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Philly Police Reopen Case into 1988 Murder of Barbara Jean Horn

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What to Know

  • Barbara Jean Horn’s killer has never been found. A man convicted in her murder, Walter Ogrod, was freed in 2020 after the Philadelphia District Attorney’s office reviewed the case and found that he was coerced into giving a confession by city detectives.
  • The Philadelphia police department previously said it was too busy to open a new murder investigation, but said it has reopened the case after watching NBC10’s digital docuseries on the girl’s murder and conviction of Walter Ogrod.
  • Barbara Jean’s family said they hope the police department and city district attorney’s office will cooperate in order to find the killer after all these years.

The murder of 4-year-old Barbara Jean Horn in her Northeast Philadelphia neighborhood in 1988 shocked the entire city because of the heinousness of the crime.

When the man convicted in her killing was exonerated in 2020 and freed after serving 28 years in state prison, the city was again shocked that Walter Ogrod could have lost so much of his life behind bars for a crime he didn’t commit.

Ogrod is among 20 men who have been exonerated after decades in prison during city District Attorney Larry Krasner’s first term in office. In yet another twist to the Barbara Jean Horn murder, city police are now reopening the case.

Incredibly, it’s the first case to be reopened by police detectives from the exonerations during Krasner’s tenure, according to the department’s homicide chief.

“I felt that it was incumbent upon our unit to reopen that investigation,” police Captain Jason Smith told NBC10 Investigators.

Smith made the decision after watching NBC10’s digital true crime series, “Who Killed Barbara Jean?” that began airing online in late September.

He said he found out from the series that the district attorney’s office knows of other suspects following Ogrod’s exoneration.

“Prior to that, I did not have knowledge that there were additional suspects that had been developed,” he said.

The district attorney’s office has not identified the additional suspects, though the assistant district attorney in charge of the office’s Conviction Integrity Unit has said one of the suspects is dead and another is in prison.

Barbara Jean Horn was killed in 1988 in Philadelphia. The 4-year-old’s killer remains on the loose.

Four years after Barbara Jean’s death, two Philly police detectives arrested Ogrod for the crime, saying he confessed. 

Ogrod maintained during his two trials that he didn’t kill Barbara Jean and that he had been coerced into signing a false confession. 

The jury in the first trial had decided to acquit Ogrod, but one juror shouted that he disagreed and the judge ruled it a mistrial.

In 1996, prosecutors had two jailhouse snitches testify that Ogrod confessed to them that he killed Barbara Jean. A jury found him guilty — and he was sentenced to death. 

Then in 2018, while investigating the wrongful conviction of Anthony Wright, the DA’s Conviction Integrity Unit found that the detectives in that case had handled other cases that had previously been raised as questionable. One of those cases was Walter Ogrod’s. 

Walter Ogrod
Walter Ogrod, after he was released from jail in 2020 following 28 years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit.

Both detectives have declined to talk to NBC10 through their attorney.

District Attorney Larry Krasner said he didn’t even know the police department reopened the case.

“We found out from you. You’re the first one to tell us that the police department had reopened an investigation,” Krasner told NBC10 in a recent interview. “We’re happy to hear they did.”

The lack of communication between the police department and the district attorney’s office surprised Barbara Jean Horn’s family. Her stepfather, John Fahy, said he still can’t believe those involved in the case previously worked so hard to put an innocent man in prison.

“Like we’re talking that everybody is just cold blooded here,” Fahy said. “Everybody involved in a police department, everybody involved in the DA’s office, prior to Larry Krasner, were all cold-blooded.”


Teen Boy Dies After Being Shot 8 Times in North Philadelphia

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A teenage boy died from his injuries after he was shot eight times in North Philadelphia Sunday night. 

The 16-year-old boy was on the 400 block of Diamond Street at 8 p.m. when a gunman opened fire. The teen was shot eight times throughout his body and taken to Temple University Hospital where he was pronounced dead at 8:40 p.m. 

No arrests were made and a weapon has not been recovered. 

The shooting occurred hours after a Temple University student was shot and killed a few blocks away from campus in North Philadelphia.

A quadruple shooting also occurred at 8:12 p.m. along the 1300 block of South 50th Street. A 22-year-old man was shot once in the right leg, a 21-year-old man was also shot in the right leg, a 28-year-old man was shot twice in the right thigh and grazed in the chest and a 40-year-old man was shot once in the right arm.

All four victims were taken to the hospital. The 40-year-old man is in critical condition while the other three victims are all stable.

So far this year there have been more than 500 homicides, making 2021 the deadliest year on record in Philadelphia. 

There are additional resources for people or communities that have endured gun violence in Philadelphia. Further information can be found here.

Police Search for Missing NJ Husband and Wife

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What to Know

  • Gary Parker and Lorraine Parker of the Warren Grove section of Stafford Township were last seen on Wednesday, November 17.
  • A neighbor then spoke with them on Sunday, November 21. The couple’s daughter then reported them missing on Monday, November 22. 
  • Extensive and exhaustive searches over two days last week turned up no sign of the couple. However, one of the couple’s ATV quads was found with a shotgun attached to it near the back of their property. 

The search continues for a New Jersey husband and wife who were reported missing last week. 

Gary Parker, 67, and Lorraine Parker, 60, of the Warren Grove section of Stafford Township, were last seen on Wednesday, November 17. A neighbor then spoke with them on Sunday, November 21. The couple’s daughter then reported them missing on Monday, November 22. 

Gary Parker and Lorraine Parker.

“Everyone keeps to themselves so it’s unusual that people would just disappear like that,” Bill Bennett, a neighbor, told NBC10. “This area is not that large of an area to get lost.”

Extensive and exhaustive searches over two days last week turned up no sign of the couple. However, one of the couple’s ATV quads was found with a shotgun attached to it near the back of their property. 

“At this point in time, we do have more questions than answers,” Stafford Township Police Captain James Vaughn said. 

Police also told NBC10 they found the couple’s cell phones and credit cards inside their house. They were last used on Sunday, November 21, the last time anyone heard from the couple. 

“Our detective bureau and the prosecutor’s office are looking through, you know, financial statements, phone records,” Captain Vaughn said. “They’re interviewing family members. They’re interviewing friends.”

Police are unsure if any foul play was involved in the couple’s disappearance. 

“At this point in time, we’re still treating it as a missing persons case,” Captain Vaughn said. “However, our detective bureau and the prosecutor’s office are investigating every angle at this point.”

If anyone has any information on the couple’s whereabouts, please call Stafford Township Police at 609-597-8581 or Detective Sergeant Neil McKenna at 609-597-1189 X8440.

Gunmen Chase 14-Year-Old Boy and Shoot Him 18 Times in Philly

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Several gunmen chased a 14-year-old boy and fired 36 shots at him, striking him at least 18 times in Philadelphia on Monday.

Witnesses told police the teen was standing on the corner of Rising Sun and Wyoming avenues at 3:30 p.m. waiting for a bus when several gunmen exited a vehicle, approached him and opened fire.

The boy fled as the gunmen chased him and fired at least 36 shots. The boy was shot at least 18 times throughout his body and collapsed on the sidewalk. He was taken to Temple University Hospital where he was pronounced dead at 4:03 p.m.

The gunmen fled in a vehicle which was stopped by police at the intersection of 5th Street and Somerville Avenue.

Two men considered persons of interest were taken into police custody. A woman who witnessed the shooting was also taken into custody for questioning.

Police also said they found numerous surveillance cameras in the area.

“Earlier today, we lost another young life to senseless gun violence–the fourth since yesterday,” Philadelphia Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw said. “My heart grieves for the victims, their families, and this city. While we cannot bring back those lost, the Philadelphia Police Department will ensure that these cases are fully investigated so that these victims and their families receive closure and justice.”

The murder occurred a day after a 16-year-old boy was shot eight times in North Philadelphia. A 21-year-old Temple University student was also shot and killed during an off-campus robbery Sunday afternoon.

So far this year there have been at least 506 homicides, making 2021 the deadliest year on record in Philadelphia. 

There are additional resources for people or communities that have endured gun violence in Philadelphia. Further information can be found here.

CDC Strengthens Advice for Boosters as Omicron Variant Spreads Globally

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All adults should get COVID-19 booster shots when they’re eligible, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Monday, striking a much stronger tone than its recommendations just a few weeks ago.

The new advice was issued days after the new omicron variant of the coronavirus was detected in southern Africa. The variant’s constellation of mutations suggests the virus could evade the immune system or spread more easily than previous variants do, although it will take time to determine its impact.

“Everyone ages 18 and older should get a booster shot … when they are 6 months after their initial Pfizer or Moderna series,” the CDC’s director, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, said in a statement. Anyone who got the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine shot at least two months ago would also qualify.

The CDC only earlier this month recommended that people ages 50 and up, as well as those in long-term care facilities, should get a booster. The agency said at the time adults ages 18 to 49 may choose to get a booster, based on their risk.

Read the full story at NBCNews.com.

Government Watchdog Groups, Elected Officials Call for Reform in Philly

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Good government watchdog groups and some elected leaders in Philadelphia called on local elected officials to take up reform efforts that could help prevent future public corruption in the city following high-profile convictions in a federal trial earlier this month.

Officials with the League of Women Voters and the Committee of Seventy were joined by City Councilwoman Maria Quinones Sanchez and Pennsylvania Rep. Jared Solomon to announce a petition seeking voter support for reforms.

Those include a full or partial ban on outside work by elected City Council members and public financing of local campaigns that would take away some of the influence by third-party political action committees.

“Anybody who serves on City Council who says they have the time to do something else is not serving constituents,” Quinones Sanchez said Monday at the gathering outside City Hall. “This is a full time job.”

The rally came two weeks after the convictions of City Councilman Bobby Henon and powerful union leader John “Johnny Doc” Dougherty at a federal public corruption trial. Henon, a former union electrician in a local run by Dougherty, was found by a jury to have illegally misused his position in City Hall to do Dougherty’s bidding. Henon had continued for years to earn $70,000 a year from the union while on City Council.

Quinones Sanchez, who has served on City Council since 20XX and is considered a possible mayoral candidate in 2023, said she is working on a proposal to ban some, but not all, outside work for Council members.

“I think, in fairness, we want to have a diversity of thought coming in. So you have people who run for office who come from the business community (and) they have their business,” she said. “You want to define this in a way that’s it’s transparent. It’s not as easy as ‘all or nothing.'”

Public financing of local elections would be a harder sell in Philadelphia, which for years has been the poorest big city in America by median household income.

Mayor Jim Kenney, a former City Councilman himself who held a second job, told NBC10 later Monday that he could support reforms like those put forward at the rally, but would have to see exactly how the legislation is written.

Michelle Wright of the League of Women Voters said she hopes there is enough momentum for the reforms.

“We need to abandon the Philly shrug notion that this is just how it is, it’s always been that way, and it’s always going to be that way,” Wright said.

The Committee of Seventy has previously offered up reforms that could help keep Philadelphia government officials from being overly or improperly influenced by outside agents.

“We have this reputation for being corrupt and contented,” Seventy policy director Pat Christmas said earlier this month . “And this was a question after the (former Mayor John) Street administration’s scandal back in 2003. At that time, council reacted. In fact, some reforms were championed by then Council members Michael Nutter and Jim Kenney, who went on to be the next mayors. There are clearly reforms that can get done here and so, are we going to take another step forward?”

Former Dean of Temple's Fox School of Business Convicted of School-Ranking Fraud

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What to Know

  • Moshe Porat, 74, of Bala Cynwyd, Pennsylvania, was convicted on charges that he deceived the school’s applicants, students, and donors into believing that the school offered top-ranked business degree programs, so that they would pay tuition and make donations to Temple.
  • Porat was initially indicted on one count each of conspiracy and wire fraud in April.
  • Two other Temple administrators were named in the indictment: Isaac Gottlieb, a statistics professor, and Marjorie O’Neill, who submitted data to magazines that rank college programs.

The former dean of the Fox School of Business at Temple, who was ousted after investigations found the school manipulated data to become the number-one-ranked online MBA program in the country, was found guilty of fraud on Monday.

Moshe Porat, 74, of Bala Cynwyd, Pennsylvania, was convicted on charges that he deceived the school’s applicants, students, and donors into believing that the school offered top-ranked business degree programs, so that they would pay tuition and make donations to Temple.

Porat was initially indicted on one count each of conspiracy and wire fraud in April.

Two other Temple administrators were named in the indictment: Isaac Gottlieb, a statistics professor, and Marjorie O’Neill, who submitted data to magazines that rank college programs.

Temple’s online MBA was ranked the top program in the nation by U.S. News and World Report starting in 2015, the first time online MBA programs were ranked by the magazine. And it stayed number one for three more years — a lucrative rank used to attract prospective students and win donations to the Fox School of Business.

Fox kept 87% of the revenue generated by its online MBA program, the indictment said.

But that number-one rank was built on faked data, several investigations have since found.

Porat, Gottlieb and O’Neill falsified how many students had taken standardized test scores to get in, faked incoming students’ GPAs, made it appear the college was more selective than it was and lowered how much its graduates owed in loans, according to the indictment.

Those findings were similar to those of other investigations of Fox.

The indictment also said Fox manipulated data in its part-time MBA program, conflating its data with other programs to drive better rankings. That program had climbed from No. 53 in the U.S. News list in 2014 to No. 7 in 2017, the indictment reads.

In 2018, U.S. News called the Fox online MBA data false and stripped the school of its rankings. In the aftermath, Temple had to pay the U.S. Department of Education $700,000. The school also settled a class-action suit brought by affected students and offered $250,000 in scholarships to students enrolling in those programs in coming years.

Temple also asked Porat, who was then dean of the Fox school, to resign. In later court filings, Temple called Porat the “mastermind” of the rankings fraud, The Philadelphia Inquirer has reported.

After learning — from O’Neill — that U.S. News didn’t audit the data reported by schools, Porat hand-picked a small group of employees to focus on the rankings.

The group included statistics professor Gottleib, who reverse-engineered the magazine’s criteria, the indictment claimed. Porat also appointed O’Neill to be the sole person submitting data to the magazine, telling administrators that he didn’t want a large group of people to have access to the data.

“He conceived it, controlled it and kept it hidden, only to try later to cover it up,” attorney Carolyn P. Short wrote in court papers quoted by the Inquirer. “M. Moshe Porat bears personal responsibility for the Fox School’s intentional submission of false ranking data.”

Porat said he was scapegoated by Temple, and sued the school for defamation. That suit was placed on hold due to the criminal indictment.

Porat faces a maximum possible sentence of 25 years in prison followed by three years of supervised release and a $500,000 fine.

“Today, a jury reaffirmed that wire fraud is a federal crime even when perpetrated within the system of higher education in the United States,” U.S. Attorney Jennifer Arbittier Williams said. “Moshe Porat misrepresented information about Fox’s application and acceptance process, and therefore about the student-body itself, in order to defraud the rankings system, potential students, and donors. This case was certainly unusual, but at its foundation it is just a case of fraud and underlying greed. We respect the jury’s verdict and thank its members for their service.”

Family Says Teen Girl Was Raped by Student at Upper Moreland High School

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An investigation is underway after a teen girl was allegedly raped by another student at a Montgomery County high school. 

The family of the 14-year-old girl told NBC10 she was walking in the hallway of Upper Moreland High School on November 15 when a male student called out to her. They said the boy then grabbed her arm and sexually assaulted her inside a bathroom. 

“I went to the hospital to make the rape kit,” the girl’s father, who we are not identifying, told NBC10. “That was terrible. Something you would never expect to happen to your kid at your school.” 

The father also claimed the student who raped his daughter remains in her class. 

A spokesperson for the Upper Moreland School District told NBC10 they received a report of the incident on November 17 and they then contacted the Upper Moreland Police Department. 

“While we cannot share details about any incident involving students, the safety and security of everyone in our high school is our number one priority,” the spokesperson wrote. “Please know that we take all incidents very seriously.”

Upper Moreland Police Chief Andrew Block also confirmed both police and the Montgomery County District Attorney’s Office are investigating the allegation. 

As the investigation continues, the girl’s father is calling for increased security at the school.

“They have to be safe,” he said. “It’s not normal that your kid comes from school and says, ‘Look dad, I was raped at school.’ That’s not normal.” 


At Least 6 Cars, Truck in Wreck, Fire That Slows 42 Freeway, I-76, I-295 in NJ

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At least six cars and a truck were involved in a wreck and fire that caused delays on three of South Jersey’s busiest roads during the Tuesday morning commute.

The wreck took place on Interstate 76 eastbound/ the 42 Freeway southbound approaching Interstate 295 in Bellmawr around 5:50 a.m.

Only one lane got by as traffic backed up on both I-76 and 42 approaching I-295. Traffic backed up in the other direction as people slowed to look at the crash. I-295 northbound and southbound also backed up approaching the crash scene.

Traffic backed up all the way to the Walt Whitman Bridge at one point.

By 8:30 a.m., all lanes were open.

No word yet on injuries.

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Police Find Bodies of Missing NJ Couple Near Home

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What to Know

  • Police found the bodies of a New Jersey husband and wife who went missing earlier this month. 
  • The bodies of Gary Parker, 67, and his wife Lorraine Parker, 60, were discovered by a police drone on Tuesday around 1 p.m. in a wooded area approximately 200 yards from their home in the Warren Grove section of Stafford Township.
  • Police said there were no obvious signs of trauma and foul play does not appear to be involved.

Police found the bodies of a New Jersey husband and wife who went missing earlier this month. 

The bodies of Gary Parker, 67, and his wife Lorraine Parker, 60, were discovered by a police drone on Tuesday around 1 p.m. in a wooded area approximately 200 yards from their home in the Warren Grove section of Stafford Township.

Investigators said autopsies will be performed later this week though they don’t believe any foul play was involved and they didn’t find any obvious signs of trauma.

The Parkers were last seen on Wednesday, November 17. A neighbor then spoke with them on Sunday, November 21. The couple’s daughter then reported them missing on Monday, November 22. 

Gary Parker and Lorraine Parker.

“Everyone keeps to themselves so it’s unusual that people would just disappear like that,” Bill Bennett, a neighbor, told NBC10. “This area is not that large of an area to get lost.”

Extensive and exhaustive searches over two days last week turned up no sign of the couple. However, one of the couple’s ATV quads was found with a shotgun attached to it near the back of their property. 

Police also told NBC10 they found the couple’s cell phones and credit cards inside their house. They were last used on Sunday, November 21, the last time anyone heard from the couple.

Police Looking at Person of Interest in Temple Student's Killing

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Philadelphia police are working to arrest the the killer of Samuel Sean Collington, a Temple University political science major months from graduation who was shot off-campus in North Philadelphia Sunday afternoon after he returned from Thanksgiving break.

On Tuesday, police told NBC10’s Steven Fisher that they were investigating a person of interest in the 21-year-old Delaware County native’s killing, which was caught on surveillance video. Investigators believe that person is connected to other crimes in North Philadelphia.

Collington, of Prospect Park, Pennsylvania, was shot in the chest outside his college apartment in the 2200 block of North Park Avenue around 1:30 p.m. Sunday. The city District Attorney’s office said Monday that Collington was shot four or five times.

His mother, Molly Collington, said her son had just returned to North Philadelphia from his Delaware County home with clean laundry following the long holiday weekend.

She called her son’s murder a “horrible injustice” and a “travesty like you have no idea” during an interview with NBC10. She also said she’ll do anything to bring the person responsible to justice.

“This senseless act crushes us,” Molly Collington said Monday.

Police did not give a motive for the shooting, but the DA’s office said Monday during a weekly update on gun violence that video evidence showed Collington was shot in what appeared to be a carjacking or robbery.

Collington appeared to fight back, the DA’s office said, but that was after he was already shot. More video evidence is still being examined, officials said.

Samuel Collington

Collington was taken to Temple University Hospital where he was pronounced dead a short time later. No weapons were recovered.

Police on Tuesday had yet to name the person of interest in Collington’s killing.

Collington was a senior political science student at Temple, the university said. He was set to graduate in the spring from the College of Liberal Arts.

“This is a tragedy in every sense of the word. Our thoughts are with the victim’s family, friends and the entire Temple community during this tremendously difficult time,” a spokesperson for the school wrote.

Collington was also a fellow in the office of the City Commissioner. 

“Samuel was an incredibly talented and engaged young man,” City Commissioner Omar Sabir wrote. “During his brief time with our office, Samuel exemplified an incredible passion for engaging voters and was an indispensable member of our team. Sam’s death is a tremendous loss for the City Commissioners and all who knew him.”

The shooting occurred just blocks away from Temple’s campus. Neighbors told NBC10 several Temple students live in the area.

Kendall Stephens, a Temple student and friend of Collington’s, told NBC10 Collington cared deeply about his community and was fighting to end the same violence that took his life.

“This should never have happened to anybody,” Stephens said. “But especially someone who actually cared about the surrounding neighborhood. That is what’s so tragic about all of this.”

Stephens said Collington’s community advocacy extended to Harrisburg.

“He was on fire,” Stephens said. “The way he was able to talk to senators and build that political connection and able to reach across the aisle in a very nonpartisan way. It was fascinating to see.”

Robin Kolodny, the chair of Temple’s political science department, also said Collington was not a typical student.

“It’s not what, you know, a lot of college students would do,” Kolodny told NBC10. “In learning more about Sam I hope people will follow his example.”

Temple’s President Dr. Jason Wingard announced several new security measures in Collington’s honor.

“A student leader on our campus and in the city, Samuel was a beacon of hope who inspired his classmates and others to mobilize and take action to improve our community,” Dr. Wingard wrote. “To honor Samuel’s life of service and contributions, and those of others affected by violence, today I am announcing a series of actions that Temple University will undertake to enhance safety.”

Those measures include an increase in the school’s Campus Safety Force by 50 percent and continued work with the Philadelphia Police Department to increase their presence off campus.

Other measures from the school include enhancing and expanding its safety infrastructure, adding and upgrading lighting, cameras and emergency phones, increasing the availability of the FLIGHT shuttle service and improvements to the walking escort program.

Dr. Wingard also said the school would collaborate with city leaders to expand anti-violence initiatives to help reduce shootings and homicides in North Philadelphia and other neighborhoods across the city.

Temple’s community outreach initiatives include expanding the school’s work with civic, business and education leaders in Philadelphia to identify ways to keep communities and campuses safe, pursuing federal and state resources available for safety enhancements and pursuing the establishment of a university institute focused on violence reduction.

Temple will also hold a forum for parents, students and community members on Thursday at 5 p.m. to share their plans and have a conversation. You can register for that forum here.

So far this year there have been at least 508 homicides in Philadelphia, making 2021 the deadliest year on record in the city.

“There’s been a lot of chatter about we should have more police,” Kolodny said. “His friends are very clear that that’s not what Sam would’ve championed.”

Within a block from where Collington was killed, there have been four other armed robberies in the last month, including three around the same time of day.

“They’re acting out of desperation,” Stephens said. “They’re acting out of hopelessness. And those are the basic ingredients for violence. So we’re trying to instill hope back into these communities.”

Mayor Jim Kenney called Collington’s killing a horrible case of “bad things happen to good people.”

“There is evil in this world,” Kenney said of the murder, adding that the gunman needs to be caught and put in jail for the rest of his life.

“We are deeply saddened by the death of Samuel Collington, and strongly condemn this and any acts of violence in our city,” a spokesperson for the Mayor’s Office said. “We grieve every life lost to violence, and we’re heartbroken for Samuel’s friends and family as they cope with this unimaginable loss. Our thoughts are with his loved ones, the Temple University community, and his colleagues in the City Commissioners’ Office.”

If you have any information on the shooting, please call Philadelphia Police at 215-686-TIPS (8477).

There are additional resources for people or communities that have endured gun violence in Philadelphia. Further information can be found here.

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3 Hurt, Including Teen, in South Philly Gas Explosion

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Three people, including a teenager, suffered minor injuries in a gas explosion in South Philadelphia Tuesday night. 

The blast occurred inside a home on the 800 block of Jackson Street around 6:30 p.m., blowing out a window. Responding firefighters extinguished a small fire in the basement of the home. 

Three people who were inside the home, a 79-year-old man, 40-year-old woman and 13-year-old boy all suffered non-life-threatening injuries and were taken to the hospital. Six nearby properties were also evacuated as a precaution as PGW workers turned off the gas. 

Officials continue to investigate the cause.

Four NJ High School Students Suspended Amid Football Team Hazing Investigation

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What to Know

  • Four student athletes at a New Jersey high school have been suspended in the wake of an ongoing hazing probe into the school’s football team
  • The student suspensions come after the high school’s athletic director was placed on administrative leave, multiple coaches were suspended and games were canceled.
  • The Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office has launched an investigation into the latest locker room incident in which parents say was captured on cellphone video, but said it cannot confirm or deny any details of the investigation because juvenile records are confidential by nature

Four student athletes at a New Jersey high school have been suspended in the wake of an ongoing hazing probe into the school’s football team.

The suspensions at Wall High School came at two separate times, once immediately after reports of bullying and hazing surfaced, and then at least a week or so later. Four members of the football team have been suspended in all so far.

The student suspensions come after the high school’s athletic director was placed on administrative leave, multiple coaches were suspended and games were canceled. It also follows multiple heated school board meetings that have taken place since the allegations came to light earlier in November.

At one of the most recent meetings, many angry parents wanted to know why they found about about the allegations from the news and not the school, asking when district officials first found out. Among the people who took to the mic were former students who say hazing has long been part of the school and that they were bullied years ago.

Eric Duchak detailed being dragged across the locker room floor as well as being kicked and hit with towels, pads and helmets.

“I have held that with me for 27 years,” Duchak told the school board. The alumnus called the latest allegation of several football players threatening to assault a younger classman with a broomstick part of an ongoing culture.

And so does Marilyn Clayton, a mother of a former student with Down syndrome. She says her son was bullied into a sexual act by members of the football team in 2012.

“This happened to my son, my son, and it was swept under the carpet,” Clayton said.

The Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office has launched an investigation into the latest locker room incident in which parents say was captured on cellphone video. Separate incidents of sexual assault off-campus are also under investigation. The office has said it cannot confirm or deny any details of the investigation because juvenile records are confidential by nature.

“I want to assure the public that multiple assistant prosecutors and detectives are diligently working on this matter right now but we really need your help, anyone with information is urged to contact our office,” Acting Monmouth County Prosecutor Lori Linskey said.

Meanwhile, parents of current students want to know why the district didn’t act sooner and many of them are calling for the resignation of those involved.

Wall Township Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Tracy Handerhan and other school officials have repeatedly said that they cannot comment because of the ongoing investigation. Handerhan has detailed what the district has done since the allegations emerged.

Some parents say they were angry at the fact that the entire football team is being punished over the allegations surrounding about six players. One admonished the district for cancelling the playoff and Thanksgiving games after a year when students already lost so much due to the pandemic.

Families of other players — who have not been implicated in the hazing incidents — have also hired an attorney to protect their children’s reputations. The lawyer said in a letter to the superintendent that the tickle effect of new suspensions perpetuates a feeling of helplessness for those only guilty by association and proximimty.

“If there is a danger to any member of the school body, don’t you think law enforcement would have arrested somebody by now?” said attorney Chris Gramiccioni.

The lawyer’s letter also warned that suspensions shouldn’t be used to send a message to the community or quell public outcry, as the consequences could be too dire.

“When kids are suspended, you cannot unring that bell, they lose out on valuable educational time,” he said.

While some parents are seeking to protect their children, others approve of the suspensions.

“I do believe suspension is the only way to handle this because that teaches other kids, ‘Oh my goodness, something like this, we better watch it,'” said Nancy Kowalsky, who said her son was bullied years ago at the school, although not by football players.

A total of three coaches for the Wall High School football team have been suspended, sources told NBC New York, including head coach and business teacher Tony Grandinetti. He and two others were placed on administrative leave.

So far, one school board member has resigned, citing the hazing allegations as the reason.

Philadelphia Illuminate Arts Program Gets $1.5M in Fresh Funds

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Philadelphia’s Illuminate the Arts grant program, an emergency aid initiative that seeks to help the local arts and culture industry recover from Covid-19, has received a fresh $1.5 million capital injection for distribution, the Philadelphia Business Journal reports.

The funds stem from $3 million that City Council earmarked for the local arts and culture economy as part of the New Normal Budget Act that aims to mitigate social and racial disparities that came to light during the pandemic. 

Illuminate the Arts’ second run will once again be overseen by the city’s Office of Arts, Culture and the Creative Economy. A timeline for opening the application portal is still being solidified, though the program is targeting late winter or early spring, a spokesperson for Democratic Councilmember At-Large Isaiah Thomas said. 

Read more about the Illuminate the Arts program at PBJ.com.

Get all your business news at the Philadelphia Business Journal.

NJ Woman Charged in Wrong-Way Crash With Police That Left 2 Kids Dead on Thanksgiving

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A New Jersey woman has been charged in a wrong-way crash involving a police cruiser on Thanksgiving that left two children dead and three people injured, officials said.

The accident occurred around 11:35 p.m. Thursday near the intersection of Routes 1 and 130 in North Brunswick.

Yokauri Bautista-Alcantara was traveling on the wrong side of the road with children in the car when she slammed into an Old Bridge police cruiser transporting a prisoner. The two 9-year-olds were pronounced dead a short time later, while the three others in the police vehicle, including two officers, were injured.

Prosecutors said that reckless driving and alcohol consumption are believed to have been contributing factors in the crash. Bautista-Alcantara was arrested and charged with two counts each of first-degree aggravated manslaughter, second-degree vehicular homicide, endangering the welfare of a child, aggravated assault, and one count of assault by auto.


Woman, 20, Managing GameStop Shot During Robbery Attempt

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What to Know

  • A 20-year-old woman was shot in the leg during what police said was a robbery attempt inside a Northeast Philadelphia GameStop store Tuesday night.
  • She was working in the store and ducked for cover after a gunman pointed his gun at her, police said.
  • The gunman may have entered the store with two other men, investigators said. All three fled on foot.

A GameStop worker was shot after ducking for cover during an apparent attempted robbery inside a Northeast Philadelphia store Tuesday night.

The shooting took place shortly before 8 p.m. inside the video game store in the shopping center along East Roosevelt Boulevard and Whitaker Avenue in the Crescentville neighborhood, Philadelphia police said.

The store manager, a 20-year-old woman, was working as a store clerk when a gunman pointed a gun at her, Philadelphia Police Chief Inspector Scott Small said. At least one other worker and three customers were inside the store at the time.

“She immediately ducked behind the counter and that’s when the store clerk was shot in the leg one time,” Small said. She apparently hit the alarm button after ducking for cover.

She was rushed to the hospital where she was listed in stable condition. The bullet went right through her leg and didn’t hit a bone, Small said.

Witnesses told investigators that the gunman may have been with two other men who followed him into the store, Small said. The three of them fled on foot.

In-store surveillance video showed the entire incident, police said. No arrests were made as of Wednesday morning.

The store was closed Wednesday.

There are additional resources for people or communities that have endured gun violence in Philadelphia. Further information can be found here.

Gift Allows National Museum of American Jewish History to Buy Back Building

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The National Museum of American Jewish History has received a large donation that will enable the institution, which recently emerged from bankruptcy, to buy back its Old City building and establish an eight-figure endowment, the Philadelphia Business Journal reports.

The funds come from famed shoe designer and philanthropist Stuart Weitzman, who is also an alumnus of the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. As a result of the donation the 101 S. Independence Mall E. museum is renaming itself the Weitzman National Museum of American Jewish History, a title change that will be formally announced on Monday, the last day of Hanukkah. 

Weitzman similarly made an undisclosed donation to the University of Pennsylvania in 2019 that prompted the institution to change the name of its design school to the University of Pennsylvania Stuart Weitzman School of Design. The National Museum of American Jewish History is also not disclosing the exact amount of Weitzman’s donation.

Read more about Weitzman’s gift at PBJ.com.

Keep up with all your business news at the Philadelphia Business Journal.

Man Dies After Being Shot, Despite Reaching Friends' House for Safety

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A man shot in the head and chest while sitting in his car was able to run to his friends’ house for safety but ultimately died of his wounds Tuesday night in North Philadelphia, police said.

The 36-year-old man was struck after a gunman fired at least 10 shots from across the “small” street on the 2100 block of Lambert Street around 11:30 p.m., Philadelphia Police Department Chief Inspector Scott Small said.

The victim had been sitting in the driver’s seat of his car and was able to get out and run about 50 feet to a house belonging to some friends, Small said. There, he collapsed on the living room floor.

The man was unresponsive when medics rushed him to Temple University Hospital, where he was pronounced dead at 12:15 a.m.

Police did not immediately identify a motive or have a description of the shooter, but there were various surveillance cameras in the area that investigators were attempting to look at for clues, Small said.

As of Tuesday night, there had been at least 510 homicides this year in Philadelphia, according to figures from the Philadelphia Police Department, making 2021 the deadliest year on record.

At least 441 of the homicide victims died from being shot, according to a tally from the city controller’s office, which was last updated Sunday. Another 1,680 people were shot but lived.

There are additional resources for people or communities that have endured gun violence in Philadelphia. Further information can be found here.

Teen Suspected in Temple University Student's Killing ID'd

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Police have identified a teenager suspected of killing a 21-year-old Temple University student over the weekend.

Latif Williams, 17, is wanted in the slaying of Samuel Sean Collington, the Philadelphia Police Department announced Wednesday. Collington, a Delaware County native who was back in Philadelphia after his Thanksgiving break, was shot in the chest Sunday afternoon outside his college apartment in the 2200 block of North Park Avenue.

Latif Williams

His mother, Molly Collington, said her son had just returned to North Philadelphia from his Delaware County home with clean laundry following the long holiday weekend.

She called her son’s murder a “horrible injustice” and a “travesty like you have no idea” during an interview with NBC10. She also said she’ll do anything to bring the person responsible to justice.

“This senseless act crushes us,” Molly Collington said Monday.

Police did not give a motive for the shooting, but the DA’s office said Monday during a weekly update on gun violence that video evidence showed Collington was shot in what appeared to be a carjacking or robbery.

Collington appeared to fight back, the DA’s office said, but that was after he was already shot. More video evidence is still being examined, officials said.

Collington was a senior political science student at Temple, the university said. He was set to graduate in the spring from the College of Liberal Arts.

“This is a tragedy in every sense of the word. Our thoughts are with the victim’s family, friends and the entire Temple community during this tremendously difficult time,” a spokesperson for the school wrote.

Collington was also a fellow in the office of the City Commissioner. 

“Samuel was an incredibly talented and engaged young man,” City Commissioner Omar Sabir wrote. “During his brief time with our office, Samuel exemplified an incredible passion for engaging voters and was an indispensable member of our team. Sam’s death is a tremendous loss for the City Commissioners and all who knew him.”

Williams, Collington’s suspected killer, is described as standing 5 feet, 5 inches tall, weighing 170 pounds and having a medium complexion and brown eyes and hair.

NBC10 learned Williams was previously charged with carjacking a victim at gunpoint back in August though the victim was not harmed. A spokesperson for the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office told NBC10 they were forced to withdraw charges against Williams because a key witness never showed up to court.

Anyone with information on his whereabouts is asked to call 911 or the Philadelphia Police Department’s homicide detectives at 215-685-3334 or 215-686-TIPS (8477).

There are additional resources for people or communities that have endured gun violence in Philadelphia. Further information can be found here.

‘Sharp Uptick' in COVID Cases Not Yet Crowding Hospitals in Philly

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Philadelphia is in the midst of an increase in COVID-19 cases, and, with the potentially more virulent Omicron variant of the coronavirus spreading and cold days ahead, the city’s top health official is urging residents to stay vigilant in preventing the spread.

The city is not yet seeing a surge of coronavirus cases at hospitals at levels that would draw a red flag, Philadelphia Health Commissioner Dr. Cheryl Bettigole said at a briefing Wednesday.

Still, she urged residents to abide the city’s ongoing mask mandate for public indoor spaces and to keep practicing social distancing to prevent a surge in the near future.

“In the past two weeks, Philadelphia and the surrounding counties continue to see a sharp uptick in cases of COVID-19,” Bettigole said Wednesday. “It’ll be another week or so before we see the full effects of the Thanksgiving holiday on these numbers, but with the colder weather and the recent spikes with a new variant on the horizon, this is a time to be very careful.”

The Omicron variant that was first detected last week in southern Africa, and has since been identified in Europe and Hong Kong, has caused health officials in the United States to reiterate social distancing and mask-wearing measures as well as receiving COVID-19 vaccine booster shots.

A first case of the Omicron variant was confirmed in the United States on Wednesday, hours after Bettigole’s briefing in the morning.

Medical experts believe the variant could be more transmissible than previous strains, though more conclusive research needs to be done.

Bettigole said Philadelphia’s increase in cases does not match the severity of those in other states, particularly in the Midwest and West, or in some European countries.

In the past two weeks, 3,174 Philadelphians have tested positive for COVID-19, with a two-week rolling average of 258 new cases every day, Bettigole said. The number of positive tests is up to 4.8%.

That’s an increase from 2% and 3% positive test numbers in October.

Everyone over the age of 5 is now eligible for COVID-19 vaccines. Booster shots are available at hundreds of pharmacies like CVS and Rite-Aid across the city.

“The situation around the world and in other parts of our country is becoming increasingly dire,” Bettigole said. “Some countries in Europe have completely shut down due to the large numbers of people who are sick.”

City officials, she said, are monitoring the number of hospital cases related to COVID-19 and the biggest concern at the moment is related to non-COVID illnesses that are filling hospital beds. If COVID cases in Philadelphia continue to rise, Bettigole said there could be an overload.

“The much larger problem with Philadelphia hospitals right now is they are very full of people with other kinds of problems,” Bettigole said. “We’re not in a crisis mode in Philly, but we’re trying to stay out of a crisis mode.”

Police Officer Shot Numerous Times in North Philadelphia

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An off-duty Philadelphia police officer suffered numerous bullet wounds to both of his arms during an attack several blocks north of Temple University, according to law enforcement officials.

The shooting took place shortly after 2 p.m. near North 13th and Pike streets in North Philadelphia, officials said. The wounded 46-year-old cop, who has been identified as a 15-year veteran of the police department, was shot following an argument with the passenger of another vehicle, Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw said.

The police officer was able to drive himself to Temple University Hospital, where family members and fellow officers began to gather about 2:30 p.m.

“The good news is … this officer is going to be okay,” Outlaw said outside the hospital.

He suffered several injuries to one of his arms, and the full extent of his injuries remains unknown. A motive for the shooting has not been identified.

This is a breaking news story. Check back for more details as they become known this afternoon.

2 Men Arrested in Murder of 14-Year-Old Boy Who Was Shot 18 Times

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What to Know

Two men have been charged in the execution-style murder of a 14-year-old boy who was chased and shot 18 times in Philadelphia on Monday afternoon.

Police announced Wednesday they arrested two suspects in their early 20’s in the murder of Samir Jefferson. They also identified three additional suspects who are not yet in custody.

Jefferson was standing on the corner of Rising Sun and Wyoming avenues in the Feltonville neighborhood around 3:30 p.m. Monday waiting for a bus when multiple gunmen exited a vehicle, approached him and opened fire.

Samir fled as the gunmen chased him and fired at least 36 shots. The 14-year-old was shot at least 18 times throughout his body and collapsed on the sidewalk. He was taken to Temple University Hospital and pronounced dead just after 4 p.m.

Samir’s sister — who asked not to be named — said her family is heartbroken as her mother “lost her youngest son.”

“It’s really not going to be the same without my little brother because he really brung joy to our family,” she said.

Samir Jefferson in a white shirt and black cap
Samir Jefferson

The gunmen fled in a vehicle. A vehicle matching that description was stopped by police at the intersection of 5th Street and Somerville Avenue.

Two men considered persons of interest were taken into police custody on Monday. Police have not yet revealed whether those two men were the same suspects who were arrested.

Police are still getting arrest warrants for three more men who they identified as suspects in the teen boy’s murder. They have not released their identities or the names of the two men who they charged, only saying they are in their early 20’s.

Samir’s family called for justice and the arrest of his killers.

“What did you gain except for becoming a murderer, except for taking somebody else’s child?” asked one of Samir’s family members.

Despite the arrests, police have not yet determined a motive in the shooting.

Several bullet holes could be seen in the wall of a pharmacy near where the shooting took place. Someone wrote “RIP Samir” on the sidewalk.

“Earlier today, we lost another young life to senseless gun violence–the fourth since yesterday,” Philadelphia Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw said Monday. “My heart grieves for the victims, their families, and this city. While we cannot bring back those lost, the Philadelphia Police Department will ensure that these cases are fully investigated so that these victims and their families receive closure and justice.”

The murder occurred a day after a 16-year-old boy was shot eight times in North Philadelphia. A 21-year-old Temple University student was also shot and killed during an off-campus robbery Sunday afternoon.

So far this year there have been at least 508 homicides, making 2021 the deadliest year on record in Philadelphia. 

At least 198 children have been shot in Philadelphia this year, Philadelphia police said. At least 40 of those children died — a total that is more than the number of children killed over the past two years combined.

There are additional resources for people or communities that have endured gun violence in Philadelphia. Further information can be found here.

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Police Shootout Near SEPTA's 69th Street Terminal Follows Killing

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What to Know

  • SEPTA police officers exchanged gunfire with a gunman — who police say had earlier shot and killed a women — outside the 69th Street Transportation Center in Upper Darby, Pennsylvania, Thursday morning.
  • No one was hurt in the shootout, SEPTA and police said. However, commuters were told expect delays and changes to how they access the train, bus or trolley due to a large police presence.
  • Check your SEPTA schedule before you head out the door.

SEPTA police officers and a gunman — suspected to have already killed a woman he knew and shot a passerby — exchanged gunfire outside Upper Darby’s 69th Street Transportation Center before the Thursday morning rush.

No one was hurt in the police shootout before 4 a.m., but SEPTA warned commuters of the potential for delays and changes to how they get to trains, buses and trolleys at the busy Delaware County terminal as a large police presence investigated through the morning.

Here is what happened to lead to the commuter slowdown, according to Upper Darby police: Around 3:30 a.m., the gunman shot a woman who was later found dead inside a nearby apartment on Terminal Square. After that shooting, he walked outside and started firing into the air.

The man then shot a a passerby on Market Street, Upper Darby Police Superintendent Timothy Bernhardt said. The man he shot in the shoulder was left with non-life-threatening injuries.

Transit agency police officers heard the gunfire outside the terminal and confronted the gunman near a pedestrian bridge at 69th Street station, police said. A gun battle ensued with officers exchanging gunfire with the man.

The gunman and the SEPTA police officers weren’t struck by bullets, SEPTA and police said.

“Thank God those officers are all OK,” Bernhardt said, while noting he believed the gunman wanted to be shot and killed by police.

The officers took the gunman into custody in a nearby alley.

The area around the SEPTA terminal normally gets busy as the day goes on.

“We are very fortunate the time of day it was, that it was 3:30 in the morning and it wasn’t later in the morning, because there are a lot more people who are in this area as the day goes on,” Bernhardt said.

Upper Darby police warned people to be aware of the closure of the area of 69th and Markets streets, which is right outside the station. The finally reopened that area just before noon.

Police could be seen marking dozens of pieces of evidence on the street and in the area around the pedestrian bridge. Bullet holes could be seen in nearby stores and cars. A bullet also struck a police vehicle.

“The quick and heroic action taken by SEPTA Transit Police officers at 69th Street Transportation Center this morning prevented an already tragic situation from potentially claiming more lives and serious injuries,” SEPTA Police Chief Thomas Nestel III said in a prepared statement.

SEPTA trolleys, trains and buses were running, but a lot of areas were closed. Two of the three bus terminals were closed and SEPTA workers were helping guide people to their trains and trolleys as the main terminal was open, but potentially not easy to access, a SEPTA spokesperson said as the morning rush got underway.

If you were looking to access the station, you were told to plan on doing more walking than normal.

Most SEPTA routes were back to normal by midday Thursday. Track your route on SEPTA’s website.

Upper Darby police will investigate the deadly shooting in the apartment and the shooting on the street, Bernhardt said. The Delaware County District Attorney’s Office will investigate the police shootout.


Anyone affected by domestic violence can receive help, advice, information or crisis intervention by calling the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 or visiting the website thehotline.org.

If you or someone you know is at risk of suicide please call the U.S. National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255, text TALK to 741741 or go to SpeakingOfSuicide.com/resources for additional resources. 

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‘Dr. Oz' Show Pulled from TV Markets, Including Philly, as Host Runs for Senate

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TV stations in Philadelphia, New York City and Cleveland said Wednesday that they are taking down the “Dr. Oz Show,” now that the show’s host, Mehmet Oz, has formally become a candidate for U.S. Senate.

The stations were compelled by the Federal Communications Commission’s “equal time” rules that give rival candidates the ability to request matching air time.

Oz, 61, will bring his unrivaled name recognition and wealth to a wide-open race that is expected to be among the nation’s most competitive and could determine control of the Senate in next year’s election.

This is the celebrity heart surgeon’s first run for public office, but he is facing a crowded Republican primary. The longtime New Jersey resident says he moved to Pennsylvania a year ago.

A spokesperson for Fox Television Stations said Wednesday that its stations in New York City and Philadelphia have dropped the “Dr. Oz Show.” Parts of northeastern Pennsylvania get New York TV channels. Cleveland’s WJW-TV said it made the decision because its signal “bleeds a little bit into Pennsylvania.”

Other stations in Pennsylvania may follow suit. The show typically airs at 2 p.m. on weekdays.

Oz became a household name as a guest on Oprah Winfrey’s show before starting his own show in 2009. He films the show in New York City.

Philly Officer Struck by Driver in Stolen Car and Injured, Police Say

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A Philadelphia police officer was hospitalized after being struck by a driver in a suspected stolen vehicle in South Philadelphia Thursday morning.

The incident took place around 10:20 a.m. as the 17th District officer drove along Tasker Street, police said. The officer was struck by a driver in a stolen car that was going down 32nd Street.

The injured officer was taken to the hospital where he was listed in stable condition with undisclosed injuries, police said. The crash left both vehicles badly damaged.

The suspected car thief ran off on foot, police said.

Philadelphia police could be seen searching — including in nearby alleys and on rooftops of homes — in the area near the crash site.

A man could be seen handcuffed on the ground. Police, however, have yet to announce an arrest in this case.

Wolf Vetoes Permitless Open, Concealed Carry Gun Bill in Pa.

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What to Know

  • Gov. Tom Wolf is following through on his veto threat and rejecting Republican-penned legislation to allow people to carry a firearm openly or concealed, without a permit.
  • Wolf, a Democrat, called the bill “dangerous.”
  • Thursday’s veto adds to his total for Pennsylvania’s chief executive with the most vetoes in more than four decades.

Gov. Tom Wolf followed through on his veto threat Thursday, rejecting Republican-penned legislation to allow people to carry a firearm openly or concealed, without a permit, adding to his total for Pennsylvania’s chief executive with the most vetoes in more than four decades.

Wolf, a Democrat, called the bill “dangerous.” Wolf’s veto comes amid a tide of deadly gun violence in Philadelphia, the state’s largest city, and political finger-pointing over blame.

“This legislation, which eliminates the requirement for individuals to obtain a license before carrying a concealed firearm, will only exacerbate gun violence and jeopardize the safety of all Pennsylvanians,” Wolf said in a news release.

Wolf has said it is a top priority to address what he says is a gun violence crisis affecting largely minority communities, but the Republican-controlled Legislature has largely rejected his proposals since he took office in 2015.

The bill he vetoed Thursday would have removed the requirement that gun owners get a permit to carry a gun that is concealed, such as under clothing or in their vehicle’s glove box. It also would have wiped out a law, applying only to Philadelphia, that requires gun owners to get a permit to openly carry a firearm in the city.

Pennsylvanians otherwise are generally allowed to openly carry loaded firearms, although the law is silent on it.

According to online state records, Wolf has penned his 52nd veto with 13 months left in his second term, more than any other governor since Milton Shapp, who left office in 1979. Wolf has passed Democrat Robert P. Casey, who compiled 50 vetoes.

The Legislature has never overridden a Wolf veto, with Democrats protecting Wolf and preventing Republicans from gathering the necessary two-thirds majorities in both chambers.

Republicans blame Wolf’s mounting stack of vetoes for what they say is failing to engage with lawmakers, compromise or negotiate.

Friction over the governor’s broad use of executive authority to respond to the pandemic has played a role, with Wolf taking a veto pen to about a dozen COVID-19-related bills passed by lawmakers.

“This governor hasn’t figured out how to work with the Legislature,” Senate President Pro Tempore Jake Corman, R-Centre, said last month.

The result, Corman and others say, has been for the sides to seek alternatives to lawmaking.

The governor has often taken action through executive order or drafting regulations, and lawmakers taking action through drafting proposals to amend the state constitution. Those can’t be vetoed by Wolf.

Republican lawmakers now are trying, through proposals to amend the constitution, to give them more control over a governor’s powers to make permanent policy through regulation or executive order.

One would strip the authority of a governor to veto a resolution passed by lawmakers to block a proposed regulation. Currently, the governor can veto such a resolution.

The other would limit the effect of an executive order to 21 days, unless lawmakers agree to extend it.

835 to Become New Area Code for Parts of Philly Suburbs, Lehigh Valley

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What to Know

  • The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) announced Thursday that “835” will become the new area code for Lehigh, Berks, Delaware, Chester, and Northampton counties, and a portion of Montgomery County once the current “610” and “484” telephone numbers are exhausted in early 2023.
  • The decision was made following a 3-0 vote from the PUC on Thursday to approve a petition filed by the North American Numbering Plan Administrator (NANPA).
  • A PUC spokesperson said the change won’t require any changes to the way residents and businesses in the region dial telephone calls aside from using the new area code when necessary.

How does “835” sound? Well, whether you like it or not, you’ll have to get used to it soon if you live in the Lehigh Valley or parts of the Philly suburbs. The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) announced Thursday that “835” will become the new area code for Lehigh, Berks, Delaware, Chester, and Northampton counties, and a portion of Montgomery County once the current “610” and “484” telephone numbers are exhausted in 2023. 

The decision was made following a 3-0 vote from the PUC on Thursday to approve a petition filed by the North American Numbering Plan Administrator (NANPA). The NANPA is the neutral third-party entity that allocates telephone numbering resources. 

The NANPA said the remaining supply of available 610/484 telephone numbers is estimated to be exhausted in early 2023. The new 835 area code will then be assigned to the 610/484 region after that. 

“Because 10-digit dialing is already well established in this region, the eventual addition of the new 835 area code covering the same geographic area will not require any changes to the way area residents and businesses dial telephone calls – aside from using the new area code, when necessary,” a PUC spokesperson wrote. 

The PUC shared the following tips for residents and businesses in the 610/484 region to prepare for the new 835 area code: 

  • Check your devices to verify that area codes are included with all stored numbers.
  • Program, save and store phone numbers to all devices using the full 10-digit telephone number.
  • Verify that all services and equipment – such as automatic dialers, life-safety & medical alert systems, alarm/security systems and security gates, call-forwarding settings and voicemail services – recognize the new area code as a valid phone number.

More information about the new 835 area code can be found here.

Wolf, Kenney Resist Calls to Declare Gun Violence Emergency

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A teen shot dead in a hailstorm of bullets while waiting for the bus, a young college student gunned down outside his apartment and a police shootout following a murder are only some in the latest wave of gun crimes impacting the region.

Now, as Philadelphia experiences the highest number of homicides in its recorded history, and as the rest of Pennsylvania also reels from increased gunfire, top officials continue to resist calls to issue emergency declarations on gun violence.

“It goes without saying that this has been a painful year in the City of Philadelphia and for so many families who have senselessly lost somebody to the crisis of gun violence. And make no mistake: this is a crisis,” state Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta, a North Philadelphia Democrat running for the U.S. Senate, said Thursday.

He called on both Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney and Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf to issue gun violence emergency declarations, arguing that – at least at the state level – an emergency declaration would loosen some regulatory red tape and allow for more inter-departmental collaboration.

The move echoed the calls of Philadelphia Councilwoman Jamie Gauthier, who in July asked Kenney to make such a declaration only to be rebuffed by the mayor.

Asked via email whether they would issue such declarations now, both the mayor and the governor’s offices told NBC10 such declarations are not needed.

“A state of emergency is not needed to address the types of collaborations (Kenyatta is) suggesting, nor would it be the most impactful approach,” Wolf press secretary Elizabeth Rementer said.

She noted that factors that contribute to gun violence “vary from community to community” and said the governor is already taking measures to reduce such violence, such as providing resources for community-based violence intervention programs, supporting gun reform measures and vetoing “bad legislation” from the Republican-controlled state legislature that would loosen gun laws.

Similarly, Kenney said his administration is already directing additional funds – in the form of more than $150 million – toward violence prevention measures and is already working across departments to address the issue.

“The reality is that our Administration has been working to address violence in a coordinated fashion for several years, dating back to the release of the first Roadmap to Safer Communities in 2019, with further refinement with the updated Roadmap release this past April,” the mayor said via email. “That said, a disaster or emergency declaration would have no discernible impact on strengthening what is already a highly collaborative and innovative approach to addressing this public health crisis.”

Additionally, Kenney spokesman Kevin Lessard said, Philadelphia officials have met three times with their peers participating in a nationwide White House initiative meant to allow more than a dozen cities to collaborate on violence prevention strategies.  

Officials have also engaged in two additional “technical assistance” meeting with the National Institute for Criminal Justice Reform, and the Philadelphia Police Department is receiving training and technical assistance on gun violence, criminal justice collaboration and rime analysis, through the Department of Justice’s National Public Safety Partnership, Lessard added.

But despite those measures, there have nonetheless been more than 510 killings – nearly all of which have been through gunfire – and nearly 1,700 nonfatal shootings in Philadelphia this year.

“Eighty percent of shooting victims in Philadelphia will survive their injuries, and we have to address the needs of those individuals as well. We are a city of walking wounded,” Scott Charles, trauma outreach manager at Temple University Hospital, said alongside Kenyatta and other community activists Thursday.

“I don’t recall another time when so many children and so many women have been shot, and so many elderly,” Charles said. “We have lost our way, and as I said, nobody is coming through that door to save us. We have to save ourselves.”

There are additional resources for people or communities that have endured gun violence in Philadelphia. Further information can be found here.

City Council Permanently Legalizes ‘Streeteries' in Some Philly Areas

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What to Know

  • City Council unanimously passed legislation on Thursday that will permanently legalize outdoor dining structures, also known as “streeteries,” in parts of Philadelphia.
  • The bill allows restaurants to serve diners in streeteries in Center City, East Passyunk, Old City, University City and other specified areas in Philadelphia. 
  • Streeteries located outside of those boundaries will need a council ordinance and full council approval to operate. 

City Council unanimously passed legislation on Thursday that will permanently legalize outdoor dining structures, also known as “streeteries,” in parts of Philadelphia, providing a boost to restaurants still recovering from the pandemic shutdowns. 

The bill allows restaurants to serve diners in streeteries in Center City, East Passyunk, Old City, University City and other specified areas in Philadelphia. 

Streeteries located outside of those boundaries will need a council ordinance and full council approval to operate. 

“We appreciate Councilmember Domb’s hard work on this legislation, and we are happy Council is willing to have a conversation on a path forward for operators in the city,” a spokesperson for the Pennsylvania Restaurant & Lodging Association wrote. “This is a major step forward.”


New Jersey GOP Lawmakers Defy Vaccine Mandate

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What to Know

  • Disorder and confusion erupted in the halls outside the New Jersey Assembly on Thursday as several Republican lawmakers defied a new requirement to show proof of COVID-19 vaccination or a negative test and were blocked by state troopers— albeit briefly — from entering the ornate chamber.
  • Hours later, a state appellate court handed a victory to Republicans who had sued to block the proof-of-vaccination requirement, granting the GOP’s application for a stay of the order and setting a potential hearing date for later this month.
  • Ahead of Thursday’s voting session, at least 10 Republicans strode toward the Assembly chamber on the first day the vaccine requirement was in effect.

Disorder and confusion erupted in the halls outside the New Jersey Assembly on Thursday as several Republican lawmakers defied a new requirement to show proof of COVID-19 vaccination or a negative test and were blocked by state troopers— albeit briefly — from entering the ornate chamber.

Hours later, a state appellate court handed a victory to Republicans who had sued to block the proof-of-vaccination requirement, granting the GOP’s application for a stay of the order and setting a potential hearing date for later this month. It was not immediately clear what effect the ruling would have on the requirement.

Ahead of Thursday’s voting session, at least 10 Republicans strode toward the Assembly chamber on the first day the vaccine requirement was in effect. They were stopped by uniformed troopers for about 10 minutes before they eventually entered without showing any vaccination proof or a negative test. Troopers stationed at the doorway declined to provide an explanation.

“You have no right to stop us,” Assembly member Erik Peterson said. “You see this? You see this, folks? Denying us entry into our house.”

“This is America!” Assembly member Hal Wirths added. Lawmakers compared the situation to something that might happen in a dictatorship.

A handful of the GOP lawmakers cleared the doorway after Assembly member Brian Bergen asked troopers, “I can go 30 feet that way, 30 feet that way, but not that way?” signaling toward the chamber.

Moments later, some other Assembly members — who had earlier declined to show vaccination cards or a negative test — walked into the room unblocked. An email seeking an explanation was sent to the state police.

Later, what appeared to be close to the full 28-member Republican minority were sitting in their seats in the Assembly.

Democratic Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin called it “a colossal failure of security” in a speech from the floor that chastised Republicans, saying that people throughout the state have made similar concessions during the pandemic. He said he was outraged.

“Twenty-eight members of the minority caucus could not be bothered to exhibit common decency and humanity all because they would rather have a couple of minutes on TV news,” Coughlin said.

The display unfolded during the first voting session of the lame duck period, the timeframe between November’s election and the start of the new Legislature in January. It was also the first time lawmakers gathered to vote since the requirement that anyone entering the statehouse complex show a negative test or proof of vaccination.

Tables with officials checking documents were set up at entrances around the complex, poster boards announcing the new policy stood on easels and state troopers milled around the building as well.

Some Republicans who flouted the rule said it was unenforceable, contending it ran afoul of the state constitution.

“It’s unfair and completely discriminatory policy. They’re essentially creating two classes of people, vaccinated and unvaccinated,” Bergen said.

But others reluctantly abided by it. GOP state Sen. Holly Schepisi offered her vaccination card to troopers.

“I know you’re just doing your job,” she said before calling the requirement a derogatory term.

Late Thursday, Judge Allison Accurso of the Appellate Division issued a short order granting the GOP’s application in a lawsuit aimed at stopping the order. The judge’s order sets a possible hearing date of Dec. 13, and while it allows the suit to go forward, it doesn’t address the underlying arguments in the case.

A message seeking comment was left with the attorney general’s office, which will represent the joint legislative commission that set the requirement.

Kevin Drennan, the chair of the commission, declined through a spokesperson to comment on the suit earlier Thursday.

Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy has instituted similar requirements for state workers. On Monday, he decried the GOP’s opposition to the statehouse rule as “reckless.”

The disagreement comes as congressional Republicans opposed to President Joe Biden’s vaccination rules in Congress are poised to stall a must-pass funding bill. The Biden administration has pursued vaccine requirements on several groups of workers, but the effort is facing one setback after another in legal cases.

NJ Woman Returns Home After Battling COVID for 7 Months

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It was a homecoming more than half a year in the making for a New Jersey woman who was finally released from the hospital after battling COVID-19 for seven and a half months and nearly dying in the process.

Friends and family welcomed Joanne Masciocchi, 65, with flowers, food and hugs when she returned to her neighborhood in Berlin, New Jersey, on Thursday. 

“It’s just unbelievable,” said Masciocchi’s daughter, Danielle Masciocchi. “It’s been seven and a half months and we’re just dreaming about getting her back here. The fact that it’s happening now is unbelievable.”

It was a moment that both Masciocchi and her loved ones feared would never come. 

“She’s a miracle,” Maria Dougherty, Masciocchi’s sister, told NBC10. “She fought her way back and she’s truly a miracle.” 

Masciocchi, a former educator in Lindenwold and Winslow Township, said she doesn’t remember much about her time in the hospital. 

”I was on a ventilator,” she said. “I was on a feeding tube. Oxygen.” 

She told NBC10 she credits God and her late mother the most with helping her survive. 

“I was almost dead several times so that’s what I attribute it to,” she said. 

For Masciocchi and her family, this Christmas will be especially meaningful as they celebrate the gift of life. 

“I never thought it was going to happen,” Masciocchi said. “Especially for Christmas.” 

Masciocchi’s daughter called her mom’s return a “Christmas miracle.”

“I know it sounds cheesy but it really is,” she said. 

Masciocchi told NBC10 she was about to get vaccinated but caught COVID-19 before she got the chance to. After her experience, she strongly suggests that others get vaccinated if they haven’t done so already.

Man Dies in Apparent Road Rage Shooting After Route 1 Fender Bender

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What to Know

  • Philadelphia police say a man died after being shot following a fender bender on the Roosevelt Boulevard Extension in Philadelphia’s East Falls neighborhood Thursday night.
  • Eddie Rodriguez was riding as a passenger in his brother’s car when they were struck, pulled over and then one of four masked men in the other car opened fire, police say.
  • Investigators urged anyone with dashcam video or who might have witnessed the killing to contact them.

A man was shot and killed while riding with his brother in an apparent road rage incident after a fender bender along Philadelphia’s busy Roosevelt Boulevard Extension.

“It appears to be road rage that escalated into a shooting that escalated into a homicide,” Philadelphia Police Chief Inspector Scott Small said of the Thursday night incident along Route 1 near Fox Street in the East Falls neighborhood.

Police responded to the southbound lanes of the Boulevard Extension around 6:30 p.m. to find 21-year-old Eddie Rodriguez unresponsive — shot in the left side of his chest — in the front passenger seat of an Acura, police said. Officers rushed Rodriguez — who was from the Olney neighborhood — to the hospital where he died a short time later.

The driver told police that he was driving with his brother south when another vehicle struck the rear bumper of their car.

“The victims pulled over in order to exchange information,” Small said.

At that time the other car pulled up next to them and one of the people in that car fired two shots into the other car, police said.

The driver then drove off southbound on Route 1.

Investigating officers found evidence that two bullets were fired, including casings on the side of the road and two bullet holes in the car, Small said.

Police could only say that the shooter fired from a dark-colored car that had four masked men inside, Small said.

Route 1 is normally busy at the time that the shooting took place. Investigators urged anyone with dashcam video that may have captured the deadly shooting or saw something at the time to reach out to police.

As of Friday morning, at least 513 people have died by homicide in Philadelphia, a 12% increase from the same time last year and the deadliest year on record in the city.

There are additional resources for people or communities that have endured gun violence in Philadelphia. Further information can be found here.

2 Men Found Dead in Stairwell to Apartment Basement in Philly

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Two men were found shot dead in a stairwell leading to the basement of an apartment in Philadelphia’s Mayfair neighborhood Friday morning.

Police said the men, who appeared to be between 20 and 30 years old, sustained multiple gunshots. Various officers and homicide investigators could be seen in the daylight surrounding the stairwell of the apartment on the 4000 block of Passmore Street.

The shooting happened around 4:50 a.m. and paramedics pronounced the men dead at the scene 20 minutes later, police said. Neighbors told NBC10 they’d heard five to 10 gunshots.

One neighbor told NBC10 two men lived downstairs in the apartment.

Police did not immediately identify the men or say what may have led to the shooting.

Driven by Weddings, Bucks County Hotels Report Record Fall Numbers

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Bucks County posted record-breaking hotel industry metrics this fall driven by increased travel and pent-up demand in the local wedding sector, reports the Philadelphia Business Journal.

The county saw its highest September hotel occupancy on record at 74.4%, said Paul Bencivengo, COO at Visit Bucks County. That was accompanied by an average daily room rate of $119.07.

Previously, Bucks County’s best September for the lodging sector was in pre-pandemic 2019, when occupancy reached 71.1% and the average daily rate climbed to $106.31, Bencivengo said to PBJ.com.

Similar high demand was demonstrated this October. Despite the ongoing pandemic, occupancy reached 73.3% — only slightly below the October record of 73.5% set in 2019, per Visit Bucks County. Average daily room rate in October climbed to $121.95, besting the previous record for that month of $107.92 set in 2018. 

PBJ.com breaks down how the industry records come even with Bucks County’s hotel room supply more robust than in years past, indicating an appetite for travel in the area.

Keep up with all your business news at the Philadelphia Business Journal.

Details Emerge in Plane Crash That Killed NYC Man Who Flew to Space With Shatner

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Federal investigators have released some details on the small plane crash in New Jersey that killed two people, including a New York City man who weeks before his death flew to space with William Shatner.

The Nov. 11 crash in a wooded area near Sussex County’s Hampton Township took the life of 49-year-old Glen de Vries of New York City, who had traveled to the edge of space aboard Blue Origin’s New Shepard spacecraft about a month before his death. Also killed was 54-year-old Thomas Fischer of Hopatcong, New Jersey.

De Vries was an instrument-rated private pilot, and Fischer owned a flight school. Authorities haven’t said who was piloting the single-engine Cessna.

A preliminary report released late Thursday by the National Transportation Safety Boards said de Vries and Fischer took off from Essex County Airport in Caldwell and flew for about 18 minutes, reaching an altitude of 6400 feet before the plane began “a steep descending left turn that continued until the flight track data was lost.”

A preliminary examination of the plane’s engine didn’t reveal any mechanical malfunctions or failures that would have prevented the normal operation of the plane, according to the report.

A final report listing a cause for the crash could take a year or more to complete.

De Vries founded Medidata Solutions, a software company specializing in clinical research, and was a trustee at Carnegie Mellon University. He traveled Oct. 13 aboard Blue Origin’s New Shepard spacecraft, spending more than 10 minutes in space after launching along with Shatner and others.

“It’s going to take me a while to be able to describe it. It was incredible,” de Vries said as he got his Blue Origin “astronaut wings” pinned onto his blue flight suit by Blue Origin founder Jeff Bezos.

“We are devastated to hear of the sudden passing of Glen de Vries,” Blue Origin tweeted upon learning of his death. “He brought so much life and energy to the entire Blue Origin team and to his fellow crewmates. His passion for aviation, his charitable work, and his dedication to his craft will long be revered and admired.”

De Vries was the vice-chair of life sciences and health care at Dassault Systemes, which acquired Medidata in 2019. He had taken part in an auction for a seat on the first flight and bought a seat on the second trip.

It was Blue Origin’s second scheduled passenger flight, using the same capsule and rocket that Bezos used for his own launch three months earlier. 

Fischer owned Fischer Aviation, a family-run flight school, and was its head instructor, according to public reports.

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‘What Evil Looks Like:' Man in Upper Darby Police Shootout Charged

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A man accused of killing his girlfriend, wounding another man and engaging in a shootout with police near a Delaware County SEPTA station was charged Friday with murder and attempted murder.

David Savage, 45, is charged with first-degree murder for slaying his girlfriend, Latoya Gary, inside her Upper Darby apartment, as well as four counts of attempted murder for wounding a man, shooting at another person and firing at two SEPTA Police Department officers, Delaware County District Attorney Jack Stollsteimer said.

“This was a brutal, brutal murder. This is what evil looks like. He put a gun to his girlfriend’s head, shot her in the head and killed her while she was in her apartment with her family members there present,” Stollsteimer said.

The shooting spree began Thursday morning when Savage went to Gary’s apartment on the 7000 block of Terminal Square and shot her dead, Upper Darby Police Department Superintendent Timothy Bernhardt said.

The suspect then fled the apartment, ran to nearby Market Street, shot a man once in the shoulder and neck area and then proceeded to the 69th Street Transportation Center, where he shot at people entering the terminal before turning his attention to the SEPTA police officers, Bernhardt said.

A criminal complaint described Savage as firing multiple rounds as the officers pulled up in their cruiser. The officers returned fire from inside the vehicle and Savage ran off, according to the complaint.

The officers gave chase and arrested him after a physical struggle, Bernhardt said, adding that it appeared the suspect seemed intent on having the officers fire at him.

“To the SEPTA police officers: I want to credit their bravery, their courage and their restraint that they had in dealing with that,” the superintendent added.

The wounded man is “doing well” while recovering at a hospital after being grazed by one of Savage’s bullets, Bernhardt said.

The chain of events seems to have stemmed from a case of domestic violence, the police superintendent and district attorney said. Police officers had been called to the apartment before for incidents between Savage and the victim, who was in her 40s, Bernhardt noted.

He urged anyone suffering from domestic violence to reach out to the Domestic Abuse Project of Delaware County for help.

Savage also has a past criminal record in Pennsylvania and New Jersey for aggravated assault, simple assault, making terroristic threats and weapons offenses, Bernhardt said. Because of his prior offenses, he is also being charged for being a felon in possession of a firearm, Stollsteimer added.

It was not immediately clear if Savage had retained an attorney who could comment on his behalf.

 If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic violence, contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline by calling 1-800-799-SAFE (7233), visiting www.thehotline.org or texting LOVEIS to 22522.


1st Omicron Cases Reported in Philadelphia, New Jersey

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A Philadelphia man has tested positive for the Omicron variant of COVID-19, making him the first case in the city and all of Pennsylvania to have what medical experts are examining as a potentially more transmissible version of the coronavirus, officials said Friday.

A New Jersey woman who lives Georgia was identified as the Garden State’s first positive test confirmation late on Friday, Gov. Phil Murphy said in a statement. She had recently traveled to South Africa, state officials said.

The Philadelphia man is in his 30s and from the northwestern section of the city, Mayor Jim Kenney said in a statement Friday afternoon. It is unknown when he tested positive or where he had recently traveled.

Pennsylvania and New Jersey became the seventh and eighth states to have positive tests confirmed for the Omicron variant, which in the last week has rattled the global economy, caused numerous countries to shut down borders to international travelers, and forced tighter testing requirements for returning citizens.

“The Omicron variant is among us and we need to take steps to stop its spread. It is vital that residents remain as vigilant as possible as we await more information about the variant,” Murphy said. “Vaccinations and mask wearing have proven to be an effective tool to reduce the spread of COVID-19, and I urge everyone ages 18 and over to receive a booster.”

The other states with Omicron cases are California, Colorado, Hawaii, Minnesota, Nebraska and New York.

Medical experts say they believe the variant is all around, despite the low current confirmations.

“It is not unexpected that we would see Omicron here in Philadelphia,” city Health Commissioner Dr. Cheryl Bettigole said in the statement. “Just because there is a case of this new variant here does not mean it’s too late to take precautions. There are things that you can do to protect yourself and your loved ones. This is not like when we first saw COVID cases. We know what works, and we’ve been doing a great job doing those things.”

Earlier this week, Bettigole said residents should "be very careful" in the days and weeks ahead as cold weather is already ushering in a "sharp uptick" in coronavirus cases in Philadelphia.

"In the past two weeks, Philadelphia and the surrounding counties continue to see a sharp uptick in cases of COVID-19," Bettigole said Wednesday. "It'll be another week or so before we see the full effects of the Thanksgiving holiday on these numbers, but with the colder weather and the recent spikes with a new variant on the horizon, this is a time to be very careful."

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What is Black Friday? Here's a Brief History

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Black Friday popularly signifies the conclusion of Thanksgiving and the beginning of the Christmas season in the U.S., with discount sales at retailers nationwide.

Many believe it came to be called “Black Friday” after business jargon referring to the point when a business is financially profiting or “in the black.” 

However, the first recorded use of the name came in the 19th century and referred to a much different financial turn of events.

Here are a couple possible ways “Black Friday” came into our vocabulary.

A financial disaster

The earliest trace of the name is from the late 19th century and has no association with Thanksgiving or Christmas. Rather, it was the name given to a devastating economic market crash.

In 1869, when gold was the currency used in international trade, a single investor wanted to gain as much gold as possible so he could control the market price. To prevent this, the US Treasury issued more than $4 million worth of gold, causing a significant drop in gold’s value. This ultimately shook the stock market and pushed many Wall Street firms into bankruptcy. 

The market’s crash, which occurred on a Friday in September, was dubbed “Black Friday” to signify the damaging events of the day. Being referred to as black, in this sense, was to represent the darkness of the circumstances.

Similarly, when the stock market crashed again in 1929, leading to the Great Depression, the day that started it all was Oct. 29, 1929, a Tuesday that came to be known as “Black Tuesday.”

A traffic nightmare

The origin of the name as we now know it was first used to reference anguish that was not financially related.

The term attributed to the day after Thanksgiving was first used just over half a century ago. A 1966 article from “The American Philatelist” magazine said ‘Black Friday’ was coined by Philadelphia police officers.

“It is not a term of endearment to (Philadelphia police),” the article reads. “‘Black Friday’ officially opens the Christmas shopping season in Center City, and it usually brings massive traffic jams and over-crowded sidewalks as the downtown stores are mobbed from opening to closing.”

By this account, the day after Thanksgiving was referred to as Black Friday due to the traffic jams and overcrowding in the city. 

Big financial gain for retailers

Other reports attribute the name to a positive—businesses profiting. A 1982 segment from ABC’s “World News Tonight” referenced the colors used in business operations.

“Some merchants label the day after Thanksgiving Black Friday because business today can mean the difference between red ink and black on the ledgers,” said anchor Dan Cordtz during the episode.

In traditional record-keeping ledger books, negative numbers would be written in red ink, while black ink was used to show profit.

The sales frenzy started on Black Friday could make a company’s whole year, and keep a business ‘in the black.’

The day remains exceptionally important for retailers. Even in the face of COVID-19 last year, Black Friday brought in more than $9 billion of profit for stores online across the nation. 

Man, 78, Gets a Day in Prison for Stealing Rare 1775 Rifle From Pa. Museum

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A Montgomery County man was sentenced to one day in prison for selling a rare, Revolutionary-era rifle that he stole from a Pennsylvania museum decades ago. 

Thomas Gavin, 78, of Pottstown, Pennsylvania, pleaded guilty in July to disposal of an object of cultural heritage stolen from a museum. 

Gavin admitted to stealing the Christian Oerter Rifle from the Valley Forge State Park Museum in 1971. The rifle is a rare surviving 1775 weapon made by Christian Oerter, a master gunsmith from the Christian Springs Philadelphia-area gun-making center.

Officials say the rifle is known to be one of two such rifles to have survived with its original flint mechanism bearing the maker’s name, site and date of manufacture. It’s worth more than $175,000. The other surviving Christian Oerter rifle is in the Royal Collection at Windsor Castle in England. 

In his guilty plea, Gavin admitted that he kept the rifle for more than 40 years and sold it in 2018, along with other items he stole from museums in the 1970s. 

Gavin was sentenced to one day in prison, three years of supervised release with the first year to be served on home confinement and a $25,000 fine. He was also ordered to pay $23,385 in restitution. 

“Stealing an artifact from a museum – literally a piece of American history – is a serious federal offense,” U.S. Attorney Jennifer Williams said. “After four decades, justice finally caught up with this defendant. Thanks to the work of our law enforcement partners, the Christian Oerter rifle is safely back where it can be enjoyed by all Americans.”

‘Sense of Lawlessness': With 500 Killings, 2021 Is Deadliest in Philly History

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When Jamal Johnson started his hunger strike against the gun violence endemic in Philadelphia on Martin Luther King Jr. Day in January, he said there were 27 murders at the time.

He ended his 26-day hunger strike after Mayor Jim Kenney finally agreed to meet with Johnson to talk about new steps by the city to address rampant gun violence.

“No one else took it very seriously at the time. Now that we’re at 500, I think people have finally taken some notice,” Johnson told NBC10 in an interview this week, referencing the grim milestone in Philadelphia’s long history as police announced there have been 500 killings since the start of 2021.

The 500th murder took place late Wednesday afternoon when a 55-year-old woman was shot three times in the chest at 7th and Jackson streets in South Philadelphia. She was taken to Jefferson Hospital where she was later pronounced dead. No arrests have been made. Police believe the gunman was the victim’s husband.

Surveillance video shows the gunman casually walking away with the gun still in his hand moments after the shooting.

Wednesday’s incident was the latest in a string of recent murders in Philadelphia in which women were the victims.

Last Friday a 24-year-old woman was gunned down in front of her twin 4-year-old sons by her ex-boyfriend, according to investigators. Over the weekend, a 32-year-old woman who was seven months pregnant died, along with her unborn child, after someone shot her in the head and stomach as she unloaded gifts from her baby shower.

With more than a month to go before the end of the year, the city’s homicide total seems likely to surpass the 500 murders seen in 1990, which was previously the deadliest year in Philly’s recorded history.

“I never stop thinking about the victims and their families and the incredible loss these senseless deaths leave behind. And as we enter this holiday season, I can’t help (but) think of all the incredible potential that has been extinguished by the loss of life,” Kenney said Wednesday as he and other city and community leaders underscored the scourge of gun violence in Philadelphia.

Kenney later released a statement on the 500th homicide.

The alarming rise in killings during the COVID-19 pandemic prompted officials to redouble violence prevention methods.

In June, Philadelphia’s city council approved a fiscal 2022 budget that invests over $155 million in violence prevention programs to help curb the city’s escalating gun violence. That sum includes $22 million in grants for organizations focused on “reducing violence through trauma-informed healing and restorative practices and safe havens and mentorship.”

The new city budget also funds a $400 million program to create affordable housing, preserve neighborhoods, increase job growth, supports anti-poverty measures and continue police reform. It also gives additional funds to revitalize the city’s arts, culture and hospitality sectors.

Philadelphia officials, however, have also been hamstrung by Pennsylvania’s preemption law, which prevents cities from creating and enforcing local gun ordinances. The city is currently engaged in a lawsuit that seeks to allow municipalities to enforce their own local gun control measures. Oral arguments are scheduled for June 9.

Efforts to stem violent crime in Philadelphia have extended beyond the city.

At the state level, Gov. Tom Wolf has urged community-based violence prevention groups to apply for millions of dollars in state grants while also calling for tighter gun control laws. He recently has vowed to veto bills passed by the Republican-controlled Pennsylvania Legislature that would loosen gun laws.

At the federal level, President Joe Biden’s administration chose Philadelphia as one of 15 cities across the country to take part in a collaborative effort to share violence prevention strategies.

But while Philadelphia Police Department statistics show overall violent crimes in 2020 dropped compared to 2019 – after a rise from 2018’s levels – and while the current rate of overall violent crime is down compared to the year prior, the number of killings has risen.

“The people I talk with every day have a sense of lawlessness in their neighborhoods. They feel like the people who do get caught get off and those who don’t get caught are just doing it over and over again. They feel our government has given up,” Johnson, who held the hunger strike, said.

Now, 2021 figures to be the city’s deadliest year thus far.

“Each and every homicide carries with it a profound sense of loss,“ Philadelphia Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw. “However, for our City to have reached such a tragic milestone - 500 lives cut short - it carries a weight that is almost impossible to truly comprehend."

You can read the rest of Outlaw's statement below.

There are additional resources for people or communities that have endured gun violence in Philadelphia. Further information can be found here.

If you or someone you know is facing domestic violence, call the National Domestic Violence hotline for help at (800) 799-SAFE (7233) or go to www.thehotline.org for more. States often have domestic violence hotlines, as well.

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Teen Girl Injured After Gunmen Open Fire on Car Full of Women

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A 15-year-old girl was injured after two gunmen opened fire at a car in Philadelphia Thursday night.

According to police, the shooting happened at the 1100 block of Kater Street, when two gunmen approached a car with four passengers, including a 10 year-old-girl, while it was pulling out of a driveway and fired at least 40 shots.

Police say the bullets struck a 15-year-old girl in the right shoulder, while the other passengers were unharmed.

The teen was taken to the hospital and has since been placed in stable condition.

No arrests have been made and no weapons have been recovered. Police believe the car may have been targeted.

As of Thursday night, there have been 500 homicides in Philadelphia so far this year, making 2021 one of the deadliest in the city’s recorded history.

There are additional resources for people or communities that have endured gun violence in Philadelphia. Further information can be found here.

Man Shot, Killed by Stray Bullet While Eating Thanksgiving Dinner

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Police are investigating after a man was shot and killed while eating Thanksgiving dinner inside his Montgomery County home Thursday night.

According to Montgomery County District Attorney Kevin R. Steele, the shooting took place at around 9:30 p.m. on the 1100th block of Arch Street in Norristown, while the victim, Edilberto Miguel Pelaez Moctezuma, 25, was sitting at the table eating dinner with his family.

Police say Moctezuma was not the intended target. Instead, they say, the shooting was connected to another incident that happened earlier in the day on Haws Avenue, when Kevon Clarke, 19, and his girlfriend, Jacqueline Brown, were asked to leave a party hosted by Brown’s cousin.

Kevon Clarke, 19, has been charged for the murder of Moctezuma.

Investigators say that after being asked to leave the reunion, Clarke allegedly stole some alcohol, prompting Brown’s cousin to text them asking for it back.

Clarke later arranged to meet the cousin outside Clarke’s home but when the cousin arrived, a shooting occurred.

Kevon Clarke, 19, has been charged for the murder of Pelaez Moctezuma, 25, inside his Norristown home Thursday night. 

Through the use of surveillance video, police determined that the shot fired into Moctezuma’s residence came from Clarke.

Police have now issued an arrest warrant against Clarke and have charged him with first degree murder. An investigation is ongoing.

Police Arrest Man Linked to Murder of Woman in South Philly

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Philadelphia Police have now arrested a person of interest connected to an homicide that happened in South Philadelphia earlier this week.

According to police, the man was arrested after hours of barricading himself inside a home on the 500 block of N. Gross Street in West Philadelphia Friday morning.

The man is a person of interest in connection to the death of 55-year-old Eloise Harmon, who died after being shot three times in the chest at 7th and Jackson streets in South Philadelphia Wednesday.

Surveillance video showed the gunman casually walking away with the gun still in his hand moments after the shooting.

Harmon became Philadelphia’s 500th homicide, tying 2021 to 1990 as the deadliest year on record.

There are additional resources for people or communities that have endured gun violence in Philadelphia. Further information can be found here.

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Person Found Dead in Burning Car Near Philadelphia Water Ice Stand

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A person was found dead inside a burning car parked near a Philadelphia water ice stand Saturday morning.

Authorities initially said no crash preceded the blaze near the intersection of Adams and Castor avenues, but police later confirmed the car hit a fence and parked vehicle before crews responded around 2 a.m.

The intersection where the body was found is surrounded on all sides by row homes.

The identity of the victim was not immediately available as police conducted their investigation.

3 Hurt in Allentown Hit-and-Run

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Three people were hurt, with one still recovering at a hospital, after being struck by a vehicle in Allentown Friday night.

The three pedestrians were struck a little before 10:40 p.m. at the intersection of N. Dauphin Street and Allentown Drive, Allentown Police Department Capt. of Training/Special Services Alicia Conjour said in a news release Saturday.

Paramedics transported all three victims to a hospital. Two had “relatively minor” injuries and were released, while the third had serious injuries but was in stable condition at the hospital and was expected to recover, Conjour said.

Police did not provide a description of the vehicle involved in the collision, but anyone with information was asked to contact Sgt. Eric Stauffer at 610-437-7732, ext. 2326.

2 Philly Police Officers and Woman Hurt in Crash

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Two Philadelphia police officers and a woman suffered minor injuries following a crash Sunday afternoon. 

The two 22nd District officers were traveling eastbound on Lehigh Avenue at 1:35 p.m. with their lights and sirens on when they crashed into a white Chrysler 200 that was traveling southbound on 22nd Street. 

Both officers were taken to Temple University Hospital with non-life-threatening injuries. The woman who was driving the Chrysler was also taken to Temple after complaining of side pain. 

Officials have not yet revealed the cause of the crash.

Turnovers Doom Eagles in Bad Loss to New York Giants

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Hurts, Reagor drag Eagles back to Earth in Roob’s Obs originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

Back to reality for the Eagles, whose late-season run to an unlikely playoff berth took a big hit Sunday with an ugly 13-7 loss to an awful Giants team at MetLife Stadium.

After winning three of four, the Eagles fell to 5-7 with five games left. Safe to say making the playoffs won’t be a big topic around the NovaCare Complex this week. Trying to fix the passing game will be.

Here’s our 10 Instant Observations from East Rutherford: 

1. Boston Scott will get the blame, and that fumble at midfield 1:34 was inexcusable. The Eagles were already down Jordan Howard and Miles Sanders at that point, but Scott isn’t a rookie and he can’t get stripped with the game on the line 50 yards from the game-winning touchdown. But that’s not why the Eagles lost this game. They lost because for most of the 60 minutes against the Giants they didn’t make plays on offense and they didn’t make plays on defense and I don’t care who you’re playing or what their record is or who’s injured, if you turn the ball over four times, don’t force any turnovers, drop a touchdown and another near TD in the final seconds, let Daniel Jones convert big 3rd downs, don’t get the ball in the hands of your best receivers, don’t get any pressure and commit costly penalties, you’re going to lose. No matter who you’re playing. The last few weeks were good ones for the Eagles, but this is a reminder that they haven’t yet arrived. They’re 5-7, that playoff dream is slipping away and there’s still an awful lot of work to do to turn this thing around.

2. These are the types of games that make you wonder about Jalen Hurts, and his future, and whether he can be The Guy, because as exciting as can be and as brilliant a runner as he is, he has to be able to make plays in the passing game against a bad defense like this Giants one, and on Sunday Hurts couldn’t do it.  The interception late in the first quarter didn’t seem to be his fault – it looked like Quez Watkins stopped his route – but the second one, with the Eagles at the goal-line just before halftime, was awful. Can’t make that throw. The third one was just a badly underthrown deep ball. We’ve talked all year about consistency. It’s not enough to make a splash play or two if the consistency isn’t there. And Sunday, Hurts threw into double coverage, didn’t handle pressure well, showed poor pocket awareness, missed wide-open guys, locked in on his first read and just never got into any kind of rhythm. His two best throws of the game may have been Jalen Reagor’s two unfathomable drops in the final minute. This was discouraging. This is a Giants team ranked 26th in defense and 25th in pass defense. I’m not ready to give up on Hurts or declare that he can’t be the quarterback moving forward. It’s one game. But he has to be a lot better than this.

3. As for Reagor … he’s just awful right now. He had two chances in the final few seconds and Hurts put the ball right there and he couldn’t catch either one. But that’s the kind of year it’s been for him. This team has had a lot of 1st-round busts, from Kenny Jackson, Jon Harris, Jerome McDougle and Fireman Danny up through Derek Barnett and Andre Dillard. But Reagor is really etching his name into the pantheon. He’s just brutal. Nick Sirianni has to shut him down, like Doug Pederson did with Nelson Agholor in 2016. I don’t care if you put a practice squad guy out there in place of him. He’s killing this team right now.

4. I absolutely hated that 3rd-and-goal call from the 1-yard-line with eight seconds left in the first half. Actually, the bigger issue was the previous play. With one timeout and 2nd-and-goal on the 2 at 12 seconds, you throw on second down and either score or stop the clock. If you don’t score, you run on third down and call timeout to set up the field goal. By running on second down, Nick Sirianni had to use his final timeout when the Giants stopped Sanders at the 1. Then the 3rd-down call is this lumbering Hurts rollout to his right and a throw into traffic? The play never had a chance. It was a brutal sequence, and it cost the Eagles points.

5. I guess I can’t come down too hard on the defense because they did only allow 13 points. But the inability of this D-line to get sacks is getting to the point of absurdity. Javon Hargrave got a sack on the Giants’ last play from scrimmage, when Jones basically took a knee. But other than that, nothing. This is a terrible Giants offensive line, and for Fletcher Cox, Barnett, Hargrave and Josh Sweat to not get any pressure on Jones is preposterous. But it’s happening week after week. In their last seven games, the d-line has eight sacks – six of them against the Lions. And it’s not like Jones is out there getting rid of the ball quickly. Yeah, they got some pressures and a couple big hits. That’s not good enough. The Eagles had the one token sack and no takeaways Sunday against the quarterback who commits turnovers more often than anybody else in the NFL. Thirteen points should be enough to win. But make a play. Somebody make a play.

6. How can Dallas Goedert and DeVonta Smith be targeted a combined three times? It just makes no sense. I’m all for spreading the ball around and getting other guys involved, and it was nice to see Kenny Gainwell catch some balls down the stretch. But Goedert and Smith combined for 22 yards, and that makes no sense.

7. Not much I can say about Nate Herbig. Jason Kelce has been so durable – hasn’t missed a start since October 2014 – it was unimaginable seeing him on the sideline. But that’s no excuse for those two damaging penalties Herbie committed. The first one wiped out a 24-yard Hurts run, and the second one wiped out a 21-yard Boston Scott touchdown. Herbig is in his third year and has 13 starts to his name. It was great to see Kelce come back in the game, but without those Herbig penalties, the Eagles probably win the game.

8. The Eagles’ inability to generate big plays on offense really caught up with them Sunday, even with the running game piling up yards once again. The Eagles didn’t have a 30-yard play against one of the NFL’s worst defenses, and they don’t have a 40-yard play since the Cowboys game two months ago. They have only eight 30-yard plays all year, and five were in their first four games. Dinking and dunking will only get you so far.

9. It’s crazy to look at the final stats and see 208 rushing yards and seven points. The Eagles are the first team to do that since 2012 and only the third since 1999. The last time the Eagles ran for 200 yards and only scored seven points was 1957. Against the Giants at Yankee Stadium. And that was without Howard and much of the game without Sanders. Running is great, and the Eagles won some games with a run-centric offense. But Sunday’s game was the best evidence yet that without a high-powered passing game it’s really hard to win in this league. And right now the Eagles are a long way from a high-powered offense.

10. I’ve been thinking about something Joe Banner tweeted the other day: Something to the effect of  “No team has ever won a Super Bowl with a quarterback who’s a better runner than passer.” That is true. I still believe Jalen Hurts can be a winning quarterback in the NFL, and I don’t think all the Eagles’ issues Sunday were his fault. Clearly they weren’t. But there are five games left this year and I really need to see growth in the passing game from Hurts. He can’t go out there and just put the ball up for grabs. He can’t take off and run when there are open receivers. He can’t throw behind guys. Maybe this is just a blip, but these next five games are critical for Hurts to show he can be a big-time passer in the NFL.

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Temple Student Shot Dead in North Philly During Robbery, DA's Office Says

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What to Know

  • Temple University student Samuel Sean Collington, of Prospect Park, Pennsylvania, was shot and killed Sunday afternoon along the 2200 block of North Park Avenue in North Philadelphia. He was just 21.
  • Collington’s mother called her son’s murder a “horrible injustice” and a “travesty like you have no idea.” She also said she’ll do anything to bring the person responsible to justice.
  • He was set to graduate from Temple in the spring, and worked as a fellow for the Philadelphia City Commissioners’ Office.

UPDATE (12:50 p.m., Nov. 29): Collington was killed in what video evidence appears to show as an attempted robbery or carjacking, according to the District Attorney’s office.

A Temple University political science major months from graduation was shot and killed off-campus in North Philadelphia Sunday afternoon after he returned from Thanksgiving break, and police are still searching for the gunman.

Samuel Sean Collington, 21, of Prospect Park, Pennsylvania, was shot at least twice in the chest outside his college apartment in the 2200 block of North Park Avenue at 1:32 p.m. The city District Attorney’s office said Monday that Collington was shot four or five times.

His mother, Molly Collington, said her son had just returned to North Philadelphia from his home in Delaware County with clean laundry following the long holiday weekend.

She called her son’s murder a “horrible injustice” and a “travesty like you have no idea” during an interview with NBC10. She also said she’ll do anything to bring the person responsible to justice.

Police did not give a motive for the shooting, but the DA’s office said Monday during a weekly update on gun violence that video evidence showed Collington was shot in what appeared to be a carjacking or robbery.

Collington appeared to fight back, the DA’s office said, but that was after he was already shot. More video evidence is still being examined, officials said.

Samuel Collington

Collington was shot at least twice in the chest. He was taken to Temple University Hospital where he was pronounced dead at 1:57 p.m. No weapons were recovered and no arrests have been made. Police have not released information on any suspects.

Collington was a senior political science student at Temple, the university said. He was set to graduate in the spring from the College of Liberal Arts.

“This is a tragedy in every sense of the word. Our thoughts are with the victim’s family, friends and the entire Temple community during this tremendously difficult time,” a spokesperson for the school wrote.

Collington was also a fellow in the office of the City Commissioner. 

“Samuel was an incredibly talented and engaged young man,” City Commissioner Omar Sabir wrote. “During his brief time with our office, Samuel exemplified an incredible passion for engaging voters and was an indispensable member of our team. Sam’s death is a tremendous loss for the City Commissioners and all who knew him.”

The shooting occurred about three to four blocks away from Temple’s campus. Neighbors told NBC10 several Temple students live in the area.

“We are deeply saddened by the death of Samuel Collington, and strongly condemn this and any acts of violence in our city,” a spokesperson for the Mayor’s Office said. “We grieve every life lost to violence, and we’re heartbroken for Samuel’s friends and family as they cope with this unimaginable loss. Our thoughts are with his loved ones, the Temple University community, and his colleagues in the City Commissioners’ Office.”

Mayor Jim Kenney called Collington’s killing a horrible case of “bad things happen to good people.”

“There is evil in this world,” Kenney said of the murder, adding that the gunman needs to be caught and put in jail for the rest of his life.

Kendall Stephens, a Temple student and friend of Collington’s, told NBC10 Collington cared deeply about his community and was fighting to end the same violence that took his life.

“This should never have happened to anybody,” Stephens said. “But especially someone who actually cared about the surrounding neighborhood. That is what’s so tragic about all of this.”

Stephens said Collington’s community advocacy extended to Harrisburg.

“He was on fire,” Stephens said. “The way he was able to talk to senators and build that political connection and able to reach across the aisle in a very nonpartisan way. It was fascinating to see.”

Robin Kolodny, the chair of Temple’s political science department, also said Collington was not a typical student.

“It’s not what, you know, a lot of college students would do,” Kolodny told NBC10. “In learning more about Sam I hope people will follow his example.”

So far this year there have been at least 506 homicides, making 2021 the deadliest year on record in Philadelphia. 

“There’s been a lot of chatter about we should have more police,” Kolodny said. “His friends are very clear that that’s not what Sam would’ve championed.”

Within a block from where Collington was killed, there have been four other armed robberies in the last month, including three around the same time of day.

“They’re acting out of desperation,” Stephens said. “They’re acting out of hopelessness. And those are the basic ingredients for violence. So we’re trying to instill hope back into these communities.”

If you have any information on the shooting, please call Philadelphia Police at 215-686-TIPS (8477).

There are additional resources for people or communities that have endured gun violence in Philadelphia. Further information can be found here.

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Mom Charged With Murder in Fatal Stabbing of Infant Daughter

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A mother who fatally stabbed her infant daughter at a southern New Jersey apartment complex has been charged with murder, authorities said.

Penns Grove police responded to the Penns Grove Gardens complex around 11 p.m. Friday after someone called 911 about a disturbance there, according to the Salem County Prosecutor’s Office.

The officers found Kristhie Alcazar, 26, of Penns Grove, and another person arguing. They also discovered the body of Alcazar’s 5-month-old daughter.

The child had stab wounds to her chest, and her death has been ruled a homicide, prosecutors said. The infant’s name has not been released.

No other injuries were reported in the incident, which remains under investigation, and a motive for the stabbing remains under investigation. It wasn’t known Saturday if Alcazar has retained an attorney.

Authorities have not said who Alcazar was arguing with or what sparked the dispute, but they said the child’s father was not home when the stabbing occurred.

Man Killed in North Philadelphia Hit-and-Run

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Police were looking for the driver involved in a hit-and-run that left a man dead in North Philadelphia early Saturday.

The driver fled after striking the man near the intersection of Ridge and Cecil B. Moore avenues around 4:40 a.m., police said. The victim, who was pronounced dead at Temple University Hospital shortly after 5 a.m., was identified as 64-year-old Raymond Hodgins.

Investigators temporarily roped off the intersection, where what appeared to be parts of the vehicle, as well as a shoe, lay on the ground.

Police said witnesses described the suspect vehicle as a gray sedan, later adding that it may have been a minivan.

Update: Police say they have arrested 27-year-old Tyreek Polite in relation to the incident. Polite how faces charges relating to Hodgins death.






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