot him in the head, authorities say. Quadir Tunnell, 18, has been charged with third-degree murder and is awaiting trial.
  • Last July, a 16-year-old boy was shot in the neck when a city corrections officer allegedly opened fire on another man during an altercation at an East Germantown park, but a bullet hit the teenager, a bystander not involved in the dispute, instead.

Unintentional shootings of and by children happen several times a week across the country. So far this year, there have been at least 169 shootings nationwide in which a child has unintentionally injured or killed someone, following 278 such incidents last year, according to figures compiles by the gun-control advocacy group Everytown USA. Those numbers don't include gun suicides or homicides committed by those under age 18, or incidents in which an adult accidentally shot a child.

The shootings typically happen in what should be a safe place, like the child's home, or the residence of a relative or friend, and occur when a child obtains an unsecured gun, the group says.

While legislation holding gun owners responsible can help, "it's much more important that communities, parents, and gun owners just adopt a slightly different perspective around how they store firearms to make sure they're safe," Ted Alcorn, Everytown's research director, told the Washington Post earlier this year.

Scott Charles, trauma outreach coordinator at Temple University Hospital, has been encouraging Philadelphia firearm owners to get gun locks to prevent the tragedy of an unintentional shooting, and offering to provide the locks himself if needed.