Arrest made in Head Start shooting
Wednesday, October 16, 2013 1:00 AM
A bullet which landed in a Head Start classroom Monday morning was allegedly fired by a man accused in six felonies over the last decade, including armed robbery, escape, sale of a controlled substance, possession of crack cocaine along with two separate charges of possession of a controlled substance with intent to sale.
The man, Wilshaun McAfee, was arrested Tuesday after one of the six bullets he allegedly fired during an assault on another man landed in a classroom at the Exhibit Hall Head Start Center on Carver Avenue, the authorities said.
No one was injured when the bullet shattered a window, passed through a classroom and made contact near a garbage can.
McAfee, 31, of 222 Martin Luther King Dr., is charged with aggravated assault and shooting into an occupied dwelling, said Philadelphia Assistant Police Chief Julian Greer.
He was arrested about 2:45 p.m. at a residence on Martin Luther King Drive, following a tip to authorities.
Police Investigator Fredesz Moore said officers responded to a report of shots being fired in that area Monday shortly after 8:30 a.m.
The shooting at the Head Start center was the second in as many weeks in west Philadelphia and the 12th reported in the city since the summer.
The Democrat learned of an Oct. 5 late-night shootout and near riot in west Philadelphia through a public records request for 911 calls, an incident the mayor initially denied until confronted by a reporter with the call information. (See story, page 1A)
Head Start Administrator Patty Curtis said a teacher and two students were in the 3- and 4-year-olds classroom when the shooting occurred.
"The police found the bullet on the floor," she said. "A couple of children where sitting on a rug in the room. The teacher took them out of the classroom. We called 911."
Authorities believe that McAfee fired up to six shots at an alleged victim in the vicinity of Head Start which is housed in the old Booker T. Washington School.
"The two had exchanged words over the weekend," Moore said.
The two men confronted each other Monday morning near the Head Start building and during a short pursuit the alleged victim's vehicle was struck by two bullets, one in the back window and the other on the side, Moore said.
"Another bullet actually struck the school," he said.
The alleged victim filed a report with the police department identifying McAfee as the person firing the handgun, Moore said.
Mayor James A. Young said it was fortunate that no one was injured in the shooting.
There were fewer students in the classroom at the time of the shooting than usual, he said, because it was Columbus Day and both city and county schools were closed.
"A lot of parents were off today. By the grace of God the classroom was not full," Young said.
Mississippi Action for Progress, which operates Head Start, said the center was immediately locked down.
"We made sure that no one was injured and we contacted the police who responded promptly to the scene," Attorney Charlene Priester, in-house counsel for MAP, said in a press release.
"This random act of violence could not be predicted but we have asked the police department and the mayor's office to increase their patrol of this area where our center is located and they have assured us that they will," Priester said.
Safety is a main concern, she said.
"Exhibit Hall (Head Start Center) is safe and sound," she said. "All doors are locked and secure. We are doing all we can to make sure that your child is safe here at Exhibit Hall. The incident that happened today was not targeted for Exhibit Hall. Your child's and children's safety is always our main concern."
Some residents voiced concerns on the Neshoba Democrat's Facebook page about why parents were not contacted after the shooting occurred.
"I'd like to know why the workers didn't think it was important enough to notify the parents and most had to find out from this page?" one wrote. "Scared parents might flip out? That's what I'd like to know."
Mayor Young said he was going to ask the Board of Aldermen to close applications for a police chief on Oct. 31, as opposed to Nov. 29 as initially planned, in wake of the shooting. (See related story, page 1A)
"We don't need to wait another month to find another police chief," Young said.
"This morning, a bullet went through a window, almost hitting a caregiver and a child," he said.
He urged the community to get more involved when they witness a crime.
"I know people say 'if I call and come forward they are going to come and get me.' There is a fear factor but until we step forward and take back control, we are going to lose our community. That's not something I want to see happen in any communities. Ours is no different than any others but these last few months have been terrorizing for our community. People are afraid to go to sleep at night."
Greer "applauded the community" for its response in identifying the alleged shooter.
"Today's community response was better than we've had in a long time," he said. "It was really good today."
The case remains under investigation.
According to Philadelphia Municipal Court Clerk Denise Refre, McAfee had been charged with six felonies since October 2000. including armed robbery, escape, sale of a controlled substance, possession of crack cocaine and two separate charges of possession of a controlled substance with intent to sale.
He has an indictment pending on possession of cocaine, according to the circuit clerk's office.