A fatal double shooting last night rocked the quiet Overbrook Park neighborhood of victims Rohan "Sonny" Bennett, 13, and his brother, Christopher Malcolm, 17. But police, citing over $100,000 in cash, a large quantity of prescription drugs and four handguns recovered from the boys' family home on Westbury Drive, said the tragedy was likely a drug deal gone bad.
"Through investigation, we now know that an unidentified male went to this
property, which does have a drug nexus to it, with the intention of making
some type of drug transaction," Homicide Capt. James Clark said. "Once he was led into the property, he was having some type of discussion with the two teenagers. Something, at
that point, triggered the chain of events where he pulled out a gun."
Clark said Malcolm was shot multiple times in the home's living room around 7:30 p.m. and died at an area hospital. The gunman then opened fire on Bennett as he tried to run away. The 13-year-old staggered into the basement, where he succumbed to his injuries. The shooter, a man with a light complexion wearing a blue t-shirt, was seen fleeing the property with a large bag.
Neighbors in the economically diverse neighborhood, less than a quarter mile from
Upper Darby, unilaterally described the area as "peaceful" and expressed disbelief at the grisly crime.
"I know I'm not the only one who is shocked," said one woman, who declined to give her name. "I'm just very upset. I didn't believe it. When I heard about the shooting on the news, I thought they had the neighborhood mixed up. I thought they were mistaken."
Local pastor Brian Williams, a community activist, said neighbors were unaware of the activity. "You can come through here at any time of the day or night and you don't see people standing on the corner selling drugs," he said. "I'm standing up today to say this is not this community. Somebody moved here. Somebody began something negative of that nature and nobody on the block knew about it. Having lived in this community for 12 years, I know it's not the norm."
But police said that at least two people on the block did know that drugs were allegedly being sold from the home – the boys' parents, who are still in police custody being questioned. The lion's share of the prescription narcotics, which totaled 1700 pills, were found in the parents' bedroom, according to police. Investigators said they discovered six bottles of illegally-obtained codeine, along with oxycodone, Percocet, Xanax and morphine. They also recovered a small amount of hydroponic marijuana, four handguns, several boxes of ammunition and $102,000 from the same area of the home.
Police said it is too early to determine the extent of each family
member's involvement, but that based on the crime scene, it did appear the boys were part of the operation. Charges against the parents are likely, according to Clark.The mother was out of the house and the father was upstairs at the time
of the shooting, but they believe a family friend, who described himself
as the boys' cousin, was in the living room when the violence occurred.
Detectives have preliminarily identified a person of interest and are hoping the three family members will provide them with more clues. "He was led into the house, so somebody in the family does know who the shooter is," Clark said. "They were comfortable enough to let him into the house and that's why mom and dad and the cousin are still upstairs now. We're still talking to them at length. Hopefully they'll give us that information."
One elderly woman, a resident for over a decade, said she was aware that some drug-related activity had sprouted up in the once-stable neighborhood fairly recently, but asked that her identity be withheld for fear of retaliation. "I have concerns," she said, choosing her words carefully. "My concern is I've seen things in the area. I'll leave it like that. I never saw anything in the daylight, but ..." she trailed off. "I never saw anything like this here before, that's how I know things have changed."
Still, the majority of mourners, who filed somberly up and down the front steps of the home,
where a small memorial of handwritten notes, stuffed animals and toys
was steadily growing this afternoon, said they had a hard time reconciling the portrait painted by police with their own knowledge of the children. "They were just nice kids, very respectful," neighbor Crystal Copeland said. "I would see them out here riding bikes, doing things kids do. It's something you would never expect."
"They were good people, good kids," a young man who identified himself as a family friend said quietly as he left a greeting card on the lawn. "I knew them growing up. I'm just here to pay my respects."