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A 4-year-old boy was shot and critically hurt when a gun misfired late Thursday in Philadelphia, where President Biden was delivering his speech about the “soul of this nation” around the same time, according to reports and officials.
The boy was inside a home on East Penn Street around 8:30 p.m. Thursday when he suffered a gunshot wound to his abdomen, local affiliate FOX 29 reported. He was rushed to a local hospital, and then airlifted to a second facility for his critical injuries, according to the report.
Philadelphia Police Department Chief Inspector Scott Small said Thursday investigators believe someone was holding the gun inside the home when it misfired and struck the child. FOX 29 cited police sources in reporting that the boy’s grandmother, who is permitted to have the weapon, accidentally fired the shot.
Philadelphia Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw said in a tweeted statement that she was “devastated that yet another innocent child was critically injured by gunfire in our city.”
“While our department continues to investigate the circumstances of what initially appears to be a tragic accident, we pray that this boy – and all victims of gun trauma – make full recoveries,” the police commissioner wrote. “These tragedies should never happen, and their impact affects entire communities. As parents, mentors, and community members we all have to do better; for our kids, ourselves, and each other.”
As first responders rushed to the crime scene on Thursday night, Biden was delivering his address to the nation in front of the city’s history Independence Hall.
“We can’t allow violence to be normalized in this country,” Biden said, as he spoke of how former President Trump and his supporters “threatens the very foundation of our republic.”
“Too much of what’s happening in our country today is not normal,” he said.
Earlier this week, local community leader Raheem Bell spoke about a different kind of new normal he is experiencing his own city, where he was shot and critically injured during a carjacking in April.
“I was born and raised in Philadelphia,” he said. “I’ve been seeing it going on around me but never thought it would actually happen to me.”
“Never,” he added, “would I think I’d be a victim of gun violence.“
He described how he has seen “an increase in violence before this happened to me,” and said “even after it is still going up.”
Biden’s prime-time address comes at a time when murders in the city are up, albeit slightly, compared to the same time last year, and the city has seen a spate of violent crimes. The Philadelphia Police Department reported 364 homicides as of Wednesday, up 2% from the 357 recorded at the same time last year.
There were 52 shootings and five homicides reported in Philadelphia from August 22 through August 28.
As of Aug. 28, total violent crime in Philadelphia was up by 7% year-to-date, with robberies, including those with the use of firearms, leading the charge. Homicides were down by 2.5% for the period, while shootings and shooting victims were each up by around 3%, police statistics show.
And 562 people were killed in Philadelphia in 2021 – the highest number reported since 2007, the earliest year for which the agency publishes statistics.