Victim killed in West Philadelphia purse robbery, shooting identified

WEST PHILADELPHIA - February 2, 2014

The shooting occurred around 2:40 a.m. Sunday along 53rd and Market streets in West Philadelphia.

The deceased victim has been identified by family as 29-year-old Melissa Thomas. The name of the victim who was wounded has not been released.

Thomas' mother says she is a strong Christian but has some strong words for her daughter's killer.

"I hope they burn in hell. I'm not a vengeful person but that's the way I feel," said Pamela Campbell, victim's mother.

Just after 2:00 a.m., Thomas and her 35-year-old friend left Tropical Heat Bar at 53rd and Market streets.

About 40 minutes later, police say two men, armed with handguns, approached the women and demanded their purses.

The women cooperated but the men fired at them anyway.

Jeanell Pankey, a bartender at Tropical Heat Bar, heard the shots.

"We were sweeping the floor and mopping and we heard five gunshots. It was three at first then two more and I heard somebody say 'Run! Run!" said Pankey.

According to police, Thomas was pronounced dead at the scene. The 35-year-old victim was shot in the arm and taken to the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania for treatment.

Campbell says her daughter, who went to West Philadelphia High School, had a big heart and in recent years became her mother's caregiver. She is also the niece of a Philadelphia police officer.

Thomas' family says they were planning for her upcoming 30th birthday but instead they are making funeral arrangements.

"She was a very good daughter, I don't know what I'm going to do without her," said Campbell.

Philadelphia police say their real-rime crime camera at the intersection was not working at the time of the shooting. Investigators are looking for other surveillance footage from the area.

Meanwhile, this was the third violent purse-snatching in Philadelphia in recent weeks.

On Thursday night, two men, 26-year-old Rasheed Hall and 20-year-old Clynton Brown were arrested shortly after a shooting and robbery in North Philadelphia.

According to police, 24-year-old Derrick Moye and his 23-year-old girlfriend were leaving their apartment when a man approached them with a gun.

They say the suspect, later identified as Brown, grabbed the woman's purse and ran off.

Moye then chased the robber down and that's when a second male, identified as Hall, appeared and opened fire, striking the victim in the chest.

Police say the suspects took $300 out of the purse, dropped it, and ran off.

26-year-old Amber Long was shot and killed during a Northern Liberties robbery in late January.

Surveillance video shows two suspects approach Long and her mother as the women walked along the 900 block of North Front Street.

The suspects grabbed the women's purses and the video stops just short of when Long was fatally shot. Police say the suspects were driving a newer model dark-colored four door Chevrolet Impala.

No suspects have been identified in this case. A $37,000 reward has been offered for information leading to an arrest.

It is not clear if any of these incidents are connected.

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