These Are the “Mass Shootings” in Philly So Far This Year
Gun violence has dominated the news recently. Following the mass shooting at Umpqua Community College last week, there was a threat posted online that warned of a 2 p.m. Monday shooting at a Philadelphia-area college; the day passed without incident. Then, today, reports of an armed man at Community College of Philadelphia, with a lockdown ensuing and the police eventually taking a suspect into custody.
But incidents where four or more people have been shot — which are, under some definitions, “mass shootings” — have already hit Philadelphia this year. There is no official term for a mass shooting, but they are are generally defined as a shooting done without stopping, where four or more people are killed. As Mother Jones notes, this definition is a bit odd.
Since the 1980s, the baseline of four fatalities has generally been used for studying mass murder, according to Professor James Alan Fox of Northeastern University, who has written multiple books on the subject. But as Fox agreed when we spoke, while that number may seem to make some sense intuitively, there is nonetheless something coldly arbitrary about it. Was it not a “mass shooting” in 2008, for example, when a man walked into a church in Tennessee and opened fire with a shotgun, killing two and injuring seven? Dropping the number of fatalities by just one, or including motives of armed robbery, gang violence, or domestic violence, would add many, many more cases to the list.
Fox, the professor, says mass shootings are not on an upward trend. The website Mass Shooting Tracker uses a different definition, one that includes four people (including the shooter) shot in one incident. It also does not weed out domestic disputes, armed robbery or gang violence.
“The old FBI definition of Mass Murder (not even the most recent one) is four or more people murdered in one event,” the Mass Shooting Tracker site says. “It is only logical that a Mass Shooting is four or more people shot in one event. Here at the Mass Shooting Tracker, we count the number of people shot rather than the number people killed because, ‘shooting’ means ‘people shot.'”
It doesn’t really matter how one classifies it: Gun violence is a problem in Philadelphia. Per Jim MacMillan, there have been 2,138 robberies with guns and 1,791 aggravated assaults w/guns this year already.
Regardless of whether you classify them as a “mass shooting”, there have been four incidents in Philadelphia this year where four or more people were shot at the same location. These are the four.
• September 21: 1 dead, 3 others shot. Four people were shot in the Tangeray Tavern at Pratt and Summerdale in the lower Northeast. NBC 10 reported the shooting may have been connected to a biker gang; the Daily News said it may have been connected to a dispute over the Cowboys-Eagles game involving members of the Wheels of Soul biker gang.
• July 3rd: 2 dead, 2 shot. A robbery in Nicetown led to the death of two and the wounding of two more. Police said a gunman wearing a ski mask approached a couple parking their car, intending to rob them. Fox 29 reports a group of people connected to the victims in a nearby car returned fire with a selective-fire rifle. The alleged attempted robber, still in his ski mask, was one of the two killed at the scene. “There are a number of casings, right now too many to count,” Captain DeShawn Beaufort told reporters.
• June 22nd: 7 shot. In Kensington, a man with a shotgun went down Hilton Street and fired. The Inquirer described the chaotic scene:
Cathy Dever, who lives on Allegheny Avenue, was in her backyard when she heard what she thought was fireworks, and then saw children running, screaming, from the block behind her. She told her own children to get down.
Police said a man carrying a shotgun walked down Hilton Street between F and G Streets about 2:30 p.m. and opened fire, spraying the street with buckshot. A motive was unclear, although police said a fight had broken out on the street earlier that day and might have been connected.
“We’ve got a lot of violent and ignorant people,” Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey said. “They could care less; that’s not new.”
• June 20th: 11 shot. Gunfire broke out at a West Philadelphia Father’s Day party. Witnesses told NBC 10 two men, at least one with a shotgun, opened fire seemingly at random at the party on Ogden Street in Belmont. A 1-year-old, an 11-year-old and a 12-year-old were among the injured. At first 10 were reported injured, but police found another victim during their investigation.