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Philadelphia’s Independence Day finale was cut short when a shooting broke out at the Welcome America event on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, wounding two police officers and scattering crowds.
Thousands were gathered near Eakins Oval at the foot of the Philadelphia Art Museum to watch the fireworks when the shots rang out around 9:45 p.m., right after the musical performances ended and the light show began.
It wasn’t the nation’s only birthday celebration disrupted by gunfire Monday. In Highland Park, Illinois, a shooter from a rooftop hit dozens of people at a Fourth of July parade, killing at least six. Philly police officials said Tuesday they were investigating the possibility the bullets came from “celebratory” gunfire.
Guns are easy to obtain and shootings are tragically common in Philly. Earlier Monday, what was described as a road rage incident led to a shooting at 2nd and Market streets. The city has recorded at least 1,176 shootings so far this year, up 4% from last year’s record-setting pace.
Police patrols had already been increased for the Monday night concert because of the Illinois attack, according to Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw, who briefed media alongside Mayor Jim Kenney shortly after midnight.
“We’re the most armed country in world history and we’re one of the least safest,” Kenney said, per 6ABC. “Until Americans decide that they want to give up the guns and give up the opportunity to get guns, we’re gonna have this problem.”
After the shooting, officers on the scene directed crowds away from the area as people streamed off the Parkway and into different parts of the city. Overview footage posted to social media shows the fireworks continuing in the background as people flee. Reporters and others backstage sheltered in place as police searched the area for a suspect.
Here’s more of what we know about the Welcome America shooting.
Are the wounded officers OK?
Both officers, who were assigned to the event as extra security detail, are recovering and are not in critical condition. “They’re both in great spirits,” Commissioner Outlaw said at a news conference, according to The Inquirer.
One of the officers, 36-year-old Philly Police Department Highway Patrol Officer Sergio Diggs, was nearly shot in the head. His cap reportedly stopped the bullet, according to a photo provided by the FOP police union, resulting in just a graze of his head.
The other officer is 44-year-old Montgomery County Sheriff’s Deputy John Foster, according to CBS3. He suffered a graze wound to the shoulder. Both were reportedly taken to Jefferson Hospital for treatment.
Where exactly did the shooting happen?
The officers were reportedly standing in front of the Philadelphia Museum of Art when they were shot — between the steps and the Ferris wheel set up at Eakins Oval, according to Fox 29.
Officials referred to the shooting location as the 2500 block of Spring Garden Street, which is the formal name for the roadway as it wraps around the steps and heads southwest across the Schuylkill River.
Who fired and why?
Authorities hadn’t made any arrests or identified any suspects as of Tuesday morning. There was an intense search effort shortly after the shooting, with helicopters circling and officers “scouring the area” from 19th Street to Eakins Oval, according to NBC10.
Police officials said Tuesday they were investigating the possibility the bullets came from “celebratory” gunfire, a dangerous Independence Day tradition.
How many people were at the show?
Attendance estimates for this year’s event, which featured Ava Max, Jason Derulo, and Tori Kelly, aren’t yet available.
Philly’s past July Fourth concerts have drawn up to 175,000 people. That was in 2015, when The Roots headlined the show. More recently, pre-pandemic crowds ranged from under 10,000 (in a year it rained) to 100,000.
What crowd control measures were taken?
People at the scene described some hesitation at first, as people tried to determine whether what they’d heard were the fireworks or gunshots.
Officers then told everyone to clear the area and began evacuating Eakins Oval, according to people who posted videos of the atmosphere on the Parkway shifting from celebratory to fearful. One person told NBC10 that officers in the area told attendees to “run, run, run.”
An hour later, large screens at the event site showed an emergency message reading, “Attention: Public Safety officials are currently investigating a security incident. Please remain where you are.”
What else did Mayor Kenney say?
Philadelphia’s mayor is tired of being mayor, he told reporters at the post-shooting briefing.
Asked about hosting large events in the city with so much gunfire all the time, Kenney said he worries every time there is an event.
“I’m concerned every single day,” Kenney said. “There’s not an event or a day where I don’t lay on my back and worry about stuff. So everything we have in the city over the last 7 years I worry about. I didn’t enjoy the Democratic National Convention, I didn’t enjoy the NFL Draft, I’m waiting for something bad to happen all the time. I’ll be happy when I’m not here, when I’m not mayor and I can enjoy some stuff.”
A reporter followed up: You’re looking forward to not being mayor? “Yeah,” Kenney said with a sad chuckle. “As a matter of fact.”