Police identify toddler killed and baby critically wounded in weekend shootings, offer $30K reward in each case

KYW Staff
October 21, 2019 - 7:04 am
Homicide Capt. Jason Smith

Kristen Johanson/KYW Newsradio

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UPDATED: 9:30 p.m.

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Philadelphia police are investigating two separate shootings over the weekend that left a 2-year-old girl dead and an 11-month-old boy in critical condition. 

Police have identified the toddler as Nikolette Rivera and the baby as Yazeem Jenkins. 

Toddler killed in her home

Around 3:30 Sunday afternoon, police say someone fired six shots from an assault rifle at a house on Water Street near Ontario Street in Kensington. Police say the weapon is connected to a car being shot up blocks away on Clearfield Street, but they’re not sure who the shooter was going after.

Homicide Capt. Jason Smith said 2-year-old Nikolette was in her 24-year-old mother's arms at time of the shooting. The mother received graze wounds, and a 33-year-old man, who was doing renovations inside the house, was also wounded.

Both were sent to Temple University Hospital. The man is in critical condition, and the mother is stable.

Nikolette was shot in the back of the head and declared dead at the scene.

"I think it is safe to assume that that house was specifically targeted," Smith said at a press conference Monday.

Police say the girl's grandmother and other children in the house at the time. 

Infant in critical condition

The deadly shooting of Nikolette Rivera came less than a day after an 11-month-old boy was gravely wounded in Hunting Park.

Yazeem Jenkins was shot four times while in the back seat of his stepmother's car, around 8 p.m. Saturday. He was hit in the back of the head, in the chest, and twice in the backside. 

Police Capt. Nick Brown said the baby is in very, very critical condition. If he survives, he will likely be paralyzed. 

Authorities said the shots were fired at Seventh and West Luzerne streets, but the driver kept going to the 4900 block of Camac Street in the Fern Rock section of the city. She then realized the baby was hit. 

Yazeem was taken to St. Christopher's Hospital for Children. It is not clear if the stepmother was wounded.

Police offer $30K rewards leading to arrests

"No one was shot with a legal gun. There are folks who are carrying them with impunity," said Acting Police Commissioner Christine Coulter. "They’re firing weapons indiscriminately into homes. And at the end of the day, it's just unacceptable, it's intolerable and it's sickening, to be honest."

Coulter said it’s hard to wrap her head around the fact that innocent kids are the victims, and that these two shootings happened not even 24 hours apart.

"I've never seen anything like this," she said, "and it's something you can't unsee."

Both shootings are under investigation. So far, no arrests have been made. 

Reward money for both shootings has been increased to $30,000 each from the city. Anyone with information is asked to call police.

As they search for the shooters in either case, Coulter said it has been an emotional, trying time for so many, including herself and the responding officers.

"We have officers who show up at scenes who are actually crying at the scene because they’re holding babies who are not gonna make it. It should be that kickstart we all need to make sure we all work together," Coulter said.

Mayor Jim Kenney echoed Coulter, saying the violence is "disheartening." He called on the public to help police find the shooters.

"It's devastating to the psyche of the city, and people have to know who this guy is or who these people are," he said. "We need to know who they are so we can lock them up."

The mayor, though, said he continues to believe his "public health" approach is the best way to address the city's violent crime problem.

"I don't think that stopping every young person in the city and going through their pockets is going to be the answer to this question either," he said. "The answer to this question is education, opportunity, training and the ability to make a living without selling drugs or carrying a gun."

Anyone with information could be eligible for the growing reward money, if a tip leads to an arrest.

"We can’t keep up with the flow of guns in there," Kenney added, "so the federal government and the state government needs to give us some relief so we can deal with this in a more effective way."

Vigil

Water Street was flooded with neighbors and friends in mourning Monday night as a vigil was held in memory of 2-year-old Nikolette.

"She lost her life. We are burying a child, not an adult who's lived that has had experiences. This child isn't experience enough," said Camille Pagan, her aunt.

Pagan spoke for the family, demanding justice, begging anyone with information to speak out.

"You giving them information helps. Justice for Nikolette is what matters," said a family member. 

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KYW Newsradio's Kristen Johanson, Pat Loeb, Shara Dae Howard and Tim Jimenez contributed to this report.

CORRECTION: The spelling of Nikolette Rivera's name has been corrected.

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