- Associated Press - Friday, August 12, 2016

PHILADELPHIA (AP) - Police are looking for whoever injured two 6-year-olds in separate shootings this week, one playing on her street and another riding in a car with his godfather.

The boy was shot once in the chest and once in the leg Thursday in the Germantown section of the city. He is listed in critical condition. On Tuesday, the girl was hit by a stray bullet while playing in front of her home in the nearby West Oak Lane neighborhood. She is in critical but stable condition.

The boy’s godfather was also shot, along with two 29-year-old men. All are in stable condition.

Police Commissioner Richard Ross, a 27-year veteran of the department, said he has never seen anything like this week’s dual shootings of small children.

“We’re talking about little babies,” said Ross, who visited both children in the hospital. “That’s not supposed to happen anywhere.”

Police said more than 40 shots were fired in Thursday’s attack, and AK-47 shell casings were found at the scene.

In Tuesday’s shooting, the girl was shot in the chest under her left arm and was found unresponsive on the sidewalk next to the steps of her home. Police found more than 20 shell casings from two guns and said they believe two people were shooting in the same direction.

No arrests have been made in either shooting, and police aren’t saying whether they believe they could have been connected. On Friday, police announced a reward of up to $10,000 in each case for information leading to an arrest.

There have been more than 770 shootings in Philadelphia this year, up 12 percent from this time last year. There have been 172 homicides, a 6 percent year-to-date increase.

At least eight children have been killed by gunfire, compared to six in 2015.

Mayor Jim Kenney cited systemic poverty as part of the problem contributing to gun violence but said he was struggling to make sense of this week’s shootings.

“It’s heartbreaking and devastating to us as a city and to these families,” Kenney said.

City Council President Darrell Clarke said Thursday’s shooting points to the need for gun control legislation that would prevent people from having an AK-47.

“I’ve run out of ways to describe my outrage at child shootings,” Clarke said. “You cannot legislate heart and minds, but you can legislate things.”

According to details of a preliminary investigation, the boy had just been picked up by his godfather when someone in another car shot at them. Authorities said part of their investigation includes looking into whether the shooting was the result of “an age-old turf rivalry.”

The violence is threatening to destroy summer for children in the city, Chief Inspector Carl Holmes said.

“It’s the summertime; children have to be able to come out and play,” Holmes said. “Even more than getting these people off the streets, we have to get these guns off the street.”

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Errin Haines Whack covers urban affairs for The Associated Press. Follow her on Twitter at https://www.twitter.com/emarvelous and read more of her work at https://bigstory.ap.org/journalist/errin-haines-whack


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