One of the five slain victims of the Philadelphia mass shooter was killed by the suspect nearly two days before the shooting spree took place, investigators said on Sunday.
“During the ongoing investigation, it has been determined through information received through a source and corroborated by the Philadelphia Medical Examiner’s Office and additional evidence; that homicide victim Joseph Wamah, Jr. was killed by suspect Kimbrady Carriker approximately 44 hours before the mass shooting incident that occurred on 7/3/23 at 8:28 PM,” a Philadelphia Police spokesperson wrote on Sunday.
Police said they first received a 911 call around 2 a.m. on the morning of July 2 reporting gunshots in the area of 1600 South 56th Street. Investigators believe Wamah Jr., 31, was murdered about 90 minutes later. The 911 call was dispatched to the 1600 block of North 56th Street where responding officers searched the block but had negative results for the reported gunshots.
“Because this call was entered as 1600 North 56th Street, Philadelphia Police Radio was unable to immediately identify any calls for reports of gunshots in the area of 1600 South 56th Street,” the Philadelphia Police spokesperson wrote.
Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner also released a statement Sunday on the new details in the investigation.
“The grieving family of the deceased has been briefed on this new information, and I cannot express enough the sorrow I feel — and that surely all the officers and detectives working on this investigation must feel — that these developments may be confusing and re-traumatizing for Mr. Wamah’s loved ones,” Krasner wrote. “This new information, however, has not changed the number or type of charges we have filed against defendant Carriker: the Commonwealth alleges that he is responsible for the death of Mr. Wamah on July 2, 2023. This new information will lead the Commonwealth to amend or modify the timing alleged in the complaint against Carriker for the murder of Mr. Wamah from July 3, 2023, to July 2, 2023.”
Kimbrady Carriker, 40, was arraigned Wednesday morning on five counts of murder, attempted murder, aggravated assault and weapons counts of possession without a license and carrying firearms in public, prosecutors said. Carriker is accused of killing Wamah, who was later found dead inside a house, and then gunning down four others before surrendering to police.
A 2-year-old boy and a 13-year-old youth were also wounded by gunfire and another 2-year-old boy and a woman were hit by shattered glass in the rampage that made the working-class area in southwest Philadelphia the site of the nation’s worst violence around the July Fourth holiday.
Joanne Pescatore, supervisor of the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office Homicide and Non-Fatal Shooting Unit, said at least one of the seven roommates who lived with Carriker told investigators he was wearing a bulletproof vest in the days before the shooting and had the guns he later used in the shooting in the house. Pescatore said the roommate described him as being more and more agitated in recent days.
“Their way of dealing with it was just to avoid contact with him … as he became more and more agitated,” she said at a news conference Wednesday, just blocks from where the shootings took place.
District Attorney Larry Krasner declined to discuss the suspect’s mental health when asked whether it might have factored into the killings, but said he expected that the defense would request an evaluation.
A representative of the Defender Association of Philadelphia said he believed the office would be representing Carriker, but declined to comment further.
Prosecutors said they recovered a handgun, a will dated June 23 and other evidence during a search of Carriker’s home. They declined to discuss details of the will or whether it indicated that Carriker had been planning the attack.
Police initially took another person who had fired shots at Carriker Monday night into custody, but prosecutors said Wednesday that person legally possessed a firearm and fired at the mass shooting suspect after his brother was shot. He was released without charges.
Court records show Carriker pleaded guilty in January 2005 to a misdemeanor charge of carrying a firearm without a license and was sentenced to three years of probation.
At a separate news conference Wednesday afternoon to announce a lawsuit filed by the city of Philadelphia against several makers of self-made gun kits and gun parts, officials said that both guns found on Carriker after he was taken into custody appeared to be self-manufactured — commonly called ghost guns.
Philadelphia Police Deputy Commissioner Frank Vanore said the AR-15 used in the shooting and a 9mm handgun Carriker was carrying, but which wasn’t used during the spree, were ghost guns.
“So if he would have dropped that weapon and got away, we would have had no way to trace that weapon back to him,” Vanore said.
The news conference and lawsuit were announced before Monday’s shooting. Mayor Jim Kenney said Wednesday that the city has seen a nearly 300% increase in ghost guns recovered during police investigations over the past four years, including 575 recovered in 2022.
Police called to the Kingsessing neighborhood Monday night found gunshot victims and started to help them before hearing more shots. Some officers rushed victims to hospitals while others ran toward the gunfire.
Staff Inspector Ernest Ransom, the homicide unit commander, said witness interviews and video indicated the suspect went to several locations in a ski mask and body armor, carrying an AR-15-style rifle and shooting people and occupied cars at random. Carriker’s gender identity was initially unclear due to photos he posted of himself on social media wearing what appeared to be women’s attire.
“The suspect then began shooting aimlessly at occupied vehicles and individuals on the street as they walked,” he said. The vehicles included a mother driving her 2-year-old twins home — one of whom was shot four times in the legs and the other who was hit in the eyes by shattered glass.
Cornered in an alley, Carriker surrendered and was found to have two guns, extra magazines, a police scanner and a bulletproof vest, police said.
Aside from Wamah Jr. who was found dead in a home early Tuesday, Philadelphia police identified the victims as Lashyd Merritt, 20; Dymire Stanton, 29; Ralph Morales, 59; and DaJuan Brown, 15 — all pronounced dead shortly after the Monday night gunfire.
Asa Khalif, a member of the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office LGBTQ+ Advisory Committee, said Wednesday there have since been hateful comments aimed at transgender people because of the photos Carriker posted online.
“The suspect has not identified themselves as trans. They have only identified themselves as male,” Khalif said. “But the language spewed out by the conservative press is violent and dangerous and targeting trans women of color. It’s rallying the community to be violent.”
Krasner said the streets surrounding where the shootings occurred were silent Wednesday. He noted seeing a child’s bike on the ground untouched since the shootings.
Zaffer Qasim, an emergency physician at Penn Presbyterian Medical Center, where many of the victims were taken Monday night for treatment, declined to discuss individual victims or their treatment but noted the “degree of injury from the style of weapon that was used … and the amount of damage.”
“I said before we started that bullets don’t care who you are. And it’s not just the victims, but it spreads to the families in the family rooms and to the community,” he said. “As the district attorney noted, the streets are now empty because people are scared to go out in the streets.”
Gun violence in Philly
Entering Sunday, Philadelphia had reported 219 homicides so far in 2023, according to police data. That’s down about 22% from the same time the previous year, which was one of the deadliest on record in Philadelphia.
Children have made up about 11% of the bout 953 shooting victims so far this year in Philadelphia, according to data released by the City Controller’s Office, which was last updated Thursday.