Quiet N. Phila. teen 'didn't deserve' brazen slaying

Posted: August 29, 2014

TO ELEANOR THOMPSON, it sounded like firecrackers going off.

Pop. Pop. Pop.

Then the screaming started, cutting through the muggy air of a late-summer night in North Philly.

Thompson turned, and her heart leaped into her throat: Robert Reid, 17, was lying on an empty basketball court, his blood pooling around him.

She ran up to him, a boy she had watched grow up, an older guy whom her grandkids idolized. But it was too late.

"We need to catch who did this," Thompson said last night on that same roundball court. "It didn't make sense for that boy to get killed like that; he didn't deserve it."

Reid was gunned down just before 9 p.m. Tuesday at the Hartranft playground, about two blocks from his house on 9th Street near Cumberland, according to police.

The blacktop was his second home, where friends say he spent all his time when he wasn't in class at Simon Gratz High or working the fryers at McDonald's at his after-school job.

Last night, investigators were scouring the city for Reid's killer, who opened fire on the teen in front of about 80 people, said Homicide Unit Captain James Clark.

"This was a very nice kid who was starting his senior year in high school, and we just need some direction on who killed him," Clark said, who added that Reid had no criminal record and that it was unclear what motivated the deadly shooting.

"There's nothing in his background that would dictate that he should have been [targeted], but we need to find out who killed him," Clark said.

Last night, Reid's friends poured onto the court, placing basketballs and stuffed animals at a growing memorial and writing messages of hope on poster board taped to the playground's chain-link fence.

His rec-league teammates fought back tears. They declined to comment, their feelings still raw after watching him die.

Those who did talk said they didn't recognize the shooter and had told investigators everything they could about the slaying.

As Maurice Williams watched the procession, he couldn't help but reminisce about Reid, who lived two doors from him and whom he had coached for three years in the Hartranft Basketball League based at the playground.

Reid was a quiet, thoughtful guy who liked to write poetry, a hobby he occasionally brought to a studio to cut hip-hop albums, Williams said.

"Hopefully, people see this tragedy, and we can use this as a stepping-stone, to show what we're trying to prevent," he said.

"Most of the kids here are good kids, and that's why they're here - they could be standing in front of a [corner] store, but they decide to come here to play ball and stay out of trouble."

- Staff writer Morgan Zalot

contributed to this report.

On Twitter: @Vellastrations

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