Events on what may be the city's worst block provide a stark glimpse into a Philly many Philadelphians never see. One former resident survived to tell the tale.
But he turns back, obsessed, unable to look away, probing with a Q-tip he pulls from his pocket. A daily diet of dust and Xanax will make anyone obsessive. And Shawn says she's seen 16-year-old Lamar with a gun.
The big Hurley Street blowout starts with a basketball game. Hakeem and Ramon are playing pickup with the other boys on the block at a portable hoop. They usually play at the McVeigh Rec Center at D and Ontario, but tonight they're convinced to compete at home. The Hurley Street regulars intend to humiliate Ramon and Hakeem in front of the whole block.
But instead Ramon and Hakeem make their opponents look bad in front of their girls and moms. Ramon and Hakeem grab their nuts while celebrating, oblivious to the flaring tempers around them.
Afterward Hakeem is upstairs playing video games with his 12-year-old cousin when there's banging on the front door. He opens it to find a 10-year-old boy from up the block claiming Hakeem's cousin hit him in the face. Hakeem tells the boy his cousin has been upstairs all afternoon, and shuts the door. Two minutes later there's more banging and another accusation of assault levied against the cousin. Again, Hakeem shuts the door.
This happens three more times until Hakeem is out in the street stepping to the little kid and his friends. Hakeem is frustrated. His buttons are getting pushed. He's sick of his neighbors, and doesn't give a fuck anymore if escalating the situation isn't a smart thing to do.
Though he doesn't know it, Hakeem has become a marked man on the block. After he disappears back into the house the neighbors call for his head in response to his utter lack of respect.
More kids bang on his front door. They throw a basketball against the board that covers the house's shattered front window. Parents scream from the adjoining stoops, joining in the fracas.
Lamar appears. He has a gun, and he wants to make a statement. He sticks the gun in the ample space between the narrow board covering the front window and its frame. He has his whole hand inside the house, panning the gun across the living room. He wants Shawn to know this isn't a game.
Shawn hurries the kids into the basement. Ramon pulls out his cell phone.
At this point the details get sketchy.
Ramon calls his boy Spike. Spike carries a gun. Ramon tells Spike what's going on, and asks Spike to come get his back. Ramon fears for his family. Lamar doesn't fire the gun, but withdraws it from the window and backs away, satisfied with his taunt.
Shawn calls the cops. Shawn never calls the cops, and does so now only out of fear for the lives of her children. Within minutes there are two cruisers on the block.
For a moment things ebb. Shawn, Ramon, Hakeem and children leave the house.
They've decided to go to a relative's apartmentuntil things die down.
The cops are talking about Golden Girls reruns with the neighbors across the street, whom they know from previous calls.
The family slinks toward Allegheny Avenue, where Spike waits with his gun, offering protection from the mob that has formed behind Lamar.
Lamar tails them, calling for Hakeem's head.
The cops don't follow. They assume it's more of the same old Hurley Street bullshit. They let Shawn know this as she backs away and starts to walk.
A brawl breaks out on the corner of Hurley and Allegheny. Seven guys converge on Hakeem, swinging fists. Hakeem swings back, blindly throwing his arms. And just like that, it happens.
Election Day 2014: Tues., Nov. 4
Immigrants are not a zombie invasion
PW's Fall Guide 2014