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August 20, 2014, 10:22 pm

High school girls’ spat sparks child shooting

Two children, ages 10 and 2, were among the latest victims of senseless gun violence in the Point Breeze section of Philadelphia Tuesday night — an incident that started as a fight between young people and escalated into a potentially deadly confrontation.

Tuesday’s shooting started around 7:30 p.m. and was the latest incident involving blazing guns and innocent children caught in the crossfire. Tuesday’s incident mirrors an earlier shooting last Sunday in which a 6-year-old girl was struck by a bullet.

Among those wounded Tuesday night where 59-year-old Andrea Cooper, who was struck in the leg, her granddaughter 2-year-old Aisha Owens, wounded in the stomach and hand and Cooper’s grandson, 10-year-old Siyir Owens, who was also struck in the right leg. Another 25-year-old male was also wounded in the finger.

Aisha Owens remains in critical condition as of Tribune press time. The other victims are in stable condition and are expected to recover.

Investigators said that what sparked the shooting was a brawl between at least three girls who are students at South Philadelphia High School — a fight stemmed from an unruly Facebook posting back in July.

“This started behind some nonsense at South Philadelphia High School,” said Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey, who was at the scene of the crime. “Basically it was a fight between some girls that spilled over onto the streets. At least two of the girls went to a house in the 1200 block of South Bucknell Street where one of the girls, a 14-year-old they were fighting with, was staying with her grandparents.

According to Ramsey, the two girls brought a group of men along with them and managed to force their way into the home.

“They started a physical confrontation, some males arrived with some sticks, golf clubs, so it continued into a physical confrontation,” Ramsey said. “They literally forced their way into the home and then tried to force the 14-year-old female out. Some other guys in the neighborhood came to see what was happening and that was when the males in both groups began shooting. We’re just really fortunate that no one was killed. It had nothing to do with Wall Street going up or down, I can tell you that. It was some dumb crap that they were fighting over that means absolutely nothing — and now we’re talking about a 2-year-old who is in surgery because of these ignorant people who are out here.”

Police say they are looking for a suspect described as a Black male, 25 to 30 years old, 6 feet tall with a heavy build, about 210 pounds. The second gunman is described as a Black male in his early 20s with a dark complexion.

“There have been several shootings in this community lately, and all of them have been tragic and senseless,” said state Representative Kenyatta Johnson. “I understand that this latest incident started at South Philadelphia High School, which one of the reasons why I’ve been aggressive on dealing with school violence — it always spills over into the surrounding community and usually escalates. Although the identities of the gunmen aren’t known yet, I know the police are aggressively working on this case — but it takes the community to get involved and get involved right from the start. There was a crowd standing around watching this unfold. People need to call police right away when they see something about to jump off. This isn’t entertainment; it’s not reality television. You would think people would have called 911 and say ‘trouble is starting out here, send some officers.’ When police catch up to these two gunmen and arrest them, I hope that the sentence they’re given will put them under the jail.”

Tuesday night’s incident is just the latest where children have been wounded by gunfire in South Philadelphia. On Sunday, 6-year-old Denean Thomas was hit in the leg by a bullet. Thomas is listed in stable condition at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and police have made two arrests in that case.

The suspects have been identified as 17-year-old Charles Rice and 19-year-old Tyler Linder. Both young men have been charged with three counts of aggravated assault, conspiracy, weapons offenses, simple assault, reckless endangerment and related charges.

According to law enforcement authorities the shooting happened on September 26th at around 9:35 p.m. in the 1600 block of South 18th Street. Investigators report that a 23-year-old female, a 17-year-old male and Thomas, were sitting in front of a residence when Rice and Linder allegedly approached them, pulled out handguns and proceeded to open fire.

Their target was the 17-year-old male, whose name has not been released yet by authorities.

Police are still unraveling Sunday night’s incident but believe it was in retaliation for an earlier shooting involving two local street gangs.

“This was a turf war,” Johnson said. “There are a lot of good, hardworking people in this community, but we also have some individuals who just don’t have the community’s best interests in mind. We can’t keep them from going down that path and unfortunately, we’ll have to deal harshly with them.”

Commissioner Ramsey said that so far, there’s nothing to indicate that the shooting on Sunday night and Tuesday night’s incident were related.

“Obviously the investigation will take us where it takes us but so far, there’s nothing that indicates they were related,” he said. “Right now it does look like Sunday night’s incident was gang related.”