Philadelphia police are working to arrest the the killer of Samuel Sean Collington, a Temple University political science major months from graduation who was shot off-campus in North Philadelphia Sunday afternoon after he returned from Thanksgiving break.
On Tuesday, police told NBC10's Steven Fisher that they were investigating a person of interest in the 21-year-old Delaware County native's killing, which was caught on surveillance video. Investigators believe that person is connected to other crimes in North Philadelphia.
"We have been working around the clock to identify the individual responsible," police Deputy Commissioner Ben Naish said Tuesday. He called the attack "horrific" and "heart wrenching."
Collington, of Prospect Park, Pennsylvania, was shot in the chest outside his college apartment in the 2200 block of North Park Avenue around 1:30 p.m. Sunday. The city District Attorney's office said Monday that Collington was shot four or five times.
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His mother, Molly Collington, said her son had just returned to North Philadelphia from his Delaware County home with clean laundry following the long holiday weekend.
She called her son's murder a "horrible injustice" and a "travesty like you have no idea" during an interview with NBC10. She also said she'll do anything to bring the person responsible to justice.
"This senseless act crushes us," Molly Collington said Monday.
Police did not give a motive for the shooting, but the DA's office said Monday during a weekly update on gun violence that video evidence showed Collington was shot in what appeared to be a carjacking or robbery.
Collington appeared to fight back, the DA's office said, but that was after he was already shot. More video evidence is still being examined, officials said.
Collington was taken to Temple University Hospital where he was pronounced dead a short time later. No weapons were recovered.
Police on Tuesday had yet to name the person of interest in Collington's killing.
Collington was a senior political science student at Temple, the university said. He was set to graduate in the spring from the College of Liberal Arts.
"This is a tragedy in every sense of the word. Our thoughts are with the victim’s family, friends and the entire Temple community during this tremendously difficult time," a spokesperson for the school wrote.
Collington was also a fellow in the office of the City Commissioner.
“Samuel was an incredibly talented and engaged young man,” City Commissioner Omar Sabir wrote. “During his brief time with our office, Samuel exemplified an incredible passion for engaging voters and was an indispensable member of our team. Sam’s death is a tremendous loss for the City Commissioners and all who knew him.”
The shooting occurred just blocks away from Temple's campus. Neighbors told NBC10 several Temple students live in the area.
Kendall Stephens, a Temple student and friend of Collington's, told NBC10 Collington cared deeply about his community and was fighting to end the same violence that took his life.
"This should never have happened to anybody," Stephens said. "But especially someone who actually cared about the surrounding neighborhood. That is what's so tragic about all of this."
Stephens said Collington's community advocacy extended to Harrisburg.
"He was on fire," Stephens said. "The way he was able to talk to senators and build that political connection and able to reach across the aisle in a very nonpartisan way. It was fascinating to see."
Robin Kolodny, the chair of Temple's political science department, also said Collington was not a typical student.
"It's not what, you know, a lot of college students would do," Kolodny told NBC10. "In learning more about Sam I hope people will follow his example."
Temple's President Dr. Jason Wingard announced several new security measures in Collington's honor.
"A student leader on our campus and in the city, Samuel was a beacon of hope who inspired his classmates and others to mobilize and take action to improve our community," Dr. Wingard wrote. "To honor Samuel’s life of service and contributions, and those of others affected by violence, today I am announcing a series of actions that Temple University will undertake to enhance safety."
Those measures include an increase in the school's Campus Safety Force by 50 percent and continued work with the Philadelphia Police Department to increase their presence off campus.
Other measures from the school include enhancing and expanding its safety infrastructure, adding and upgrading lighting, cameras and emergency phones, increasing the availability of the FLIGHT shuttle service and improvements to the walking escort program.
Dr. Wingard also said the school would collaborate with city leaders to expand anti-violence initiatives to help reduce shootings and homicides in North Philadelphia and other neighborhoods across the city.
Temple's community outreach initiatives include expanding the school's work with civic, business and education leaders in Philadelphia to identify ways to keep communities and campuses safe, pursuing federal and state resources available for safety enhancements and pursuing the establishment of a university institute focused on violence reduction.
Temple will also hold a forum for parents, students and community members on Thursday at 5 p.m. to share their plans and have a conversation. You can register for that forum here.
So far this year there have been at least 508 homicides in Philadelphia, making 2021 the deadliest year on record in the city.
"There's been a lot of chatter about we should have more police," Kolodny said. "His friends are very clear that that's not what Sam would've championed."
Within a block from where Collington was killed, there have been four other armed robberies in the last month, including three around the same time of day.
"They're acting out of desperation," Stephens said. "They're acting out of hopelessness. And those are the basic ingredients for violence. So we're trying to instill hope back into these communities."
Mayor Jim Kenney called Collington's killing a horrible case of "bad things happen to good people."
"There is evil in this world," Kenney said of the murder, adding that the gunman needs to be caught and put in jail for the rest of his life.
"We are deeply saddened by the death of Samuel Collington, and strongly condemn this and any acts of violence in our city," a spokesperson for the Mayor's Office said. "We grieve every life lost to violence, and we're heartbroken for Samuel’s friends and family as they cope with this unimaginable loss. Our thoughts are with his loved ones, the Temple University community, and his colleagues in the City Commissioners’ Office."
If you have any information on the shooting, please call Philadelphia Police at 215-686-TIPS (8477).
There are additional resources for people or communities that have endured gun violence in Philadelphia. Further information can be found here.