Three teenagers suspected in a shooting in Roxborough committed another murder a day earlier, police say
Three teenagers accused of shooting five youth football players outside Roxborough High School in September, killing one, are expected to be charged with murder in connection with another fatal shooting a day earlier, police said Friday.
Troy Fletcher15, and Zyhied Jones, 17, will face new murder charges in the Sept. 26 shooting death of 19-year-old Tahmir Jones in North Philadelphia, Deputy Police Commissioner Frank Vanore said.
Police also expect to lay charges Dayron Burney-Thorne16, who is wanted in the Roxborough case, but remains on the run, with an additional charge of murder after he is caught.
Around 2 p.m. on Sept. 26, police say, Tahmir Jones was walking outside the family’s home in the 600 block of North 13th Street when three gunmen jumped out of a car and shot him more than 20 times. He was rushed to Jefferson University Hospital, where he died a short time later.
Jones, who is not related to Zyhied Jones, had just earned his GED and was working in a construction apprenticeship program through YouthBuild to potentially become an electrician, said his mother, Theresa Guyton.
YouthBuild presented her with her son’s OSHA certification, which he earned shortly before his death, at his funeral last month, she said. He was the youngest of five children, and he helped his grandmother in taking care of the patients in the house.
“He was my favorite kid, he would just come and kiss me for no reason,” Guyton said.
Twenty-four hours after killing Jones, police say, the shooters, along with two others, targeted a group of youths after their soccer scrimmage, firing more than 60 rounds as they walked to their locker room. Nicolas Elizalde (14) was killed and four other teenagers were injured.
Attorneys for the suspects facing the new charges declined to comment Friday or could not be reached.
Vanore said police have no evidence that Tahmir Jones’ slaying and the Roxborough shooting are connected other than by some of the same gunmen.
The motive for Jones’ murder is “completely unknown,” said Homicide Capt. Jason Smith. Jones, who had no criminal record, had moved into the neighborhood with his family four months before he was killed, he said.
The additional charges come about a month after the high school shooting, as new details about the crime emerged from police reports and interviews.
As of this week, all five shooting suspects have been identified and four are in custody. Vanore said they seemed to be friends.
Detectives now believe the shooters in the Roxborough incident were seeking revenge for an earlier shooting, Vanore said, and that at least one of the victims was targeted. Elizalde was not the target, he said.
Vanore declined to specify the earlier shooting, but a law enforcement source familiar with the investigation said it was believed one of the killer’s relatives had been shot earlier, and that they were retaliating.
Police are also investigating the killers’ connections to additional crimes in the area, Vanore said. Shell casings found at the Roxborough scene were linked to three guns used in other crimes, according to court records. One of the guns was linked to Jones’ murder, records show.
Police records show investigators identified the suspects in the high school shooting through DNA evidence found in the getaway car, ballistics evidence and cellphone data and records. The records do not mention the eyewitnesses who linked the suspects to the crime scene.
“They made a painstaking effort to avoid detection, but clearly not enough,” Smith said.
Here’s what police found, according to records:
On September 27, around 4:45 p.m., the shooters arrived in a light green Ford Explorer, jumped out and shot the teenagers 64 times. They fled in a vehicle, which police found abandoned in Southwest Philadelphia the next night.
Inside, police discovered a partially smoked marijuana blunt and a ziplock bag. Forensic tests on those items found DNA matching Zyhied Jones. They also found fingerprints on the window that matched Burney-Thorne.
The Ford Explorer was equipped with a mobile and Internet service that tracks the location history of the vehicle and all devices connected to it. That data showed a phone whose owner named the device “Northside DayDay” — with a number police say matched Burney-Thorne’s — was connected to the vehicle multiple times, including the day after the Roxborough shooting.
The car’s location history provided detectives with an exact route, before, during and after the shooting.
Cell phone records from AT&T show the locations of phones police believe belong to Fletcher and Burney-Thorne, which they said “match the pattern of movement” with the Ford Explorer’s path of travel to and from the crime scene. He also placed their phones “near the area” of the crime at the time it happened.
The car stopped at a gas station on the way to the shooting, and surveillance video showed several teenagers, some wearing masks, enter the store. After police released their pictures to the public, records say a “well-known source” identified one of the masked teenagers as Fletcher.
Tracking the car’s locations led them to surveillance video that showed five men drove to North Philadelphia in a Chevy Impala about an hour before the shooting, then got into a Ford Explorer and headed to Roxborough. When police found the Impala, they found two crumpled receipts for ammunition purchased by 21-year-old Yaaseen Bivins.
Video from the gun store Bivins visited shows him and another person arriving at the store in an Impala and making a purchase. Forensic tests showed that those bullets were then used in the shooting.
Saleem Miller, 16, was also arrested and charged with murder this week. It was not possible to find out how the police linked him to the crime.
Police are still looking for Burney-Thorne.
Meanwhile, Tahmir Jones’ family struggles with loss – a pain they’ve become all too familiar with.
Just two years ago, Tahmir’s eldest brother, Marcus Alexander, was fatally shot. And that same year, his 14-year-old half-brother was killed in a drive-by shooting. Losing another son to senseless violence in Philadelphia brings unimaginable pain, Theresa Guyton said.
“We’ve lost a lot in the last two years,” she said.
Jones’ mother said Tahmir was smart and kind and determined to find stability in his life after his brothers’ deaths through the building program. He was like a dad to his three-year-old nephew, whose father is in prison, and he would spend every weekend with him as if he were his own.
Now, she said, all her grandson does is say, “I want Tahmir.”
Staff writer Chris Palmer contributed to this article.
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