After shooting, South Street prepares for another weekend

Someone left flowers and a note Sunday for victims of the previous night’s mass shooting on South Street.
Jack Tomczuk

Up until a year ago, Ivy Cheng used to keep her clothing and accessories shop on South Street open until 11 p.m., sometimes even staying until midnight.

Now, she leaves at 7 p.m., carrying mace and a safety alarm on her short walk home.

Cheng, who lives in Queen Village, heard Saturday night’s gunshots from her house and thought the noise was from ATVs or dirt bikes. When she arrived the next morning on South Street, blood was in front of her store, Jade Fashion Boutique, named after her 9-year-old son.

“He knows what’s going on, too,” Cheng said Thursday. “I had to talk to him.”

Business owners, neighbors and people who enjoy South Street’s nightlife and eclectic shops are still reeling from the shooting, which claimed three lives and left 11 people injured. And another weekend is looming.

Investigators believe the melee began with an altercation involving George Jackson, Micah Towns and Rashaan Vereen.

Jackson was killed by Towns, in what the District Attorney’s Office has characterized as self-defense, and Vereen has been charged with attempted murder.

Quran Garner, who was with Towns, allegedly fired into a crowd following the shootout. He was shot in the hand by a police officer on scene and is also facing charges.

Authorities apprehended two other men — 18-year-old Qaadir Dukes-Hill and 17-year-old Nahjee Whittington — Thursday in Virginia. The pair will be charged with murder in connection with the death of bystanders Alexis Quinn and Kris Minners, prosectors said.

A manager at another South Street business was outside when the gunfire erupted, at around 11:30 p.m., and she fell as she ran away from the area.

Prior to the shooting, she watched as the crowd became more unruly, saying she saw young people spraying others with mace.

“What’s stupid is the police don’t do anything, and that could have been prevented,” the manager told Metro, adding that she wants officers to be more proactive. She declined to give her name for fear of being reprimanded by her boss.

Philadelphia Police Department leaders have defended officers’ actions that night, despite criticism that they did not do enough to control the hordes of teenagers and young people who flocked to the street.

“You have to be smart and mindful as to how we manage and police those situations because it can escalate close to a riotous situation,” Deputy Commissioner Joel Dales, who oversees patrol operations, said during a virtual news conference Wednesday.

“It’s easy to pretty much say how we should do our jobs unless you are in that police officer’s shoes to actually manage and maintain control of a situation such as South Street,” he added.

Dales argued the PPD did “a great job overall,” noting that one officer on the scene engaged an active shooter, possibly preventing additional deaths. Officers also rushed the wounded to local hospitals, he added.

“Keep in mind that, after the George Floyd riots, things have changed as far as a lack of respect for police,” Dales said.

Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw, who also spoke during the briefing, seemed to concur, saying the level of scrutiny on officers in recent years has had a “chilling effect.”

Cheng, who owns the clothing shop, is sympathetic to the challenges police face in dealing with throngs of people.

“How can they do something?” she said.

South Street was quiet with a slow but steady stream of shoppers and people ordering food at lunchtime Thursday.

Mark Orellana and Paige Tauscher sat with their dog on nearby 2nd Street outside WAG, which offers physical therapy and other pain services for animals.

“More at night, I’d try to stay away from” South Street, Orellana said.

“I think the entire city is unsafe at night,” Tauscher chimed in. “Things are just kind of tense in the city right now.”