Two friends were killed in two related shootings a short distance away and just hours apart -- one of which was witnessed by a Pennsylvania House candidate who spoke with the victim only moments before his death Sunday.
Chris Rabb, a Democratic candidate running for state representative of Pennsylvania’s 200th legislative district, was canvassing on the 1400 block of Vernon Road in Philadelphia around 3:30 p.m. Rabb's campaign manager told NBC10 the candidate introduced himself to a 21-year-old man who was in the area and they had a conversation.
The man, later identified as Alex Cherry, told Rabb he wanted to work the polls during Pennsylvania's primary Tuesday and was interested in his platform, according to the campaign manager. A volunteer with Rabb then took down Cherry's number. As Rabb and his volunteer walked away a gunman suddenly walked up to Cherry and shot him in the head at point-blank range, according to police. The gunman -- described as a man standing around 6-feet tall with short hair -- then returned to shoot Cherry two more times, said police.
"I asked my colleague to get his information," Rabb said. "And moments after we got his information he was shot in the head. I don't wish that on anyone."
Rabb managed to pull his volunteer to safety into a nearby store. Cherry was pronounced dead at the scene at 3:43 p.m. [[376917841, C]]
"I seen all the police cars but I had no idea that it was someone in my family," said Vyvyan Harris, Cherry's aunt. "But then my nephew walks over to me and says, 'Aunt Viv. He's gone.'"
Neither Rabb nor his volunteer were injured. Police also say they were not the gunman's intended targets. The campaign manager told NBC10 Rabb was "beyond devastated" by the shooting. Rabb was later interviewed by homicide detectives.
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The gunman was last seen fleeing on foot southbound on the 7900 block of Fayette Street. Police have not released a detailed physical description of the suspect but say he was wearing a light grey hooded sweatshirt.
A few hours later around 7:30 p.m., about a block away on the 8000 block of Temple Road, Cherry's friend, 18-year-old Elijah Frazier, was struck and killed in a shooting. A gunman started shooting at a crowd of people after getting out of a red sport utility vehicle, investigators said.
A bullet struck Frazier in the back while a 17-year-old boy was grazed in the head. Surveillance video captured Frazier stumbling into a nearby Chinese take-out and then collapsing to the ground. He was rushed to Einstein Hospital where he later died from his injuries. The 17-year-old is expected to recover.
Frazier and Cherry were friends, a police source with knowledge of the investigation told NBC10's Monique Braxton. Investigators looked at the Somerville Gang, which has been feuding with the Vernon Road Gang, as possibly being behind the shootings, said the source.
"I'm very frustrated by the fact that we were not able to prevent this second homicide," said Philadelphia Police commissioner Richard Ross, who believes the shootings are gang-related. "We do believe that these are two rival factions. What they're fighting over we haven't pinned that down right now."
Police didn't immediately make any arrests in either shooting.
Rabb later released a statement on the deadly shooting:
As a father raising two young men, I am heartbroken. Yet, no matter how traumatic today's events were for me, it pales in comparison to the devastation these young men's families are now enduring.
My thoughts right now are with the families of the young men whose lives have been tragically cut short today.
One of these young men stood before me just hours ago. He was enthusiastic about the political process. My campaign team and I were engaging him about the upcoming elections. We made a connection with him. He was looking forward to working at his local polling place on Tuesday. This impressed us and we were in the process of encouraging him to join our campaign. Moments after he gave us his contact information he was murdered. He had his whole life in front of him.
My condolences go out to the families of the young people caught up in this violence.