Two children were in front-facing rooms of their home on Hummel Street last Friday afternoon when gunfire erupted in the street.
Their mother dropped to the floor in the dining room.
She remained calm because it wasn’t the first time the family heard gunfire on the block, according to her husband, who shared what happened with PennLive. He asked to be anonymous because he didn’t want to become a target.
Bullets damaged the front of his home, just feet away from where his daughter was reading a book. No bullets penetrated the walls. It was about 3:40 p.m. on Nov. 13.
The homeowner found blood on the sidewalk. His home video surveillance system recorded a vehicle driving by, with two shooters firing from the passenger side.
Later, two young men later showed up at the hospital with gunshot wounds, police said.
The shooting came amid a series of gun violence and homicides in the city, including some shootings that police believe are related to gang-activity.
That particular block of Hummel previously had a gang based there, and members often used the term “Hblock” in their Facebook names. That gang was frequently targeted in shootings earlier this year, just before COVID-19 hit.
Police Sgt. Kyle Gautsch said investigators were still trying to determine if gang activity played a role in the shooting on Hummel Street or if the crime was connected to any other shootings.
Several of the recent shootings, and a homicide Sunday on South 13th Street, were recorded by surveillance cameras. The footage is shocking, said Chief Deputy District Attorney Steve Zawisky.
“The shootings I’ve seen on video are absolutely reckless,” he said. “These guys shoot just to shoot. They don’t even look where they are shooting. It’s broad daylight. People are around. They simply don’t care.”
Zawisky said it was amazing to him that the wild gunfire hadn’t yet wounded an innocent bystander.
“The car will be around the corner and they return fire, just to return fire,” Zawisky said. “It’s insane.”
Tannon Herman, who lives in a historic mansion on South 13th Street as part of his Wildheart Ministries, saw a man shot to death in the parking lot next door from his surveillance video. He said he would be lying if he didn’t see it coming, because of his observations at the property next door.
Herman submitted a public comment to City Council this week, begging for the city’s help to address the property owned by SkyNet at 301. S. 13th Street.
He said the “property is nothing short of stereotypical slumlord behavior resulting in significant grievance toward the progress of the community.”
PennLive left a message for comment at SkyNet’s office Thursday but did not hear back.
Police repeatedly show up for calls at the property, but the city’s leadership hasn’t enacted any long-term solutions, Herman said. County dispatchers confirmed to PennLive that police were called 150 times to the property so far this year.
“There have been several police raids on this building. There have been well-known drug trafficking operations taking place there,” Herman said. “We have routinely cleaned on and around the property, collecting hundreds of used heroin needles just in the past six months. And, most recently, Sunday morning, a man was brutally gunned down in its parking lot taking his last breaths on the cold pavement near my children’s playhouse.”
The homicide was just one of two shootings near Herman’s home last weekend. In the other incident, someone fired shots behind his home and left the gun on the ground in the alley.
Like Herman, the homeowner on Hummel Street said he wasn’t shocked by the shooting after what he’s seen on his block He has lived there for more than a decade and said he’s very familiar with the activity in the neighborhood. He believes the recent shooting was targeted at a known “problem house” on the block.
Over the years, different people have rented different homes, he said, with different agendas. In the past, he has been able to report lawbreakers to their landlords, but he hasn’t been able to do that for every problem rental house on his block.
“It’s just unfortunate,” he said. “It’s a rotating door of drug dealers.”
When he first moved to the neighborhood, he knew there were drug dealers around but it wasn’t anything too crazy. He said about five years ago, a crew made themselves known including flashing guns. Many involved in that group were arrested, but others soon filled their shoes.
“They got pushed out and arrested,” he said. “Just more came and filled the vacuum. I don’t think it’s the same group, but they’re similar in style and brazenness.”
Gautsch agreed with the homeowner’s assessment.
“Yes, it is unfortunate,” Gautsch said. “We’ll lock up an individual, or individuals, and they are quickly replaced with another person out there selling narcotics. Also, it’s not uncommon to arrest someone selling drugs that is currently on bail for selling drugs.”
Around the community, the homeowner said neighbors who aren’t renters tend to have each other’s backs. There are some who still emphasize that he should mind his own business.
Living among regular gunshots doesn’t make him a happy homeowner, but he doesn’t necessarily feel unsafe. He does feel bad about people getting hurt or losing their lives.
“Obviously, I feel terrible that two people died in this city in four days,” he said, noting that he hadn’t heard any shots that day.
“Thank God that today is peaceful,” he said Monday. “Hopefully, it can remain so.”
Police said they are working overtime to quell the recent uptick in gun violence. The police commissioner asked the county for help, and District Attorney Fran Chardo said he authorized the county’s team of trained tactical officers to supplement the city’s force.
Members of area police departments who have been appointed as special detectives as part of their work on the county’s tactical team are working shifts in uniform alongside city officers, including on foot patrols.
Herman has noticed the foot patrols and applauded them. Some residents are afraid to go outside because of the occasional gunfire, but Herman said more residents need to get out outside as part of the solution.
“That’s what’s really needed,” he said. “People on the streets providing accountability.”
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