By Brendan O’Brien
(Reuters) -A Philadelphia gunman charged with killing five people over the Fourth of July weekend left “disturbing messages” on social media before carrying out one of several U.S. mass shootings that marred the holiday break, authorities said on Wednesday.
The suspect, identified as 40-year-old Kimbrady Carriker, appeared on Wednesday in Philadelphia County Municipal Court for arraignment on five counts of murder and other charges related to the Monday evening rampage, which appeared to be random.
In addition to the five deaths, two children were wounded in the attack, one of a rash of mass shootings over the holiday weekend in a country where gun violence has become nearly commonplace.
Some 16 mass shootings took place across the U.S. from Friday evening until Wednesday morning, leaving 15 dead and 94 injured, according to the Gun Violence Archive. It defines a mass shooting as any in which four or more people are wounded or killed, not including the shooter.
In Philadelphia, investigators said they have yet to determine a motive for the shooting. Philadelphia Sheriff Rochelle Bilal said at a briefing on Wednesday that authorities were focusing on “disturbing” posts found on the suspect’s social media accounts.
She did not reveal the substance of those posts, nor what was written in a will for the suspect dated June 23 that investigators also discovered. Later when asked by a reporter, officials declined to comment.
Bilal urged the public to alert authorities if they see extreme posts on social media.
“That is on all of us, not sit in silence when we see these type of posters that are threatening to harm us, harm our communities, harm our children,” she said.
Carriker wore a bullet-proof vest and a ski mask during the shooting, officials said. They added he had no apparent connection with any of the victims he gunned down, apparently at random, before being taken into custody.
The suspect may have obtained at least one of his weapons illegally, District Attorney Larry Krasner said. He also carried a handgun during the attack.
“We’re talking about completely innocent bystanders who did absolutely nothing to put themselves at risk and they have suffered this horrifying consequence,” Krasner told CNN during an interview.
The five males killed were Lashyd Merritt, 20, Dymir Stanton, 29, and Ralph Moralis, Daujan Brown, 15, and Joseph Wamah, Jr., 31, according to police. The wounded children were aged two and 13.
“It’s hard to wake up from this. I don’t understand how someone could do that to my brother,” Wamah’s twin sister Josephine said during a news conference on Wednesday. “He was like a second father to me. He was gorgeous inside and out.”
WEEKEND OF MASS SHOOTINGS
In another weekend shooting, four people died and seven others were wounded in Shreveport, Louisiana, at an Independence Day celebration just before midnight on Tuesday, local police said.
At least one gunman opened fire at a gathering of close to 100 people in the northwest section of the city, Shreveport police said, adding all four deceased individuals were adults.
Two people died at the scene, a third died at a hospital and police later discovered another body in a nearby field on Wednesday morning, Sergeant Angie Willhite, an official with the Shreveport police, said.
The motive for the shooting was not known and no arrests were made as of early Wednesday, according to police.
The attacks in Louisiana and Philadelphia came after gunfire rang out on Sunday in Baltimore during a block party. Two people were killed, including an 18-year-old woman, and 28 injured in that shooting. Authorities were still hunting for suspects, pleading with the public to come forward with information on their whereabouts.
Another mass shooting occurred in Salisbury, Maryland during a block party. It left a 14-year-old boy dead and six injured.
Gun violence tends to spike over the Fourth of July holiday in the United States due to a number of factors, according to James Alan Fox, a criminologist at Northeastern University.
“You have people not working and not in school. You have large gatherings, alcohol, hot weather and concealed weapons held by participants,” Fox said. “You have a dangerous situation.”
The rash of gun violence over the last several days is part of a surge in mass shootings in the United States since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.
As of Wednesday, 351 mass shootings have taken place across the country so far this year. At that pace, the United States will experience 689 mass shootings in 2023, just shy of the 690 recorded in 2021, which was the most of any year since 2014, according to the Gun Violence Archive.
(Reporting by Brendan O’Brien in Chicago; Rich McKay in Atlanta and Kanishka Singh in Washington D.C.; Editing by Mark Porter, Chris Reese and David Gregorio)
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