It was May 2008 when Beau Zabel moved to Philadelphia. His mother had driven him the 1,100 miles from his hometown of Austin, in south-central Minnesota, just north of Iowa. Zabel, 23, relocated after being accepted into the Philadelphia Teaching Fellows, a program that allows up-and-coming teachers to simultaneously teach in the area’s classrooms while receiving their certifications.
“He was coming to Philadelphia to help inner-city youth,” said Zabel’s father, Douglas Kammeier. “I was pushing for Chicago. It’s closer to me and his mom.”
He was aware of the struggles in Philadelphia and wanted to be part of doing something better.
Within weeks, Zabel had nailed down a job at a local Starbucks. He was headed home during the early hours of June 15, following a late shift closing up the South Street coffee shop.
At around 1:30 a.m., near the intersection of Eighth and Ellsworth streets, Zabel was found dead from a single gunshot wound to the neck. Though his backpack and wallet were not taken, the pocket in which he frequently carried an iPod, which was missing, was turned inside out, leading police to believe that the shooting was a robbery gone wrong.
“Every time I see a kid wearing headsets I give them a fair warning, because they can’t hear who’s coming behind them,” said Kammeier.
Since his death nearly four years ago, Zabel’s story has been featured on “America’s Most Wanted” and even inspired a playwright with Philly ties to craft a performance that has been used in anti-violence campaigns in Iowa called Killadelphia.