A 4-year-old girl - whose mother rarely let her or her siblings play outside their Kensington home because of chronic violence in the area - was shot dead inside her home Saturday afternoon by her 5-year-old brother, police said.
The girl, whose name had not been released by police hours later, was shot once in the face about 2:25 p.m. in the family's home on the 200 block of East Mayfield Street. She was pronounced dead at the scene by medics at 2:30.
Police said a semiautomatic pistol was recovered. There had been no arrests by 9 p.m. and no further details were available.
Capt. James Clark of the city's homicide division said investigators were working to find and interview everyone who was in the house at the time of the shooting.
The girl's father, Maurice "Stephon" Phillips, 30, could not be located after the shooting, Clark said.
"We desperately need to find the father, who for whatever reason, fled the scene," Clark said. "We're looking for him."
Phillips' current Facebook cover photo, posted Feb. 14, shows a semiautomatic pistol with a box of hollow-point bullets. Another photo, mixed in with images of children, shows what appears to be an assault rifle.
Several neighbors identified the girl's mother as Tera Riddick. They said she and Phillips are the parents of six children, four daughters and two sons.
Neighbor Louise Sawyer said Riddick has been quite protective, rarely letting them out to play for fear of violence.
She would say, "No, I'm not bringing these kids out with this trouble," Sawyer said.
Sawyer described the family as friendly and said they had lived in the home for several years.
Sawyer said shootings and drugs were a constant concern in the neighborhood.
Rundown rowhouses fill the neighborhood, notorious for crime and a haven for heroin, crack cocaine, and marijuana. Drug needles and other debris are scattered on the streets. Police call the few blocks that include the scene of the shooting "the gun grid."
East Mayfield Street abuts Hope Park, itself known as a center for drug dealing. Police in the 24th District count more than 3,000 drug arrests there each year.
Even as police closed the street and congregated around the scene of the shooting Saturday afternoon, drug deals appeared to continue nearby.
Some neighbors gathered in clusters, or hung out of windows to watch. Others simply passed by.
Crystal Dougherty, who said she was friends with the family, said the little girl who died was sweet and loved Barbie dolls and coloring.
"She was just an outgoing little girl," she said.