Dispute ends with one dead, one hurt (Philadelphia Inquirer: 4/26/06)

By Barbara Boyer and Christopher Wink | Apr 26, 2006 | Philadelphia Inquirer

One teen is dead, another is charged with murder, and police are looking for a third after an Olney playground turned into a bloody crime scene.

Yagouba Bah, 17, of the 100 block of West Champlost Street, was shot twice and stabbed so brutally Thursday night that one police official said the wound looked as though the victim had been eviscerated on the playground.
And, police said, it all happened in front of the teen’s brother.

Maurice Harmon, 17, of the 5800 block of Howard Street, was shot in the thigh accidentally by a friend during the slaying of Bah, police said. Harmon was treated for injuries – and charged yesterday with murder. He is a junior at a school run by Community Education Partners at 12th Street and Allegheny Avenue.

At a vigil and antiviolence rally last night in the playground where the teenager was attacked, more than 50 people, many of them children, gathered around a tree decorated with teddy bears, cards and a poster board that read: “We love you, Gouba.”

Many were in tears. Some stared with blank expressions at candles placed at the base of the tree. Others cried out: “You didn’t have to kill him!”

Tondalea Wiggins, the boy’s stepmother, was the only member of the teen’s family who was able to speak to the crowd about the tragedy that had visited them.

“Let Gouba rest,” she said. “God has a plan for everybody. He don’t have to suffer no more.”

She also pleaded with the young people in attendance to stop the violence and to resolve conflicts amicably.

“You don’t fight somebody just because they came from another country,” Wiggins said. The family emigrated from the African nation of Guinea, she said later.

Then she had words for her stepson’s attackers:

“Whoever did this is going to pay. Maybe not today or tomorrow, but you’re going to pay for what you did,” Wiggins said.

This year, there have been 115 homicides, the same as for the comparable period last year, when the total for the year was 380. That was the highest since 1997, when more than 400 homicides were recorded.

Police said they responded to the Olney Recreation Center in the 6000 block of North A Street at 8:22 p.m. Thursday. There they found Bah, who had gunshot wounds to the back and side and a deep stab wound to the abdomen.

Bah, a ninth grader at Excel Academy at 6600 Bustleton Ave., one of four district schools for over-age students, was rushed to Albert Einstein Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead at 9 p.m.

Harmon was shot in the left thigh and taken to Einstein by a private vehicle, police said. Police yesterday were still looking for the friend who accidentally shot him.

As police surveyed the playground, they said, they discovered casings from a .45-caliber gun as well as a 9mm gun, a white metal rod, and a bloodied knife.

Police said the teens had a running argument earlier in the evening. Witnesses told police the fights flared and calmed, and then, before one teen starting swinging a stick, another pulled a knife and two pulled guns.

Capt. Benjamin Naish, a police spokesman, said Bah had been getting the better of the other teens before it escalated with weapons. Police said Bah had not been armed.

Police said the nature of the argument was unclear. They also had not determined who took Harmon to the hospital for his leg injury.

Yesterday afternoon, teens returned to the playground, where chalk marks and crime-scene tape remained.

Anyone with information about the crime is asked to call homicide detectives at 215-686-3334.

Contact staff writer Barbara Boyer at 215-854-2641 or bboyer@phillynews.com.

Inquirer staff writer Stephanie L. Arnold contributed to this article.

Text as it appeared in the April 26, 2006 edition of the Philadelphia Inquirer on B01.