Police seek Camden shooter whose bullet struck school bus

A girl is carried away from the school bus hit by gunfire Thursday in Camden.
A girl is carried away from the school bus hit by gunfire Thursday in Camden. (CLEM MURRAY / Staff)
Posted: September 15, 2013

CAMDEN Camden County police have reached out to several dozen community and civic leaders in the hope of gathering information that will lead to the arrest of the shooter who fired into a busload of preschool children in Camden's Centerville section Thursday.

Police had no suspect by late Friday afternoon.

"We're reaching out to well over 100 church and civic leaders - anybody who is a community leader who we can get the word out to," Michael Daniels, public information officer for the Camden County Police Department, said Friday. "We're letting them know what happened and what we're doing about it, and asking their help."

Just after 3 p.m. Thursday, authorities said, a black male heading south on Phillips Street, near Ninth Street and Ferry Avenue, and wearing a navy blue or black hooded sweatshirt fired 14 rounds from an automatic rifle toward the Branch Village housing complex.

Several houses were hit by bullets, but no one was shot, police said.

One round, though, struck an oncoming school bus carrying 27 children between ages 3 and 5 that was leaving the Centerville Abbott Head Start school at 1475 S. Eighth St. to make a series of drop-offs.

A bullet ripped through a bus window, just behind the door, and lodged in the bus' ceiling. Authorities said the bus was not the intended target.

After the shooting, a woman reported that her son suffered a burn mark on his back from a shard from the window. The boy was treated at a local hospital. There were no other reported injuries.

Police Chief Scott Thomson described the suspect as "Public Enemy No. 1," and said one gang member was trying to send a message to a rival. Thomson said the perpetrator fled after firing, and never discarded his weapon.

Police distributed fliers throughout the community Friday that described the incident, the shooter, and the $20,000 reward for any information leading to his arrest.

"It is believed the perpetrator fled the area in a burgundy or red vehicle toward Eighth Street from Phillips," reads the flier.

Daniels said police patrols have been added in the neighborhood, though he declined to elaborate.

"We're pushing the Citizens' Crime Commission of the Delaware Valley tip line," Daniels said. He said police had given the hotline number - 215-546-TIPS - to community, church, and civic leaders in the hope they would pass it on to their parishioners and others with whom they come in contact.

Another number listed on the flier is the Camden Citizen's Anonymous Tip Line at 1-877-345-TIPS.

"When you have a school bus struck . . . it's a very, very serious issue," Daniels said. "We're using every avenue we can to get the word out.

"We want everyone in the city to know that [tip] number and how to provide information, because we want anybody, if they know anything, to step forward."

Contact Suzette Parmley at 856-779-3928, sparmley@phillynews.com, or on Twitter @SuzParmley.


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