Feltonville was never a neighborhood in Philadelphia that was well known to many people outside of those who call it home until tragedy struck about two weeks ago. Now the 4500 block of North Third Street has never received more attention.
A memorial for the victims of this tragedy filled with stuffed animals, candles, cards, posters and much more now spans the front more than four row homes on that block. Many people, whether they knew the victims well or not, have visited the memorial site to offer signs of peace, respect, and community. It should not always be that four innocent victims being murdered is what brings neighbors together, but all of the support that has been shown in Feltonville proves that even strangers can care about one another in a time of need. Although the memorial cannot replace victims Latoya Smith, 22; Latoya’s daughter Remedy Smith, 11 months; Aaliyah Griffin, 6; or Gina Rosario, 7; it continues to grow and serve as a reminder of what can be lost in a matter of seconds.
Donta Cradock, 18, and his stepbrother Ivan Rodriguez, 20, were said to have been involved in a motorcycle-jacking when Cradock fled the scene in a silver Pontiac. The police chased Cradock until he crashed his car into the victims that were playing on the sidewalk just outside of their houses in the 4500 block of N. 3rd Street. Griffin and Rosario were pronounced dead at the scene; Latoya and Remedy died later at the hospital. The two men have been arrested and are incarcerated awaiting trial on charges including murder.
Rosario’s grandmother, Sandra Elias, the block captain, feels that this section of N. 3rd Street is not a safe street for anybody because of people constantly speeding and disobeying stop signs. “We don’t go outside, we’re scared of any car that comes up the street. I have another granddaughter and a grandson and they’re not allowed to come on the steps now. We’re scared to death anymore,” Elias said with conviction.
Mayor Michael Nutter went to the scene the night this happened and offered his comments to an NBC10 reporter, “This is an incredible tragedy. These three children killed senselessly through the action of this individual. All we can ask is that the citizens of the city pray for these children; pray for these families.”
Families are now taking extra precaution when it comes to protecting their children when playing outside. “To be honest, don’t let your kids play in the street. You never know what will happen in less than 5 seconds. And if you do let them play, make sure you have a leash on them, or make sure you have 20/20 vision when it comes to watching them,” said Jenny Vargas. Vargas works at Madelyn’s Grocery, located a block away from where the incident took place. Vargas saw the entire scene unfold and has vivid images that have been hard to erase from her mind, “I saw body parts everywhere and people screaming and hollering. It’s hard for people to talk about it. It’s hard to eat, it’s hard to sleep after what I saw and it’s just real hard.”
It might be hard for the families of the victims and other residents of Feltonville that have been impacted by this tragic event to see past it at this time, however ex-police officer Lance Jones advises not to change too much of a routine and also not to prohibit children from being able to play outside. “To deny your children the opportunity to play outside is living in fear. But, what we have to do is become active participants in crime prevention in our neighborhood,” remarked Jones.
Another common feeling shared by Feltonville residents is that the police are somewhat to blame because they are the reason that Cradock was driving so fast and so recklessly. Nakem Boss, a Feltonville native, was with Latoya and Remedy hours before it all happened. “If the police never went after him, he would have not been driving like that. Cops shouldn’t have chased him. They don’t let kids go too far no more, my little cousin can barely go off the steps now.”
Jones believes that the result of the chase is very unfortunate, but that the officers were right for chasing after Cradock because they had to stop him somewhere. Jones was a police officer for 15 years so he has some insight into what goes through a police officer’s mind in this type of situation. “When the officer is going 70, 80 miles per hour, don’t forget he’s got a family, wife, kids, someone who loves him, and he may take that car and wrap it around a pole and kill himself. You don’t want the suspect to go hurt someone else. That’s why you chase him, that’s why you give chase,” Jones said.
On June 24th the Philadelphia Elks Lodge offered their support for each of the families of the four victims. They hosted an event in the Logan section of Philadelphia where they provided donations and offered to help the families in any way they need it. Gestures like this will continue to help the community heal after such a heart-breaking loss.
Below is a soundslide that I compiled with pictures to recount the events that took place.