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5 people have been arrested after a shooting in a West Philadelphia park that was filled with hundreds of people


By Nadeem Muaddi, Christina Maxouris, John Miller and Danny Freeman, CNN

Philadelphia (CNN) — Five people have been arrested – four of whom are juveniles – after a Wednesday afternoon shooting that unfolded in a West Philadelphia park during a large Muslim religious celebration filled with families and children, police say.

The shooting took place at roughly 2:30 p.m. at Clara Muhammad Square, where about 1,000 people had gathered for the public celebration, Philadelphia Police Commissioner Kevin Bethel said during a news conference.

One woman told a local TV station families, children and elderly people were in attendance for Eid al-Fitr, an Islamic religious celebration marking the end of the holy month of Ramadan. Lawn chairs, picnic tables and toys were set up and families were dressed in their holiday best. Children ran in the playground while parents chatted with friends. Then came the sound of shots, prompting widespread panic and chaos as people ducked to avoid bullets and families rushed to grab their loved ones and escape.

Two groups that were in the park started exchanging gunfire, but police do not believe the shooting was connected to the religious celebration, the commissioner said.

Officers stopped three males and one female suspect who were running, and recovered four weapons, Bethel said. Of those four suspects, three were juveniles, the commissioner said. Another officer engaged with a 15-year-old male suspect, firing and striking the teen in his shoulder and leg, and recovered a weapon from him, the commissioner said. That suspect was then transferred to the hospital.

One person was taken to the hospital with a gunshot wound to his stomach, Bethel said, and a juvenile went to the hospital with a gunshot wound to his hand. They were both in stable condition Wednesday afternoon, he added.

The shooting sent shockwaves through the surrounding Muslim community, members of which told CNN they were disheartened that a celebration of one of the religion’s holiest days ended in violence. It marks yet another time gunfire erupted in what was supposed to be a safe, family-friendly event in the United States.

Attendees describe celebration turn to chaos

Najah Bey, who was attending the nearby event for Eid al-Fitr said she was enjoying time with her family when she heard shots. Everyone around her began running, screaming and getting on the ground and as she ran, she frantically searched for her son, then her mom, brothers and grandmother.

“We were just running and running and one of my family members got shot in the stomach,” Bey told CNN affiliate WPVI, later sharing it was her cousin who was wounded.

She said “hundreds” of people had been attending the event.

“We don’t know who was shooting, where the shots came from, but people started shooting and everyone just started running. You have babies, elderly people, everybody was just there to enjoy themselves, and now we end up at the emergency room.”

“You can’t even have a celebration without having to worry about somebody getting shot,” Bey added.

Local teacher Fareed Abdullah was also at the celebration. When the gunfire started, he said he began to run with many other people, but turned around to help children and women who were getting trampled on. It was “complete chaos,” Abdullah, 45, said.

He said he worries about how the violence may impact the Muslim community, and how safe residents will feel at future celebrations like this one.

“So many people are going to be afraid now,” Abdullah said, pointing to his own sister, who snuck inside a family member’s nearby office and wouldn’t come out without her brother’s help. “Some people may have PTSD from this.”

‘We have to do more to develop our children’

Thomas Allen, a 49-year-old local resident, said he was across the street when people began screaming. He told CNN he’s part of a non-profit initiative to help young people in Philadelphia get involved in technology and sciences and stay away from violence. And he was disappointed that the shooting unfolded during a religious celebration and was perpetrated at least partly by young people.

“It’s the holy month of Ramadan. Of all my years of living in Philadelphia, I’ve never seen nothing like this,” Allen said.

“It’s unheard of,” he said. “We have to do more to develop our children.”

When asked about young people’s involvement in gun violence, the police commissioner told reporters he’s repeatedly talked about “parent engagement and their responsibility in all of this.”

“If you’re not engaged with your child and trying to figure out what they’re doing, whether they’re hiding guns in your house, any activity they’ve involved (in), then you’re not doing your duty,” he said.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives also responded to the shooting and was on scene Wednesday afternoon, a spokesperson said.

A teenage girl was also struck by a patrol wagon during the police response to the shooting and fractured her leg, authorities said. She is in stable condition, according to Philadelphia police.

“We send our prayers out to her and her family. That is not our intended purpose, and we will make sure we will be following up with her and her family,” Bethel said.

This is a developing story and will be updated.

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