Teen killed after being hit by stolen SUV driven by half-naked man in West Philly: Police

The teen has been identified as 16-year-old James Sanders.

Thursday, June 23, 2022
Mother mourns loss of son killed by erratic driver in West Philly
James Sanders' mom said had just called her to let her know he was on his way home. Minutes later, she got a life-changing call from her other son.

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- A 16-year-old was killed after being struck by an SUV being driven by a half-naked man in West Philadelphia late Wednesday night, police said.

The teen has been identified as James Sanders.

Sanders' mom said had just called her to let her know he was on his way home. Minutes later, she got a life-changing call from her other son.

"He didn't have a chance. They hit him so hard," said Tasha Sanders-Diggs.

Investigators said the 27-year-old Zaire Semaj Adams was driving a stolen Toyota Highlander, possibly impaired, at a high rate of speed when he hit Sanders and a 21-year-old man around 11 p.m. in the area of North 44th and Parrish streets.

One of the victims was knocked out of his sneakers and dragged about 100 feet, according to police.

"We believe speed played a factor because we found debris that covers an area of about 300 feet from the striking vehicle," said Chief Inspector Scott Small. "We found a cell phone and a lot of debris from the striking vehicle."

Sanders-Diggs said when she heard he son was hit, she ran to the scene.

"When I saw him lying there, I had a feeling he wasn't alive no more, but I was still hoping and praying," she said.

Adams is also accused of crashing into three parked cars along the 800 block of N. 44th Street after striking two pedestrians.

The bumper flew off of a car and the trunk was smashed in following the impact.

Officers later learned the Highlander was reported stolen in Cheltenham Township approximately 40 minutes before the fatal crash.

The impact left Sanders with severe trauma to his entire body. The teen was taken to Penn Presbyterian Medical Center where he was pronounced dead.

"I left for work yesterday thinking I was going to see my brother. I didn't know, last night was going to be the last night I was going to see him," said Jawun Tabb, Sanders' brother.

Tabb said his brother was smart and loved to learn new things, but now, instead of celebrating the start of summer, they are planning a funeral.

"I wish what happened last night, I wish he could be me and I could be him," Tabb said.

Tabb was not injured in the crash. The 21-year-old male victim suffered a broken ankle.

According to officials, Adams is charged with homicide by vehicle, involuntary manslaughter, and other related charges.

Investigators said Adams was pinned inside the SUV when officers arrived. He was half-dressed.

"When they took him out of the vehicle, he was completely naked from the waist down, which is very unusual to be driving a vehicle naked from the waist down," Small said. "That's also one of the reasons we believe he may have been impaired. Also, by the way, he was acting and I believe officers smelled alcohol coming from him and the vehicle."

Small said investigators are awaiting the results of a toxicology report.