Mayor Jim Kenney has again come under criticism for his comments, after saying Tuesday that he has never met with family members of Philadelphia’s homicide victims.
Kenney, speaking at a regularly scheduled gun violence news conference, indicated that he would not want to interfere with a murder case actively being probed by detectives.
“I don’t know that it’s productive that I intercede while the investigation is going on,” he said, responding to a reporter’s question.
When pressed further, Kenney said he had “never met with any families in almost seven years.”
“That’s not something that I’ve done from the time that I started being mayor,” he said. “I don’t know if any mayor has done that.”
He explained that he had met with police officers involved in shootings as well as the families of some children wounded in nonfatal shootings.
Later in the day, representatives from Kenney’s office clarified that he has spoken to several mothers of people killed in Philadelphia, conversations that occurred mainly through the city’s Group Violence Intervention program.
“The surge in gun violence that we’ve seen in our city — and across the entire country — is unacceptable and pains me to my core,” Kenney said in a written statement Tuesday afternoon. “My deepest condolences go out to the loved ones of all those affected by this senseless violence.”
On Monday night, 18-year-old Lameer Boyd became the city’s 300th homicide victim of the year, after he was shot many times just before 10 p.m. on the 500 block of S. 52nd Street.
Philadelphia Police Chief Inspector Frank Vanore said more than 50 shots were fired and three different guns appear to have been used.
Four more people had been killed in the city at this time last year, when Philadelphia’s homicide toll reached a new high.
Rosalind “Roz” Pichardo, a Kensington-based activist who runs Save Our City, a nonprofit that works to address violence and the opioid epidemic, was speechless after being informed of Kenney’s original comments.
“He definitely should be” meeting with families, Pichardo told Metro. “That’s part of his role as mayor is to connect with families and to connect with what’s happening in the community in the city that he’s supposed to be running. It’s unfortunate that he thinks that way.”
Pichardo, whose brother was fatally shot in the city a decade ago, said she doesn’t know how beneficial meeting Kenney would be for relatives. But the mayor would have a chance to grow his empathy and perspective, she added.
“I think this is important,” Pichardo said. “This should be at the top of his agenda.”
In his later statement, Kenney said “it is our top priority to respond to the needs of victims of gun violence and their families.”
Kenney has previously spoken about how gun violence has affected him, causing sleepless nights, and how important the issue is to his administration.
Monday’s series of events evoked an exchange he had with reporters after two officers were struck by gunfire July 4 during the holiday celebrations on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway.
“I’m waiting for something bad to happen all the time,” he said at an early morning press briefing. “So I’ll be happy when I’m not here, when I’m not mayor and I can enjoy some stuff.”
After Kenney’s remarks went viral on social media, a few lawmakers, including those with future mayoral aspirations, called on him to resign. The Mayor’s Office issued a statement hours later explaining that the comment was a moment of frustration.