Several Arrested After Gunfire Erupts at Philadelphia Holiday Event

PHILADELPHIA — What was meant to be a joyous celebration marking the end of Ramadan turned into panic on Wednesday in Philadelphia after opposing groups exchanged gunfire, leaving at least three people injured and hundreds of parents and children fleeing to find safety.

The annual Eid al-Fitr event, held outside a large mosque in the city’s Parkside neighborhood, came to an abrupt end when approximately 30 shots rang out around 2:30 p.m., Philadelphia police said.

Five people were later taken into custody, including a 15-year-old boy who sustained leg and shoulder wounds when he was shot by police and was taken to the hospital by an officer, authorities said. Police said he was carrying a gun.

Additionally, one man was shot in the stomach and a juvenile victim had a wound to the hand, police said.

Philadelphia Police Commissioner Kevin Bethel confirmed at a news conference that a police vehicle responding to the 911 calls for help struck a 15-year-old girl who was fleeing the park. He said the child suffered a leg injury.

Witnesses described running to tents set up near the park, hiding behind trees and dropping to the pavement to avoid the gunfire, trying to shield children. Other attendees ran inside the nearby school and mosque and began frantically searching for their children and loved ones.

Authorities said nearly 1,000 people attended the event. Several witnesses said they came back to the park hours after the shooting to try to find their shoes or cellphones after running several streets away to safety.

“Ninety-nine percent of the people attending this event were good people who wanted to have a good time,” Bethel said, noting that city officials were offering their support to the Islamic community.

Police investigated the aftermath late Wednesday afternoon at Clara Muhammad Square, which was strewn with debris including blankets, strollers, coolers and a number of shoes, left behind by celebrants. A doll with a plastic wrapper nearby lay abandoned in the grass near a playground surrounded by police tape and guarded by officers. A few tables with aluminum containers of food to break the fast of Ramadan sat in the middle of the park, surrounded by yellow crime scene tape. Two tubs of melted bright red water ice were spilled onto the sidewalk.

Around 4 p.m., members of the Masjid began pushing large brooms to clean up the debris left in the street and on the sidewalk. A handful of young women dressed in bright colors picked up valuables—a bag, a cellphone, shoes—and set them aside for people to claim. Others waited for police to allow them to gather their purses or lawn chairs from the park.

Zania Weatherford had just gone to her car for a moment when she heard the gunfire and saw people running across the street. She called relatives at the event to make sure they were safe.

“Last year, someone set off firecrackers and scared everyone,” Weatherford said. “This is just a celebration of life for God to forgive us for our sins. There’s one month that God chains the devil down, so whoever did this can’t even blame the devil.”

Thomas Allen, who was at the Philadelphia Masjid located next the park, said the scene during the shooting was “pandemonium.”

“And we’re hearing that they were children, you know, they were children. And it’s a sad thing,” Allen said, referring to the suspects.

“All my years of living in Philadelphia, I’ve never seen nothing like this, especially at the masjid,” he said. “Just as much crime as it may be in Philadelphia. It was always separated from the masjid.”

The motive for the shooting was not immediately clear. The suspects include four males and a female, Bethel said.

Eid al-Fitr is an Islamic holiday marking the end of Ramadan, the month when devout Muslims fast daily from dawn to sunset. Ramadan is a time of increased worship, charity, and good deeds. Eid al-Fitr means the feast, or festival, of breaking the fast.