For nearly a year, Eric Hayes, 17, had been in the city’s witness relocation program while testifying about an arson attempt on his family’s Southwest Philadelphia home.
Almost every night, he stayed at a Philadelphia hotel under an assumed name.
And nearly every morning, he’d go back to his old neighborhood in Southwest Philadelphia, where he was still Eric, flipping burgers at a McDonald’s alongside coworkers who loved him.
On the day before Thanksgiving, Hayes was shot three times in the head while waiting for a bus in Northeast Philadelphia, where his family had just found a house.
He died two days later, the 23d victim under age 18 to be killed by gunfire in the Philadelphia region this year.
In a city where terrified witnesses refuse to come forward, Hayes and his family were willing to testify while seeking some measure of protection for themselves.
Earlier this week, two witnesses in the shooting death of 5-year-old Casha’e Rivers recanted statements they had given police linking a defendant to the shooting.
No arrests have been made in the death of Hayes, and police say they don’t know whether the homicide was related to his status as a witness.
RELATED: “Well, we have a witness-protection program in the city, as do most cities, and we have tried to make it clear to those people who witness violence, or who have information about violent acts, that we can protect you if it becomes necessary. We run into those situations where people have information that could lead to the arrest or conviction of people organized in drug activity, and it is important that people know that if you come forward and testify, we can take care of you.” — Mayor John Street On CNN, March 18th, 2005