“The fabric of our human nature is being ripped apart, piece by piece, thread by thread, and at some point, what happens?” Mayor Michael Nutter said at a Kensington anti-violence rally “We don’t have a fabric anymore.”

He was referring to the violent first 15 days of the year, in which the city saw 20 murders, the highest during this time span since the notoriously bloody year of 2007. That includes both the slayings of three young teens in Juniata last Tuesday, allegedly by a 30-year-old stepfather, and the beating death of a 23-year-old Temple grad in Old City early Saturday morning.

Though this year’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service was supposed to center around hunger and economic injustice, the recent brutalities shined a light on the issue of youth violence in the city.

“I refuse to believe people in Philadelphia are so different, so much more murderous, so much more vicious,” Nutter said. “Unfortunately, we got off to a really bad start.”

 

He assured those gathered at Bethel Temple Community Bible Church that the trend could be reversed. “We have the year to come to write the story. We get to decide what tomorrow is about and we get to decide how bright it is.”

But some of those gathered were still smarting from last week’s fatal shooting of three teens, which occurred a mere mile from the church. “I try not to show it, but I’m really hurt inside,” said Ray Rivera, 19. “Dante was like my little cousin. When I found out that day, I started crying. I cried for three days.”

Old City slaying still open

Police are still looking for three men who allegedly beat Temple grad Kevin Kless, 23, to death early Saturday morning.

Mayor Michael Nutter said yesterday that he spoke to Kless’ mother by phone. “I said to her, ‘There’s nothing, really, I can say to you.’ What can I say?” he said during the anti-violence rally in Kensington. “We’ll do our best to find the people who did this, because there’s no way to explain it.”

Investigators have surveillance footage, but it is too grainy to provide many details. They are looking for a maroon four-door Mazda carrying four men of Middle Eastern or Indian descent and are asking the driver, who was not involved in the beating, to come forward.

They are also looking for more camera footage and other witnesses.

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