Police are investigating the shooting death of a North Philadelphia corner store employee, a murder described by an anti-violence advocate in the neighborhood as a hit on a woman who didn't bend to drug dealers.
The woman, who police have identified as 33-year-old Rosemary Fernandez-Rivera, was shot four times in the torso at 7:43 p.m. inside El Caribe Grocery at 3300 Mutter Street. She was rushed to Temple University Hospital, where she died at 8:07 p.m.
Though the woman was killed at work, the shooter reportedly did not announce a robbery before opening fire and witnesses told police he seemed intent on shooting Rivera only. The motive for the killing is unknown, police said.
But Greg Bucceroni of Crime Victim Services, whose office is less than a block away from the store where the murder occurred, said that the intent of the shooting was clear: to send a message against police cooperation. Bucceroni said that his organization reached out to several neighbors, including Rivera, as a part of the Nutter administration's "See Something, Say Something" campaign.
Rivera agreed to participate, calling 911 on dealers hanging in front of the grocery and warning them to find another spot. "She was fed up with illegal drug transactions and dealers hanging out in front of the store," Bucceroni said. "It was impacting her business – customers were not coming in because they were afraid to walk past the drug dealers.
He believes she was targeted because of her well-known association with the program. "Because she got involved, she was murdered," Bucceroni said. "There's so much drug and gang activity here that the residents are overwhelmed. Law abiding citizens are hostages of urban terrorists."
Bucceroni said that, since the murder, he's already received about 75 phone calls from frightened community members who want nothing to do with the city campaign or even community clean-ups.
"Neighbors are scared, real scared," he said. "Every time they call the police for some reason, even Homicide, they come to their house. It puts the ones who cooperate at high risk."
Bucceroni said the drug gang Rivera has had problems with slings heroin and crack on the 3300 block of North Mascher Street.
"You do what the city asks you to do and you're murdered," he said. "She was killed because she followed the city’s directions."