Grant Coleman, convicted of for fatally shooting a Philadelphia man in 1999 – was released from prison Oct. 24 and sent to a halfway house. Eighteen days later, he was shot nine times as he sat in a car, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports. “He got the death sentence the street-justice way,” said a police officer. Coleman was one of Philadelphia’s 380 homicide victims last year, when the rate of killing spiked. His death reflects a trend that is sometimes overlooked while the city grapples with the jump in homicides: Increasing numbers of victims had criminal pasts. More than 70 percent of those killed last year had been arrested at least once, and some were hard-core street thugs. Two years earlier, the figure was 64 percent. Most killings were “bad guys on bad guys,” said another officer.
John F. Timoney, a former Philadelphia police commissioner, said the rising homicide numbers affects how the public thinks of the city, no matter who was getting killed. “When New York City had a huge homicide problem in the late ’80s and early ’90s, the perception was that New York City was unsafe, even though there were very few homicides in Midtown and downtown Manhattan,” Timoney said. Ralph Taylor, a professor of criminal justice at Temple University, raised the question of whether the background of the victim affected police priorities. “Does this result in less energy in solving homicides?” Taylor asked.