'I want to melt somewhere and die': North Philly mom loses third son to gun violence

Cherri Gregg
November 08, 2018 - 10:16 pm
Quana Garner

Cherri Gregg | KYW Newsradio

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PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) -- Shootings are up 15 percent in Philadelphia this year. One North Philadelphia mother is speaking out after her son was shot dead over a minor neighborhood beef. It's just one of a slew of violent losses.

Quana Garner is heartbroken...but on a mission.

"They've got to put the guns down. It's senseless," she said, as she looked through photos of her son, Rohquan Gardner, 18. "He was my gentle giant. He was smart. He would have been something."

Police say Rohquan was shot multiple times on the corner of Chew Street and Chelten Avenue on Halloween. They found 35 shell casings on the ground. The shootout involved multiple young Black men and ended with only one casualty, Rohquan.  

"I want to get in a corner and ball up, melt somewhere and die," said Garner, "but I have to be strong for my sons, I have to tell their story."

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She's standing tall because this is not the first time she's been in mourning. Nine years ago, she held a double funeral for her sons Kiheem, 21, and Sharif, 17; they were gunned down just days apart.

"Nine days a part," says Garner, "I buried them together."

According to the word on the street, Garner says, all three sons were murdered because of neighborhood territorial beefs.

"It's the Brickyard. Hanes Street beef," she said regarding Rohquan's death. "You can't go into one side of the street. They don't like each other."

Philadelphia police are investigating the murder. Garner says the "word on the street" is that it was retaliation for another shooting days before her son's death.

"It's heart-wrenching," said Shakia Fudge, who is a Crisis Response worker for Philadelphia Ceasefire. The anti-violence group mediates street conflicts. But their presence is limited because of staffing and funding. They have a few interveners in the 22nd, 14th, and 35th districts, all high crime areas. But the uptick in shootings and gun deaths proves the cycle of killing and retaliation, where kids kill kids continues.

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"In some cases, I can get in there and stop it," said Fudge, "but to be honest, in some instances, I can't squash it because the beef has been going on so long."

When asked whether Philadelphia has a "gang problem," a spokesman for the city issued the following statement:

"The issue of gang violence, including retaliation, is a vexing one, and is a focus of our violence prevention efforts. It is one of the reasons that Mayor Kenney in September issued a Call to Action on violence prevention. As that time, he tasked the new Deputy Managing Director for Criminal Justice and Public Safety Vanessa Garrett Harley with the development of a plan on how to dramatically reduce the killings and shootings in Philadelphia. That plan is due in early January.  
 
As the Mayor said at the time, we must get away from the mindset that policing is the only answer. So this plan will take a new approach, markedly different than initiatives that primarily rely on policing. It will look at violence through the lens of public health. It will examine the causes of violence in our neighborhoods. It will rely on data and science to help identify the most effective strategies to address these issues. And, most importantly, the plan will focus on violence as a symptom of the larger crisis of pervasive poverty in Philadelphia. Using a public health approach, this plan will map out a more robust, and comprehensive response to violence that focuses on prevention, as well as enforcement and reentry."

In the meantime, Quana Gardner is focused on her 16-year-old son, the only son she has who's still alive.

"I want to bubble wrap him and put him on a shelf," she said, "but I can't."

So she's sharing her story to shed light on the problem that is claiming the lives of so many young lives, hoping it saves at least one.

"These young black men are killing each other off faster than anyone else can," she said. "They hurt, they're angry, but this needs to stop."

If you know of a neighborhood beef, call Philadelphia Ceasefire at 267-648-3270.

Family members created a GoFundMe page to cover Rohquan's funeral expenses.