‘Losing Ground': Separate Shootings of Infant and Toddler Have Philadelphia Officials Looking for Solutions, Suspects

Mayor Jim Kenney and police officials are desperate for leads from the public to solve to heinous shootings from the weekend

Gunmen struck two babies in separate shootings at a Kensington row home and a car driving in North Philadelphia, and detectives are seeking any witnesses who might be able to help in making arrests in both cases.

Nikolette Rivera, 2, died from bullets fired into the house on North Water Street in Kensington on Sunday afternoon and Yazeem Jenkins, 11 months old, is in "very, very, very critical condition" after he was shot Saturday night while in the backseat of a car driving on North Seventh Street, police said.

Jenkins was struck four times by bullets: once in the head, once in the neck and twice in the buttocks, police said. He is not expected to fully recover from his wounds, a detective told reporters Monday.

No arrests have been made in either shooting, and officials asked for help from the public to identify suspects. In each shooting, police believe they know the likely motive or intended target of the gunfire. The children were not the targets, police said.

Mayor Jim Kenney and Acting Police Commissioner Christine Coulter both showed exasperation over the shootings.

"We had a horrible weekend, this weekend when it comes to violence," Kenney said. "You feel like you’re making progress in this city and this weekend happens and a couple weekends ago, it happened again, and you just feel like you’re losing, losing ground."

Rivera was shot once in the back of the head while her mother was shot once in the right side of the head and once in the back. A contractor, who was doing work inside the home at the time, was also shot once in the stomach.

The girl was pronounced dead at the scene shortly before 4 p.m. The child's mother and the man were both taken to Temple University Hospital. The man is in critical condition while the woman is stable.

No weapons have been recovered and an arrest has not been made. Coulter, the police commissioner, said the suspect likely fled on foot. She also believes the home was targeted.

"It was the only house that was struck," she said. "There's six or seven rounds that went through the house. It would be too much for it to be a coincidence that that wasn't where they were shooting."

Another shooting occurred five minutes earlier on 400 East Clearfield Street, which is about a half a mile away. No one was hurt during that shooting. Coulter said they found evidence that a rifle was used in the Water Street shooting while both a rifle and a handgun may have been used in the Clearfield Street shooting. Police have not yet confirmed whether the two incidents are related.

Less than 24 hours earlier, Jenkins was shot inside the car in North Philadelphia. 

As the investigations continue, loved ones of the victims are searching for answers.

"I knew her for a short time of her life," Amelie Pagan, Nikolette's great aunt, told NBC10. "She made an impact. She was awesome."

As the families mourn, local lawmakers like State Rep. Movita Johnson-Harrell are trying to find ways to stop the violence.

"It's devastating," Johnson-Harrell, who lost her son to gun violence, told NBC10. "When we create situations where we're not addressing things like poverty, lack of education, jobs, we're going to get the outcomes that we have."

Johnson-Harrell wants lawmakers to pass tougher gun reforms. She also wants cities to strategize about how to reduce violence on a local level.

The city is offering $30,000 rewards in both cases.

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