Sunday, September 21, 2014
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Vincent Thomas, 17

Vincent Thomas
Vincent Thomas

On April 13, Vincent Thomas, 17, was shot and killed during an early-morning gun battle on Ferndale Street in Northeast Philadelphia. He was the fifth city child to die from gunfire this year.

The violence, which police believe ensued when a drug deal went sour, also left a woman dead and two men critically wounded.

Six days later, early on a warm spring evening, four children who live in the upper Bustleton neighborhood - Tim Allen, 14; his sister Rebecca, 11; Alex Chernih, 10; and Joe Uren, 9 - stand near the brick duplex where the shootings took place and discuss the incident.

Tim: I was awake at the time it happened, but I didn't really hear anything. Apparently, the guy came up to the house at 7:20 and shot a girl up there. Then he got shot in the alleyway. ... When the cops came, they brought out a box filled with bags of cocaine and two paper bags filled with money.

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  • Vincent Thomas' mother, Donna, recalls her son, the baby of her five children.
  • Rebecca: I took a picture of a CSI unit with my cell phone. Then I got a picture of all the cops all standing right there. ... I thought it was cool because they were spraying the doors for fingerprints and I always watch that on CSI.

    Tim: I shot it on an old digital camcorder.

    Rebecca: I found kittens right over there, six of them.

    Tim: I'm not scared because we kind of grew up in the city and we're used to knowing that stuff like this happens near us. Two weeks ago, I watched two cars blow up back here. ... Most of it doesn't even make it to the news. ... (gesturing towards the younger children) I've been trying to keep an eye on them after 8 o'clock.

    Joe: I'm not scared because I'm not a frightened man. If I get shot, I'll say, "Ow!"

    Rebecca: I'm not scared because I have a lot of protection... and I got a cell phone, so I don't care.

    Alex: Me, too.

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    Raheed Muhfooth, 15

    A few days after Raheed's bullet-riddled body was discovered on March 28 in an outdoor stairwell at Middle Years Alternative School in West Philadelphia, James Brown, an ironworker for the city school district, points to the spot.

    It is not marked by the usual teddy bears bearing heartfelt messages - only weathered, rose-colored bloodstains and a tattered piece of crime-scene tape.

    "How could someone just discard a body like that? A human being? How could somebody do that?" Brown asks. "It's sad out here," he adds. "I hate to see the summer come."


    Contact staff photographer April Saul at 215-854-2872 or asaul@phillynews.com.
    April Saul Inquirer Staff Writer
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