Murder of 15-year-old boy in Philadelphia may be case of mistaken identity, police say

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- The shooting death of a 15-year-old boy may be a case of mistaken identity, Philadelphia police say.

The head of the city's homicide division, Capt. Jason Smith, provided that update during a news conference on Tuesday afternoon.

"We believe this is a case of mistaken identity at this point in time," Smith said. "We think he's going to be an innocent victim that was targeted incorrectly."

The victim, Darius Winters, was shot at a home in the 2900 block of Morris Street on Monday evening.

Smith said Winters was with two other individuals at the time, though no other injuries were reported.

Police said three gunmen opened fire. There have been no arrests.

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A young teenager is among seven people murdered in the City of Philadelphia on Monday.

The suspects were able to get away in a white vehicle, witnesses told police.

Winters did not live at the home where the shooting occurred.

Police: Multiple factors behind increase in violence

Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw also addressed the uptick in homicides so far during a Tuesday afternoon press conference.

"We think there are a lot of factors here. We know that there are a lot of people at home, there are more people inside."

Outlaw added another issue.

"We are really having a problem with getting witnesses to come forward," she said.

As of midnight Monday, the city reported 62 homicides in Philadelphia in 2021, a 55 percent increase from 2020.

There were nearly 500 homicides in the city in 2020.

Smith said the department added investigators last year and made changes to the department in regards to when and how they are staffed.

"I have restructured the homicide unit. I took my special investigations unit and broke it up into two pieces so that we're covering the 7am to 3pm tour and also the 3pm to 11pm tour, and that's to provide maximum support to my line squads," he said.

Smith says historically the line squads would handle all the live investigations and the Special Investigation Unit would handle high profile cases, but also they would operate as a cold case unit. But because of the increase in cases they do focus on handling live investigations.

The police department said today there are 71 investigators within the homicide unit.

"We have to do what we have to do handling live investigations but what we don't want is the caseload per investigator to be over a certain point. That number is between 10-12 per year, so if we can reduce that it's been proven we can improve our clearance rate," added Smith.

Outlaw added the department changes in units, including increases in staff in some, is reflective of the increase in violence, specifically with efforts to de-escalate domestic violence since so many people, including children, are home together due to COVID-19.

"We also know narcotics are driving a lot of these shootings so we've bolstered our narcotics bureau," she said.

7 homicides in Philadelphia on Monday

Winters was one of seven people shot and killed in Philadelphia on Monday.

Earlier in the day, police say two men were found dead inside a home on the 2900 block of Rosehill Street.

A 42-year-old man was found shot multiple times in a bedroom. Another man was found shot in the head and chest in the hallway of the home. No weapons were recovered at the scene.

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Around 2 p.m., police say a 25-year-old woman and a 29-year-old man were both shot inside a vehicle on the 200 block of Rubicam Street. The woman later died at the hospital. The man is expected to survive, police say. A toddler in the car was not harmed.

"There was a small child, a baby between one and two years of age, a female in the back seat, and miraculously she was not struck by gunfire," said Small.
And early Monday morning, police say a 24-year-old man was shot and killed around midnight on the 500 block of West Hill Creek Drive, and around 8:30 p.m., a 54-year-old woman was shot to death at a drug rehab facility on the 4200 block of Ridge Avenue.

No arrests have been made in connection with these shootings. Anyone with any information is asked to call police at 215-686-TIPS.

Monday's seven murders bring the unofficial homicide total for the year to 61.
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