A man suddenly snapped during an argument and stabbed another to death inside a Center City homeless shelter Saturday morning as more than 100 men looked on, according to witnesses and police.
The attack occurred at the Sunday Breakfast Rescue Mission on North 13th Street, just north of Vine Street. Medics were called to the scene and the man was pronounced dead at 9:32 a.m.
Police did not release identities of the victim or the person in custody. A weapon was recovered, police said.
The nonprofit shelter, formerly named the Sunday Breakfast Association, was founded in 1878. It serves the homeless three meals a day and provides shelter as well as a long-term recovery and transitional programs.
“In my 13 years here, I have never had anything like this happen,” Richard McMillen, chief executive of the mission, said shortly after the stabbing.
According to McMillen, two men were arguing after breakfast, where as many as 125 men were gathered. He declined to provide additional details, referring questions to police.
Although the shelter’s main entrance is on 13th Street, those coming and going usually do so through doors on Pearl Street, which police had blocked off with crime tape Saturday morning.
Joey Purnell, who said he helps minister to the men at the shelter, was not inside at the time of the stabbing but is familiar with both the victim and the man who was apprehended by police.
Purnell said the violence might have been sparked by events on Friday, when Purnell said he saw the victim “picking on people” in the shelter. He also was playing a loud radio at night, Purnell said.
The man taken into custody “was a churchgoer and he always had a Bible,” Purnell said. “He was a nice person and always very respectful.”
Of the deceased, he said: “He was picking on people. And he picked the wrong person to pick on today.”