Fourth of July shooting likely caused by guns fired from a distance

Fourth of July shooting
Philadelphia Police Chief Inspector Frank Vanore holds a photograph of the two bullets found at the scene of the July 4 shooting on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway.
Jack Tomczuk

Bullets that struck two law enforcement officers on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway during Philadelphia’s Fourth of July celebration were likely fired “some distance away,” possibly more than a mile, police investigators said Wednesday.

Both shots came from the same .40 caliber gun and had lost momentum by the time they hit the officers, who were stationed in front of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, just as the fireworks were set to begin, Police Chief Inspector Frank Vanore told reporters.

Sergio Diggs, a 36-year-old PPD Highway Patrol Officer, and Montgomery County Sheriff’s Deputy John Foster, 44, were cut by the bullets, which did not penetrate their skin.

Authorities recovered both rounds, including one discovered “in almost pristine condition” in Diggs’s cap, Vanore said.

“Anybody who’s seen a bullet hit anything at a high velocity, it’s going to flatten,” he added. It’s going to bend. It’s going to fragment. These bullets look like they were fired into a water tank.”

Police show the hat worn by Officer Sergio Diggs, who was shot Monday on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway.Jack Tomczuk

No evidence has emerged indicating that the shooter targeted the officers, raising the possibility that the bullets were a result of celebratory or errant gunfire.

District Attorney Larry Krasner, in a statement Wednesday, said that such conduct could result in the shooter being charged with reckless endangerment, aggravated assault or murder, depending on the circumstances.

“Celebratory gunfire on any occasion or gunfire not aimed at another individual that nonetheless harms others is a very serious crime,” he said.

Based on the type of bullet fired, the shooter could have been as far as 2,200 feet away — more than a mile — Vanore said.

Police are looking for any videos from the area around the time of the shooting (about 9:45 p.m. Monday). Those can be submitted to [email protected]

Thanks to donations, Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 5 has upped its reward in the case to $42,500 for information leading to an arrest.

Diggs reported to authorities that he felt he was struck with something as he was walking back from a trash can near the bicycle racks at the base of the Art Museum. A bullet “probably in a downward direction” hit the front of his cap, Vanore said.

He said that Foster, who was about 20 feet away on the same sidewalk, saw Diggs stumble and then was hit in the right shoulder.

Both men were taken to Jefferson University Hospital, where they were treated and released within hours.

Deputy Police Commissioner Joel Dales said authorities decided to clear the Parkway after officers determined that Foster and Diggs had been shot.

Clips that spread quickly on social media Monday night showed people sprinting away from the Eakins Oval Ferris wheel, ignoring the fireworks show.

Dales, at a news conference Wednesday, said officers did an “outstanding job” evacuating a crowd of 1,000 people from the area. Only three minor injuries were reported as a result of the chaos, he added.

PPD leaders will be reviewing the response and may decide to extend security perimeters or add temporary cameras for future events, Dales said.

Mayor Jim Keneny speaks Wednesday, July 6, at a City Hall news conference to provide an update on the Fourth of July shooting on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway.Jack Tomczuk

Other large gatherings, such as the Made in America music festival, which will take over the Parkway in early September, are still slated to move forward.

“We’re not going to cut back on any events,” Mayor Jim Kenney said. “I just think that we need to move forward and not be paralyzed by fear.”

Kenney faced calls to resign after he said he was looking forward to no longer being mayor during an early Tuesday morning media briefing about the shooting.

He walked back the comments later in the day and reiterated Wednesday that his remarks came during a moment of frustration. Kenney said he plans to serve the rest of his term, which runs through 2023.

“I’m a human being. I get frustrated,” he said. “I take this job personally. Every homicide, every shooting is a little piece of me torn away.”

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