Shooting of 10-year-old boy is the latest sign of Philadelphia's surge in violent crime

Jorge L. Ortiz, USA TODAY

The shooting of a 10-year-old boy walking home from school is the latest tragedy in the escalating problem of violent crime in Philadelphia.

Semaj O’Branty, a student at Sullivan elementary school in the city’s Frankford section, was in critical but stable condition at a hospital Thursday, a day after being shot in the back of the head by a stray bullet. Police say he was caught in the crossfire between a shooter in a red Pontiac G6 who escaped and the intended target, who was apprehended.

Police released pictures of the car after obtaining surveillance video of the gunfire, which happened at 3:13 p.m. near where the boy lives. Hours earlier, Mayor Jim Kenney had called for stricter federal and state gun-control laws to help cities counter violent crime.

Semaj underwent surgery Thursday and is expected to survive, but the incident adds to a worrisome list of recent shootings that have victimized children in Philadelphia. The city has registered its highest number of homicides to date in 12 years.

“Folks have just had enough,’’ acting Police Commissioner Christine Coulter told TV station WPVI. “There’s never an excuse to open fire in an area a block from a school where kids are out there. It should never happen.’’

Police officers carrying assault rifles respond to a shooting on August 14, 2019 in Philadelphia, which has registered its highest number of homicides to date since 2007.

Perhaps the most appalling killing in a recent spree happened three weeks ago, during a horrific weekend in which a 2-year-old girl was shot to death after a gunman fired into her North Philadelphia home. Also wounded were the girl's mother and a man at the house.

The previous day, an 11-month-old baby inside a moving car was shot four times but survived.

“Outraged, disgusted, and heartbroken by the violence this weekend that claimed the life of an innocent 2-year-old and left another infant fighting for his life,’’ Kenney tweeted Oct. 20.

A monetary fix? Joe Biden to call for spending $900 million to curb urban gun violence, aides sayHe followed that same day with another tweet that said, “Philadelphians should not live in fear of violence that could take away a child’s life. But for too many, this is a sad reality. With the unabated flow of illegal guns and drugs, we must do whatever we can locally to address violence and help residents.’’

Also in October, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported that a woman fatally shot her two daughters, ages 4 and 10 months, and her husband before turning the gun on herself but surviving. Later in the month, a 7-year-old was among four family members killed at a West Philadelphia home.

The 303 homicides in the city so far in 2019 represent a 7% increase compared to the same time last year and the highest such figure since 344 in 2007.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Philadelphia violent crime surging; 10-year-old boy latest victim