On the first day of summer, two violent outbursts less than 15 hours apart and about two miles from each other left five people dead and a sixth person clinging to life. And before the night ended, another homicide was recorded, this time in Kingsessing.
Yesterday's six murders - three young men gunned down in North Philadelphia in the early hours; two people killed, one critically wounded, in Kensington in the afternoon; and an unidentified man shot to death about 10:30 p.m. in Southwest Philadelphia's Kingsessing neighborhood - pushed the year's homicide total to 195, compared with 177 at the same time last year, police said.
Few details were available in the Kingsessing shooting other than the victim was found near 54th Street and Willows Avenue. He had been shot in the chest.
In Kensington, police said gunfire erupted at Somerset and Emerald Streets about 5:10 p.m., leaving a man and woman dead and another woman in critical condition.
Police said Raheem Haines, 20, was declared dead at the scene. Two sisters were taken to Temple University Hospital, where one, Diana Patrick, 30, was pronounced dead. The surviving sister's name was not released because she is a witness. She was in critical condition.
Initial reports indicated that police were looking for two men who drove off in a vehicle. They were later arrested away from the scene, and were being interviewed late last night at Police Headquarters. A homicide investigator said they would likely be charged overnight.
At the scene, a detective said the shootings apparently resulted from an argument, but it was unclear over what.
The slayings occurred in a neighborhood of tattered rowhouses that one resident described as "a melting pot - black, white, Hispanic, all kinds." Alleys are littered with tires. Vacant lots sprout waist-high weeds. The yards of supply houses and body shops are protected by chain-link fences topped with concertina wire.
Hours after the shooting, detectives were still working the neighborhood, and about a dozen markers near Haines' body indicated where the spent cartridges had fallen during the fusillade.
Dozens of neighbors gathered behind the yellow crime-scene tape that cordoned off the intersection.
"Didn't see nuthin'," one middle-aged man said gruffly in reply to a reporter's question. "You know how it goes down here."
When it came time to remove the body, the police surrounded it with vehicles, and two members of the crime scene unit held up a sheet to block the view of spectators.
"That's . . . ignorant," a woman complained.
"No, it's respect or something," said a man next to her. Another man saw the corpse as an object lesson, a warning.
"Get the . . . out of Philadelphia," he remarked to a bystander. "It will . . . grab y'all."
Less than 15 hours earlier in the Ludlow section of North Philadelphia, three young men were killed in a burst of gunfire in the 1600 block of North Sixth Street.
Police said they had no suspects and no witnesses in the triple slaying, which occurred about 2:30 a.m.
The three men were approached on foot by "either an individual or several individuals," said Homicide Sgt. William Gallagher. About a dozen spent casings were left on the pavement on the tree-lined block, along with the three bodies.
The victims apparently were not armed or did not return fire, police said.
One of the victims, Bruce Burman, 23, lived on the block. The other two were identified as a cousin of Burman's, Bobby Lundy, 25, of the 6400 block of North Broad Street, and Sean White, 19, of the 1400 block of North Marshall Street.
Police said the three victims had "been through the system" before - including narcotics arrests. Although two of the men had survived previous shootings, neighbors and relatives insisted that they were not thugs.
"They were not dummies, and they had families that loved and supported them," said Marcia Green, who described herself as Burman's godmother and Lundy's cousin. She was aroused from sleep by the gunfire and rushed out to the street to find her relatives dead. "None of them had been involved in crime," she said.
According to family members, Burman was a graduate of Kensington High School, Lundy had a GED, and White was planning to attend Opportunities Industrial Center in the fall.
Lynette White, the mother of the youngest victim, said her son was shot in his left side three months ago, and he still ha a bullet lodged in his chest.
Lundy's relatives said he had survived a shooting last summer.
Scott P. Charles, trauma outreach coordinator at Temple University Hospital, said it was not unusual to see a gunshot victim who had been shot before. Often, gunshot victims return to the street intent on settling scores.
"We're patching them up, and they're sending us back a couple more, if they don't come back dead themselves," Charles said.
Protest marches and expressions of moral outrage had proven ineffective at curbing the culture of violence, he added.
"We might just be past the tipping point; shootings have become so normative that it becomes part of the neighborhood culture," he said. "I don't know how you fix that with a protest march."
Though the city's murder total is growing at a pace to surpass last year's total of 406 homicides, the city is still behind the city's worst year for homicides, 1990, when 500 were recorded.
While the total number of murders is still far shy of the record, the city's murder rate is getting perilously close to the high point. Philadelphia had a murder rate of 27.8 per 100,000 inhabitants in 2006, compared with 31.5 in 1990. The rate was 18.9 per 100,000 in 2002 when 288 murders were recorded.
Yesterday's slayings created more work for homicide detectives, who had a busy night with two murders on Wednesday.
At 11:16 p.m. Wednesday, police found a man shot in the chest, arm and groin in the 400 block of North Sickels Street. He was pronounced dead at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania and remained unidentified.
A few hours earlier, police said Theophilius Mason, 46, was gunned down near his home in the 200 block of North Paxon Street. Shot in the chest, back and arm, Mason was pronounced dead at 5:36 p.m. at the same hospital.
To read previous Inquirer coverage of violence in Philadelphia, go to http://go.philly.com/violence
Contact staff writer Andrew Maykuth at 215-854-2947 or firstname.lastname@example.org.