Pa. State Police Captain Gerard McShea described the events around the shooting of an 18 year-old by a state officer on Interstate 95 on Sunday morning, at a press conference at State Police headquarters in Philadelphia on June 5, 2023. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

A Pennsylvania state trooper shot and killed an 18-year-old from Delaware County on I-95 near Penn’s Landing early Sunday morning after police responded to reports the highway was blocked by drivers doing “burnouts” and “drifting.”

Police initially said the trooper fired after a car struck and slightly injured two officers, although the exact timeline of the incident remains unclear. 

The family of the man who was shot is asking for more information on how the incident occurred, with their lawyer on Monday calling for a “full, transparent investigation,” per The Inquirer.

It followed a night during which several drag-racing and illegal driving incidents were reported around Philadelphia, including a gathering of hundreds of people a couple hours earlier in Bustleton. 

Philly residents have long complained about street racing and other reckless recreational driving, including illegal use of dirt bikes and ATVs on city streets. Mayor Jim Kenney called the drivers’ behavior “unacceptable” and said it “will not be tolerated,” although such incidents have been happening for years and illegal drivers seem unfazed by the city’s efforts to shut them down. 

Philadelphia’s long history of illegal drag racing includes recent gatherings organized through social media that drew hundreds of people and led to attacks on police who tried to disperse participants. 

Elected officials and political candidates have called for tougher enforcement to prevent illegal driving, but police said they’re understaffed and prosecutors say in many cases it’s difficult to charge offenders.

Here’s what we know so far about what happened on I-95 and elsewhere around the city — and what might happen next. 

What led up to the shooting?

Throughout Saturday evening state and city police were responding to a spate of driving incidents. Shortly before 3:30 a.m. Sunday, troopers were called to Interstate 95 where it runs along the edge of the Society Hill neighborhood, in the area of Penn’s Landing

They were responding to reports of street racing and shots fired on the highway, and found “numerous vehicles and pedestrians” illegally blocking the highway, per the state police.

“The vehicles were reported to be racing, doing ‘burnouts’ and ‘drifting,’” with many people outside their vehicles watching,” police said.

TV news reports showed a dozen or more police vehicles with flashing lights on the otherwise vacant roadway following the shooting. Dark circles and skid marks made by vehicles doing donuts and other maneuvers were visible on the highway pavement in the morning. 

How exactly did it happen?

Troopers approached a vehicle stopped on the highway and tried to get it to move, but Anthony Allegrini Jr. and three others got back into the car and “failed to yield” to the troopers’ commands, state police said at a Monday afternoon press conference.

The police had said earlier that the car then hit two officers, one of whom fired and struck Allegrini. But at the press conference Police Capt. Gerard B. McShea declined to answer questions about whether the vehicle came in contact with the officers, the Inquirer reported.

Witnesses reportedly said troopers shot Allegrini three times, but the state police said just one shot was fired

He was pronounced dead on the scene by Philadelphia Fire Department medics.

Who was Allegrini?

Allegrini lived in Glen Mills and was a recent graduate of Interboro High School in Prospect Park, southwest of Philadelphia, according to his girlfriend, Regan Hocking. She said he loved cars and in the past they had gone to car meetups together.

“They would do burn-outs, racing, stuff like that,” Hocking told CBS Philadelphia. “I agree that is not the most safe place to put yourself in. I don’t blame him at all for any of this, it’s just kids having fun. I’ve went to them, I’ve had fun.”

What was circulating on social media?

Hocking said she was hearing conflicting accounts of the incident, including claims that Allegrini may have been outside his car when he was shot. 

She said she watched a video that showed his body behind a police vehicle, some distance away from his own car.

Videos posted on social media appeared to show a man collapsed on the highway with a state trooper standing nearby. McShea declined to comment on whether that was Allegrini.

District Attorney Larry Krasner said his office was investigating the shooting.

How often do state troopers fatally shoot people?

There’s no official database of such incidents, but Pennsylvania state police appear to very rarely fatally shoot civilians. 

From 2004 through 2021 there were nine fatal shootings by troopers in Pa., according to a New York Times analysis of data gathered by the research group Fatal Encounters.

That’s far fewer than the number of people killed by Philadelphia police. 

For example, in 2021 city cops fired at eight people, killing four, according to data posted on the police department’s website. In 2020 they fired at 18 people, killing six.

Were any other people hurt?

The two troopers hit by Allegrini’s car “sustained minor injuries,” state police said. No other injuries, altercations or arrests were reported.

Earlier in the evening, a large crowd at a vehicle gathering at Torresdale and Cottman avenues surrounded a police car and jumped on a vehicle, according to the Inquirer. The officer in the car apparently was not injured.

John McNesby, president of Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 5, said a brick was thrown through the windshield of police car during one incident late Saturday, leaving an officer shaken but not seriously injured. It was not clear where that occurred, although McNesby referenced street racing incidents in Mayfair and Bustleton.

What other incidents happened that night?

In a statement on the I-95 shooting, the state police said “similar incidents had been reported earlier in the evening.”

A video posted by a Fox29 reporter purports to show the scene around Torresdale and Cottman. Cars speed in erratic, drifting circles with people hanging out the windows, narrowly missing the crowds inside and around the circle.

Just before midnight there were “hundreds of vehicles” in that area, which was where the crowd jumped on the police vehicle, per the Inquirer.

More than 100 drag racers and a large crowd also reportedly gathered in the area of Poquessing and Bustleton Avenues a little before 1 a.m.

When has this happened before?

Illegal drag-racing has a long history in Philadelphia. Large, unruly gatherings of racers are common, especially in the late spring and summer. 

One occurred in the Spring Garden area early on April 2, reportedly in response to a social media invite titled “Act a Fool.” 

A police officer who responded to a report of drag racing outside a Target store on North 5th Street reported being “surrounded by hundreds of vehicles.” People slashed the tires on police vehicles and jumped on officers’ cars, news reports said.

Two hours later “several hundred vehicles” gathered near Rivers Casino in Fishtown and a crowd blocked the casino parking lot while cars did donuts in the middle of Delaware Avenue, CBS Philadelphia reported.

When police tried to disperse the crowd, people jumped on a police vehicles, banged on the windows, and flattened the tires on another police car.

“Similar swarms have overtaken the city streets in recent weeks,” CBS reported.

What’s being done to prevent illegal and dangerous driving?

Residents and city officials frequently lament the ubiquity of drag-racing and of people riding ATVs and dirt bikes on city streets, which is illegal. 

After last weekend’s incidents, Mayor Kenney tweeted, “This type of reckless and aggressive behavior cannot and will not be tolerated. Dangerous actions like these put everyone in our city at risk, especially our officers who work hard to keep our residents safe. This is unacceptable.”

In March, several candidates in the city’s mayoral election vowed to crack down on nuisance driving, improve police response times, seize illegal vehicles, encourage safer activities by young people, and take other steps to prevent drag racing.

McNesby, the police union president, said the city needs to get a handle on street violence, which tends to increase in the summer. He attributed the problems to severe police understaffing.

The city has taken some steps to address illegal vehicle activity. In 2021 City Council passed a bill boosting the penalties for riding dirt bikes to match the sanctions for riding ATVs — confiscation and a $2,000 fine.
But District Attorney Larry Krasner has said these activities are hard to control. Riders are quick to escape police, and in cases where nobody is injured, prosecuting are often limited to filing misdemeanor charges such as disorderly conduct, fleeing, and reckless endangerment.

Meir Rinde is an investigative reporter at Billy Penn covering topics ranging from politics and government to history and pop culture. He’s previously written for PlanPhilly, Shelterforce, NJ Spotlight,...