Josh Kruger
Josh Kruger, 39, once worked for the City of Philadelphia He posted this image on Instagram last spring, saying "Haven't seen this guy in a while." (Instagram/@joshkrugerphl)

The death of Philly journalist and advocate Josh Kruger in a shooting Monday brought a stream of emotional tributes and drew notice around the country.

The 39-year-old Kruger wrote for Billy Penn, WHYY, The Philadelphia Citizen, The Philadelphia Inquirer and other outlets, and had worked as a spokesperson for the city’s Office of Homeless Services.

Kruger often wrote about his experience as an HIV-positive gay man who lived through homelessness and addiction, and about politics and policy related to the LGBTQ community, drug use, and people living in the street. 

He was known as an advocate for marginalized communities, and though his name may not be familiar, the outpouring of eulogy shows his touch reached far.

Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney said he was “shocked and saddened by Josh Kruger’s death.” Both of Pennsylvania’s U.S. senators offered condolences, with John Fetterman calling the shooting “a devastating loss,” and Bob Casey describing Kruger as “a dedicated public servant and journalist whose work shined light on conditions affecting many of Philadelphia’s most vulnerable people.”

Police said someone entered Kruger’s home in Point Breeze and shot him there, possibly in connection with a domestic dispute. His death was covered in the national press and drew calls for police to find his killer. 

“We are deeply disturbed by the killing of freelance journalist Josh Kruger and extend our condolences to his colleagues and loved ones,” said Katherine Jacobsen of the Committee to Protect Journalists in Washington. “We call on investigators to thoroughly investigate his killing to determine whether the attack was related to his work.” 

State Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta, whom Kruger had written a profile of, called the journalist “an incredible champion of our city” who “knew how to get to the heart of complex issues.” Rue Landau, running to be the first openly LGBT member of City Council, praised Kruger as a “fierce advocate for the most vulnerable” and “a respected voice.” 

Social life chronicler Hugh E Dillon of PhillyChitChat described meeting a “scrappy, newly sober” Kruger 12 years ago, when he was “angry about a lot of injustices to humanity [and] to himself.” He was a “genius,” Dillon wrote, “kind, loyal, a friend to many.”

Lê, the owner of cocktail bar Hop Sing Laundromat, described playfully “elbowing” Kruger on social media over the years and mourned losing a loud voice for the city’s “have-nots.” “This man has overcome so much disastrous and trauma experiences in his personal life and yet, still find time to help others in need 🙌,” Lê wrote.

Cried a decent amount today over a powerful voice that Philadelphia just lost,” wrote Kae Lani Palmisano, the host of WHYY’s Check, Please! Philly program and food editor at Philadelphia Magazine.

Kruger was mourned by leaders across very different parts of Philadelphia society.

U.S. Rep. Madeleine Dean, activist Asa Khalif, and Philadelphia Federation of Teachers president Jerry Jordan all expressed their sadness. “Josh left an indelible mark on our city,” Jordan wrote. “The horrors wrought by the unrelenting scourge of gun violence are immeasurable.”

Their praise for Kruger and lament at his sudden passing were echoed by City Council members Kendra Brooks and Isaiah Thomas, state Sen. Sharif Street, and state Rep. Rick Krajewski.

District Attorney Larry Krasner wrote, “Josh deserved to write the ending of his personal story,” and said his office would be in close contact with police who are looking for the shooter.

The William Way LGBT Community Center, where Kruger was development coordinator from 2009-2011, is working with his family and friends to organize a celebration of his life, executive director Chris Bartlett wrote on Facebook.

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,...