Cops Nab Philly Man Accused of Slaying 3 in Random ‘Ambushes’

·2 min read
Spencer Platt/Getty
Spencer Platt/Getty

Philadelphia police say they’ve arrested the man suspected of stalking and killing three men in “random, ambush-style shootings” in recent weeks.

Derrick Jones, 21, was taken into custody Thursday after police raided an apartment he shares with his grandma and sister, authorities said. He now faces three counts of murder and related charges, according to police.

“This is a total random act of violence, which we may never get to the bottom of and uncover why,” said Philadelphia Police Capt. Jason Smith.

Smith said the 21-year-old suspect has been silent since being taken into custody.

There is no connection between Jones and the three victims, the police captain said. Detectives were able to determine that the slayings were connected, however, because Jones allegedly followed a near-exact script for both hits.

Smith said detectives were able to connect the killings—on June 28 and July 7—to Jones using security footage, which tracked the shootings themselves and Jones fleeing to his apartment.

The victim of the first shooting was identified as 20-year-old Zamir Syrus. Footage captured him getting on a public bus around 10 p.m. and deboarding 15 minutes later. Jones, meanwhile, boarded one stop before Syrus and got off one stop later, Smith said.

Once both were off the bus, police say Jones and Syrus walked toward each other from seperate directions. Once they passed each other, Jones turned around, pulled out a gun and ran toward Syrus while firing “several shots at the victim’s back,” Smith said.

Syrus was taken to a local hospital but died there.

The next shooting, on July 7, was eerily similar to the first. But this time, police say, Jones killed two men in the attack.

Justin Robert Smith, 20, and Tyheim Tucker, 21, hopped off a public bus in North Philadelphia around 10:40 p.m. Jones, also on the bus, stepped off a stop later, Smith said. From here, the second slaying is said to mirror the first, except neither Smith nor Tucker were taken to a hospital after being gunned down. They were pronounced dead at the scene.

If it weren’t for his arrest Thursday, Smith suggested Jones may have struck again soon. The raid of his apartment uncovered a Glock handgun outfitted with an extended magazine and 31 live rounds inside—the same caliber bullets that were used in the shootings, police said.

Smith said the handgun did not have a listed owner. He added that Jones was barred from legally owning weapons after he was busted stealing a vehicle and convicted of other firearm charges in 2019, crimes he was still on probation for at the time of the killings.

“The motive is unknown, but that is the burning question,” Smith said. “Why? Why did Mr. Jones murder, in cold blood, three males?”

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