Port Richmond killing sparks further ATV, dirt bike debate

Late september sweep
Officers confiscated 32 ATVs and dirt bikes during a sweep in late September.
PHOTO: Philadelphia Police

At least 50 people photographed a man after he was fatally shot Saturday night in Port Richmond, but no one has come forward with information about the gunman, prosecutors said.

Police said the 21-year-old victim was part of a large crowd that gathered on the 3800 block of Aramingo Avenue to watch an estimated 1,000 drivers and ATV and dirt bike riders participate in illegal drag races.

He was shot multiple times in the head just before 11:30 p.m., and medics who responded to the area pronounced him dead at the scene.

“There were hundreds, literally hundreds of ATVs out at the time of this murder,” Assistant District Attorney Chesley Lightsey told reporters Monday. “We have a lot of video, but not one person who was out there has come forward to help police.”

The killing has reignited long-standing concerns over ATVs and dirt bikes, which, though illegal on Philadelphia streets, are widespread in many neighborhoods, particularly in the summer.

Last week, City Council passed legislation reclassifying dirt bikes and dune buggies into a category that already includes ATVs. The change, which must be approved by Mayor Jim Kenney, would allow officers to impound the vehicles on sight and issue $2,000 fines.

District Attorney Larry Krasner said Monday that city leaders should be careful not to lump all riders together and avoid stereotyping the bike culture, which is primarily embraced by men of color.

“There’s a difference between traveling at a normal speed and going at an extremely high speed or going against traffic or blowing through traffic lights,” he said.

Krasner praised the efforts of Council members who are examining the possibility of establishing a dedicated ATV and dirt bike park for riders.

Councilmen Allan Domb and Mark Squilla recently toured a potential location for such a facility in Southwest Philadelphia, according to Domb’s office.

Anyone with information about the fatal shooting in Port Richmond is asked to contact the Homicide Unit 215-686-3334/3335; call or text 215-686-8477; or leave an anonymous tip at www.phillypolice.com/forms/submit-a-tip.