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The Philadelphia Inquirer
The Philadelphia Inquirer
Ellie Rushing

3 teens suspected in Philly school shooting committed another murder the day before, police say

PHILADELPHIA — Three of the teens accused of shooting five young football players, killing one, outside Roxborough High School in September are expected to be charged with murder in connection with another fatal shooting the day before, police said Friday.

Troy Fletcher, 15, and Zyhied Jones, 17, will face new murder charges in the killing of 19-year-old Tahmir Jones in North Philadelphia on Sept. 26, said Deputy Police Commissioner Frank Vanore.

Police also expect to charge Dayron Burney-Thorne, 16, who is wanted in the Roxborough case but remains a fugitive, with an additional murder charge once he is caught.

Around 2 p.m. on Sept. 26, police say, Tahmir Jones was walking in front of his family’s home on the 600 block of North 13th Street when three shooters jumped out of a car and shot him more than 20 times. He was rushed to Jefferson University Hospital, where he died a short time later.

Jones, who is not related to Zyhied Jones, had just earned his GED and was working in a construction apprenticeship program through YouthBuild to potentially become an electrician, his mother, Theresa Guyton, said.

YouthBuild presented her with her son’s OSHA certification, which he had earned just before his death, at his funeral last month, she said. He was the youngest of five kids, and also helped his grandmother care for her home health care patients.

“He was my most affectionate child, he would just come kiss me for no reason,” Guyton said.

Twenty-four hours after killing Jones, police say, the shooters, with two others, targeted a group of kids after their football scrimmage, unleashing more than 60 bullets as they walked to their locker room. Nicolas Elizalde, 14, was killed, and four other teens were injured.

Attorneys for the three suspects who face new charges declined to comment or could not be reached Friday.

Vanore said police have no evidence that Tahmir Jones’ killing and the Roxborough shooting are related beyond being carried out by some of the same assailants.

The motive behind Jones’ killing is “completely unknown,” said Homicide Capt. Jason Smith. Jones, who had no criminal record, had just moved to the neighborhood with his family four months before he was shot, he said.

The additional charges come about a month after the high school shooting, and as new details about the crime have emerged from police accounts and interviews.

As of this week, all five suspected shooters have been identified, and four are in custody. Vanore said they appeared to be friends.

Detectives now believe the shooters in the Roxborough incident were retaliating for an earlier shooting, Vanore said, and that at least one of the victims was targeted. Elizalde was not a target, he said.

Vanore declined to elaborate on the earlier shooting, but a law enforcement source with knowledge of the investigation said it’s believed that one of the shooters’ relatives had been shot earlier, and they were seeking revenge for that.

Police are also investigating the shooters’ connections to additional crimes in the area, Vanore said. According to court records, bullet casings recovered at the scene in Roxborough were linked to three guns used in other crimes. One of the guns was linked to Jones’ killing, the records said.

Police records show that investigators identified the suspects in the high school shooting through DNA evidence recovered in the getaway car, ballistic evidence, and cellphone data and records. The records list no eyewitnesses tying the suspects to the scene.

“They took painstaking effort to avoid detection, but obviously not enough,” said Capt. Smith.

Here’s what police recovered, according to the records:

On Sept. 27, around 4:45 p.m., the shooters arrived in a light green Ford Explorer, jumped out and fired 64 times at the teens. They fled in the vehicle, which police found abandoned in Southwest Philadelphia the following night.

Inside, police discovered a partially smoked marijuana blunt and a Zip-Loc bag. Forensic tests on those items found DNA that matched Zyhied Jones. They also found fingerprints on a window that matched Burney-Thorne.

The Ford Explorer was equipped with cellular and internet service that tracks the vehicle’s location history and all devices connected to it. That data showed that a phone whose owner named the device “Northside DayDay” — with a number that police say matches Burney-Thorne’s — was connected to the vehicle numerous times, including the day after the Roxborough shooting.

The car’s location history provided detectives with the exact route, before, during and after the shooting.

Cellphone records from AT&T showed the locations of the phones police believe belong to Fletcher and Burney-Thorne, which they said had a “matching pattern of movement” with the travel path of the Ford Explorer to and from the crime scene. It also put their phones “near the area” of the crime at the time it occurred.

The car had stopped at a gas station on the way to the shooting, and surveillance video showed a few of the teens, some wearing masks, go inside the store. After police released their images to the public, the records say a “known source” identified one of the masked teens as Fletcher.

The tracking of the car’s locations also led them to surveillance video that showed that about an hour before the shooting, five males drove to North Philadelphia in a Chevy Impala, then got into the Ford Explorer and headed to Roxborough. When police recovered the Impala, they found two crumpled-up receipts for ammunition purchased by 21-year-old Yaaseen Bivins.

Video from the gun shop Bivins visited showed that he and another person arrived at the store in the Impala and made the purchase. Forensic testing showed those bullets were then used in the shooting.

Saleem Miller, 16, was also arrested and charged with murder this week. It could not be learned how police tied him to the crime.

Police are still searching for Burney-Thorne.

Meanwhile, Tahmir Jones’ family is struggling with loss — a pain they’ve become all too familiar with.

Just two years ago, Tahmir’s oldest brother, Marcus Alexander, was fatally shot. And that same year, his 14-year-old stepbrother was killed in a drive-by shooting. Losing yet another son to Philadelphia’s senseless gun violence brings an unimaginable pain, Theresa Guyton said.

“We’ve lost a lot in the last two years,” she said.

Jones’ mother said Tahmir was smart and kind, and determined to find stability in his life after his brothers’ deaths through the construction program. He was like a dad to his 3-year-old nephew, whose father is incarcerated, and he would spend every weekend with him like he was his own.

Now, she said, all her grandson does is say, “I want Tahmir.”


(Inquirer staff writer Chris Palmer contributed to this article.)

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