Man Slain In Suspected Drug-turf Battle

Posted: April 10, 1989

A 23-year-old man was shot and killed yesterday as he drove along a West Philadelphia street and a gunman fired from a passing car.

Police said last night that the killing was the third in the last two weeks in what they believe is a turf battle among drug dealers in the Mill Creek section of West Philadelphia.

Police and witnesses said that Brock White of the 4900 block of Reno Street was driving south on 50th Street just before 6 p.m. and had stopped at a traffic light at Brown Street when the shooting began. Before the light turned green, a car pulled alongside White's and one of its occupants opened fire with a large-caliber handgun.

Police said that White was hit at least twice, once in the head and once in the shoulder.

Witnesses said White and the one passenger in his car tried to escape the gunfire by turning west onto the 5000 block of Brown Street. They said the Nissan Maxima that White was driving mounted the curb and careened down the sidewalk. It slammed into the front stoop of one house, hit the back of a truck parked on the street and stopped after hitting a tree halfway down the block.

White was taken to the University of Pennsylvania Medical Center, where he died at 7:15 p.m.

"I thought he was a drunken driver," said one neighbor who saw the car as it came around the corner, and who knew the victim.

"He was a good person," said the woman, who asked not to be identified. She said that she went to the car after it collided with the tree and tried to tap the victim, but that he was not moving and she thought he was dead.

Janice Porterfield, another resident of the block, said she heard the gunshots and saw the car coming down the street. She said that when White was taken from the car, his wounds were very visible. "You could see where he was shot twice in the head," Porterfield said.

Homicide detectives said that White, a suspected drug dealer, was allegedly the leader of one of the groups fighting for control of a playground at the corner of 51st and Hoopes Streets. Police said that the leader of the other gang, Albert Ragan, 24, of the 5900 block of Lansdowne Avenue, was shot and killed March 26 in the 700 block of North 46th Street.

Homicide Detective Lt. James Henwood said that Ragan's killing may have sparked a cycle of revenge shootings, including White's. The man police believe was responsible for Ragan's killing, Chester Keeley, 19, was found shot to death in the 5300 block of Diamond Street on April 1. There was a murder warrant out for Keeley at the time of his death.

"We believe that the last two killings were in response to the Ragan shooting," Henwood said.

As of last night, the number of homicides in the city this year was 124, a jump of 36 percent over the same period last year, when 91 homicides were reported.

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