After two straight years with more than 500 homicides, violent crime in Philadelphia thankfully appears to be on a downward trend in 2023. In fact, homicides have declined by nearly 25% compared to this time in 2022, with more than 100 fewer homicides reported this year (322 in 2023 compared to 436 in 2022).
The same trend can be seen when it comes to armed robberies, which are down about 10% (at least through August of this year) compared to 2022. Still, with more than 1,500 armed robberies reported to Philadelphia police this year, the City of Brotherly Love is hardly a crime-free utopia.
The Happy Day Food Market, located in the Kingsessing neighborhood, has already been the target of at least one armed robbery this year, and on Wednesday night a suspect struck again. This time, however, police say the store clerk was armed with a gun of his own and used it to defend himself from his armed assailant.
The robber had cash stuffed in one of his pockets when police officers arrived to the Happy Day Food Market at South 58th Street and Whitby Avenue in the Kingsessing neighborhood just after 10:30 p.m., Philadelphia Police Chief Inspector Scott Small said.
The man — believed to be in his late 20s — was found on the floor behind the counter bleeding from multiple gunshot wounds to his chest and torso, Small said.
Medics pronounced the man dead on the scene minutes later.
The man had entered the store partially masked and holding a gun.
“He pointed it at one of the employees, then went behind the counter and point-of-gun started taking money from the cash register,” Small said.
“That’s when the store employee who was also behind the counter pulled his weapon and fired several shots.”
Small told reporters on scene that the preliminary investigation shows the clerk acted in self-defense, since the robber had a gun pointed in his direction.
The clerk is reportedly cooperating with investigators, though I hope he has an attorney of his just for safety’s sake. If the store’s surveillance video and eyewitness testimony corroborate the clerk’s story, however, he should be in the clear. The armed robber clearly posed a threat to the lives of everyone inside the store and could have easily opened fire on his way out the door after emptying out the till, so the clerk had a very reasonable fear of death or great bodily harm.
That sounds like a justifiable use of force to me, and based on Small’s comments from the scene investigators didn’t find anything that would suggest otherwise.
So far police haven’t publicly released any information about the suspect who was shot and killed, so we don’t know if he has any prior arrests or criminal history. The city has seen a high rate of recidivism over the past few years, which many Republicans (and even a handful of Democrats) have blamed on Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner and his soft-on-crime policies. Krasner’s office has prosecuted fewer violent offenses than his predecessors, and in 2022 about 62% of offenders were arrested within three years of their original offense. That’s not the highest percentage in the state (in fact, the numbers in some western Pennsylvania counties are near or above 70%), but it’s still nothing to brag about.
We’ll keep our eyes out for any more information about the suspect in this robbery, as well as the investigation into the shooting, but unless new evidence emerges I think we can count this as a defensive gun use on the part of an armed citizen.