Another child of Philly becomes an innocent victim

Asir Brown, 16, was killed in a drive-by shooting while attending a cookout in South Philadelphia.

ASIR BROWN was a baby, really.

Hadn't even reached his full height.

Asir should be someplace enjoying his summer vacation and looking forward to attending classes at Olney High School.

But no.

Because a coward with a gun shot up a backyard barbecue he was attending at his aunt's house Sunday night, his devastated family is hastily scraping together money to bury him.

On Tuesday, at a vigil in his memory, people tossed money into a large, pink plastic bowl to help offset his funeral costs. I watched hoping the hundreds milling about would be generous. No parent expects to have to bury a child.

Since Asir's fatal shooting Sunday, at least two more teens in separate incidents have been wounded by gunfire. A 13-year-old boy was hit when a gunman fired into a crowd in Hunting Park on Tuesday night. And a 14-year-old girl was shot accidentally while she and a friend handled a weapon early Wednesday morning. Both teens were in stable condition Wednesday.

Imagine being shot before you are even eligible to vote or old enough to drive. Those are big scars to carry through your high school years, when the biggest things on your mind should be going to the prom and applying for college.

Juvenile homicides in Philly have dropped considerably in the last decade. Asir was the sixth person under 18 killed by gunfire in the city this year. By comparison, 23 people under 18 were killed in 2012.

I'm glad we're not yet so hardened that the shooting or stabbing of someone so young doesn't still shock our sensibilities. Many of those who showed up for Asir's vigil on Tuesday were visibly shaken. Friends and relatives held black and white balloons as they crowded around his aunt's house in the 1800 block of South 31st Street, speaking at times in hushed tones.

Some slipped away to the rear of the twin to the back yard, where they gazed silently at the bullet holes peppering the back of the house and the surrounding black metal gates. The grass was neatly cut, and in the yard a patio table was set up along with a barbecue grill. A shoe lay in a corner of the yard. Glass on the lower half of a back door was shattered.

Asir, who had moved with his family to the Northeast from South Philly, had been in that space with three other boys and four girls shortly before the shooting. His aunt Syreeta Woods was in a front room watching television when the shots rang out.

"I thought all eight of them were dead, I swear I did," she recalled Tuesday. "A target was not for one person. It was for everybody."

Neighbor Jeff Singletary came running when he heard the gunfire.

"I was over top of his body, to watch his little tiny body take his last breath," Singletary told me. "He never responded to anything. When he was lying on the ground he was gone."

"It's the worst. It's the worst, and I'm 51 years old. I came up in these streets and that is the worst I've ever seen, and I've seen a lot of stuff, but that is the worst.

"I am so crushed about it, I can't get it out of my head."

As for Woods, she plans to move her kids and herself out of the neighborhood as soon as she can. "I don't want to be here," she said.

After what happened to Asir, who in their right mind would?

On Twitter: @JeniceAmstrong

Blog: philly.com/HeyJen