So good was the conversation in the cab that the driver, William Carney III, chuckled to himself while recalling it.
It certainly didn't suggest to the veteran Germantown Cab Company wheelman that his two passengers would attempt to rob him and in so doing, allegedly shoot his right arm from point-blank range.
On Thursday, Carney took the witness stand at a preliminary hearing for Jamal Perkins, the 21-year-old man who faced numerous charges including attempted murder in regard to the alleged shooting.
What he remembers
Driving eastbound on School House Lane near Germantown Ave., Carney was headed to get fuel when he saw two young black men looking for a ride at about 1:30 a.m. on June 4.
Entering the cab near the intersection of Kenyon and Armat streets, Perkins and another young man – Justin Mackie – told Carney they were looking for a ride to Mt. Airy. Carney told them he wouldn't turn the meter on until he topped off his tank at a nearby gas station on Chelten Avenue. They agreed.
Mackie did the most of the talking, carrying his end of the conversation so well that Carney testified that he had no idea what was coming next.
As they left the gas station, the two young men told Carney they wanted to go to Germantown Avenue and Hortter Street. They said they weren't sure of the destination, but that they would point out the house when they got there.
When they arrived at the 200 block of E. Hortter St., Mackie exited the cab and stood by the rear passenger-side door, smoking a cigarette. Assuming that Perkins was fumbling around for his wallet, Carney said that he heard Perkins – who was seated directly behind him – ask Mackie if he had a couple of extra dollars in order to leave a good tip.
The next thing Carney knew, a gun was pressed against the right side of his head, with Perkins allegedly ordering the driver to "Give it up."
"Are you serious," Carney replied, telling the gunman that he couldn't believe what was happening.
"You know what this is, O.G.," Perkins was said to have replied, at which point Carney grabbed the barrel of the gun.
During the ensuing struggle, Perkins told Mackie to go around the cab and take Carney's wallet. The driver then released the gun's barrel, and the weapon fired.
"I heard the shot," recalled Carney. "I felt the impact. I felt the wind of it."
Realizing his finger felt numb, Carney drove off. No money was taken during the incident.
The immediate aftermath
Knowing he needed medical attention, Carney began driving to the former Germantown Hospital, only realizing as he arrived that it was no longer functioning.
Blood was pouring from the bullet's exit- and entry-point wounds, so Carney removed the belt from his waist and fashioned a tourniquet to staunch the bleeding.
He turned around, and signaled to police patrolling the vicinity of the Chew and Chelten avenues that he was in need of medical attention. They placed him in a police car, and took him to nearby Albert Einstein Medical Center, where he stayed for 14 days, undergoing three operations.
Months later, Carney can't make a fist or open his fingers all of the way.
"My right arm doesn't work the way it used to," he declared in court on Thursday.
The back story
The suspect's name might sound familiar to NewsWorks readers: In August, Mackie was held for court on charges relating to this episode along with three murders over the summer in North and West Philadelphia.
Mackie, whose previous Germantown addresses were on the 5100 block of Greene St. and the unit block of East Coulter St., was shot by police who attempted to the arrest him and stepbrother Tevin Hammond, 21, in connection to one of the homicides.
Officers from the Major Crime Unit and FBI agents were on the 200 block of East Montana St. near Musgrave St. just after 1 p.m. on July 22 to make the arrests when the suspects apparently saw them.
They reportedly tried to flee through the rear of a home, shooting at police in the attempt. Officials at the scene said that police returned fire multiple times, striking the two suspects.
Hammond was pronounced dead at the scene. Mackie, reportedly shot five times, was taken by medics to AEMC. No police were injured in the exchange.
In October, Perkins was held for trial on numerous charges stemming from a robbery spree that spanned Northwest Philadelphia, from East Falls to East Mt. Airy.
The suspect's demeanor
On Thursday, Perkins – who previously had outbursts regarding his attorney and a subsequently-withdrawn plea deal at two previous hearings – was motionless and silent.
His newly appointed attorney, Lori Mach, argued to Judge Frank Brady that while the episode met the requirements for aggravated assault, the attempted-murder charge was unnecessary given the likelihood of an accidental discharge.
Assistant District Attorney Marian Galietta responded that Perkins allegedly pressed the firearm against Carney's head with his finger on the trigger, knowing that it was loaded.
"It's absolutely intent to kill," said Galietta. "If [Carney] didn't speed off, the injuries could have been much worse."
Ruling on behalf of the prosecution, Brady held Perkins for court on charges of attempted murder, conspiracy, aggravated assault and firearms offenses.
Perkins will stand for yet another preliminary hearing on four remaining robbery counts on Jan. 21.