WORTH REPEATING: No Prayer For The City

cp_2008_07_17.jpgBY MIKE NEWALL The shooting went down in the Chestnut Court Apartments courtyard at Seventh and Chestnut streets in South Camden. It was 8:40 p.m. on Father’s Day. The night was hot, the air heavy, and the neon sign above Eddie’s Liquor cast a dull yellow light across the desolate intersection.

Jason Santos, a 23-year-old with a 2-year-old daughter, a promising job with the Camden County Board of Education and a clean record, was sharing beers with a friend when he ran into Alvin Santos (no relation) and Ricky Gonzalez.* Alvin is Ricky’s uncle. Alvin is 25; Ricky, 17. Both of them have serious “jackets” — as criminal records are known on the streets here — and both have ties to the Latin Kings street gang. Jason and Alvin had prior altercations in the past, police say. Jason’s family and friends call him Pork Chop, because Jason is bulky. Alvin is not. Jason won those prior altercations, police say.

On this night, Alvin and Ricky are carrying guns. Jason is not. Words are exchanged. Then punches. Alvin falls to the ground, his handgun skittering across the pavement. This is when police say Ricky pulls his gun, which jams, so he picks up Uncle Alvin’s and begins firing. Bullets perforate Jason’s heart, lung and spleen. Jason falls to the sidewalk, bleeding there in the dull yellow light as Ricky and Alvin disappear into the night.

Jason’s friend heaves Jason’s body into the back of a car.

“My boy’s been shot, my boy’s been shot,” the friend keeps saying.

At 9:09 p.m., a Cooper Trauma surgeon named Richard Burns pronounces Jason dead. Police record it as Camden’s 28th homicide of 2008, about a dozen more than the city had this time last year. MORE

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