Police said on Wednesday that they were searching for five shooters who ambushed a group of teens outside a Philadelphia high school, killing one 14-year-old and wounding four others after a football game.
Nicholas Elizalde, of suburban Havertown, Pennsylvania, was killed in the ambush as he and the other teens walked away from an athletics field at Roxborough High School shortly after 4.30pm on Tuesday, authorities said.
Philadelphia Police Capt Jason Smith said investigators believed Nicholas was not the intended target.
Mr Smith said the shooters sat in a parked SUV for about six minutes waiting for the teens to round the corner behind the school.
When they did, the five shooters, who Mr Smith said also appeared to be juveniles, got out of the car and began firing. One person stayed in the car, he said.
“Most if not all of the offenders appear to be juveniles themselves," Mr Smith said.
"Nonetheless, they are obviously very dangerous individuals and the need is great to have them identified and taken off the streets as quickly as possible."
He said one of the shooters chased a 17-year-old victim down the street, hitting him in the leg and arm, Mr Smith said.
The shooter then stood over the teen and tried to fire again, but Mr Smith said he either ran out of bullets or the gun had jammed.
He said police were looking into several possible motives, including a fight that occurred in the lunchroom on Tuesday.
Mr Smith said the 17-year-old, who police say was one of two teens they believe to have been the shooters’ targets, did not attend Roxborough High and was not on the football team with the other victims.
Police earlier said they were examining social media and other sources to see whether the violence might have stemmed from events earlier in the day.
The shooting came just after Philadelphia passed 400 homicides for the year, only slightly behind last year’s toll, which ended up being the highest in at least six decades.
And it happened hours after Mayor Jim Kenney, a Democrat, signed an order banning guns and deadly weapons from the city’s indoor and outdoor recreation spaces, including parks, basketball courts and pools.
Mr Kenney said on Wednesday that shootings like the one on Tuesday cause “irreparable harm” to schools, families and communities especially when they occur in places otherwise thought to be safe spaces.
“Yesterday’s tragic events outside of Roxborough High School were just unconscionable,” he said. “Now a family is forced to grapple with the loss of a child … after this heinous and cowardly crime.”
The other three victims were a 14-year-old shot in the thigh, a 15-year-old shot in the leg, and a 14-year-old who was treated at the scene for a graze to the ankle.
The three taken to the hospital were listed as stable on Wednesday morning.
Alex Torres, whose 14-year-old brother was injured in the shooting, told WPVI-TV that his stepmother called to tell him about the shooting and that he rushed to the school.
“My little brother is 14, and just hearing he was shot is the worst feeling in the world,” Alex said, adding that his brother liked to play video games and stayed indoors a lot.
“He’s a good kid, so I don’t understand why this happened to him.”
A representative for the Philadelphia school district confirmed that Nicholas attended WB Saul High School, an agricultural charter school that links up with Roxborough for some of its athletics, including football.
Several players for the NFL’s Philadelphia Eagles tweeted about the shooting on Tuesday night, offering prayers for the families and lamenting that gun violence could shatter the safe space kids feel in sports.
“It must stop. For these kids, their families and their teammates,” Eagles right tackle Lane Johnson tweeted. “Sports are supposed to be a safe haven.”
The Eagles launched a campaign called “End Philly Gun Violence” in January that included a partnership with police to host a gun buyback at Lincoln Financial Field in June, in exchange for gift cards funded by the Eagles organisation.