Rising College seniors Sofia Graziano and James Klusaritz spent the evening of June 5 together at their favorite karaoke bar O’Neals Pub. When the couple left the bar — located between 3rd and South Streets — around 11:30 p.m., they encountered a crowd of about 75 people in the street outside.
After they had walked several blocks away from the commotion, Klusaritz realized he had left his credit card back at O’Neal’s. Graziano recalled that when they returned, they heard the sound of over 10 gunshots, immediately fled from the scene, and hid multiple blocks away, later calling a Lyft to pick them up.
While neither student was injured in the mass shooting on South Street that night, 14 individuals — nearly all bystanders, with ages ranging from 17 to 69 — were either wounded or killed.
Graziano said that she did not recognize the magnitude of what occurred that night until early the next morning when she read the news.
“It was way bigger than I think any of us realized. It settled in that this wasn’t just like a random small shooting — this was a mass sort of event we had just witnessed and been part of,” Graziano told The Daily Pennsylvanian. “And it could have gone way worse [for us] than it did.”
Graziano posted a story on her Instagram account the morning after the shooting, with text reading “Ran 5 blocks in heels and hid behind a car shaking and crying. Truly the most traumatizing night of my life.” She told the DP that she hoped the message would bring increased awareness to the traumatic impact of mass shootings occurring nationwide.
Graziano added that she didn’t sleep well that evening, and her anxiety continued the following day, noticing loud popping sounds throughout the day near her home. After she called the police several times to ask about the noises, she was informed that the source was fireworks going off in the area.
Klusaritz, who said he had talked with Graziano about the events that night extensively to piece together what happened, is now just trying to move forward.
“Lightning doesn’t strike twice in the same place — I guess move on,” Klusaritz said. “I know the one thing that’s helped me is definitely just getting the full story of what happened.”
Penn’s Division of Public Safety sent out an advisory to the community regarding summer safety on campus, which stated its recognition of the South Street shooting and the rise of violent crime across the country. In 2021, almost 700 gun deaths occurred, a jump from 611 in 2020 and 417 in 2019.
Interim Vice President of DPS Kathleen Shields Anderson told the DP that, despite some misconceptions, police deployment levels on campus remain the same “365 days of the year, 24/7,” and that all resources are currently operating at full strength. As noted in the advisory, Public Safety has targeted patrols that aim to respond to crime trends as they emerge.
Two 18-year-old suspects for the South Street shooting, Qaadir Dukes-Hill and Nahjee Whittington, were taken into custody last week and now face murder charges, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported. The two individuals, who are friends, both fired into the crowd following a fight that erupted on South Street.
The shooting comes in the wake of multiple mass shootings across the United States in recent weeks. On May 18, 10 people were killed and three others were wounded by a shooter in Buffalo, N.Y., and 19 children and two teachers were killed by a shooter on May 24 at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas. 267 mass shootings have occurred in the United States this year as of June 15, according to the Gun Violence Archive, a nonprofit data organization.
Graziano said that she is considering leaving Philadelphia and returning back home for the summer to alleviate her safety concerns as she currently lives alone off campus. Whatever her decision is, it will be what makes her feel most comfortable in the coming months, she told the DP.
“Now [mass shootings] are in our backyard, it’s even scarier,” Graziano said. “People, like me, said ‘oh, this was never gonna happen to me or us’ — I think we now sort of have this wake-up call.”