Kevin Cook

The effects of Philadelphia's urban gun violence crisis

Photographs by Kevin Cook
July 2020 - September 2022

Zyiah Nash and her father, Bruce Nash, who was shot eight times in May 2017. The two bonded over playing basketball together, but it has been difficult for Bruce to be in public spaces ever since because of PTSD from the shooting.


The newspaper publication of these photographs is available for purchase here.

From 2020-2022, Philadelphia experienced historic levels of gun violence. During this three year stretch 1,429 people were fatally shot. 5,430 people were non fatally wounded. These numbers are the highest totals in the city's history. These images serve as the visuals and stories for the data. 

There are four key components: portraits of people who were physically affected and survived; police activity and crime scenes; vigils, funerals and rallies where loved one's mourn and celebrate the person they lost; and men who committed murder, but have been released from jail.

I am forever indebted to my wonderful, selfless collaborators who allowed me to document such sensitive and vulnerable moments in their lives. These images are the microphone for their story.

I hope these photographs serve as an education tool and a call to change.

Philadelphia gun violence organizations, tools and resources.

Bruce was shot at 22nd and Fox streets in North Philadelphia. His right leg still has a bullet lodged in it, and another bullet pierced his lung. “I ain’t afraid, I’m strong. This is my second chance at life,” Bruce said. Police have made no arrests in the shooting.

Aliyah Raye says goodbye to her mother, Melanie Raye, at Mel’s funeral. The shooting occurred a week before Mel’s wedding. “I’m hurt, I’m hurt. I don’t know what to do. They took my mother from me. They took her wife from her,” Aliyah said. Police have a clear video of two shooters but have not made an arrest.

Vigil and balloon release for Melanie Raye. Mel was shot and killed on the 1400 block of North Etting Street in Brewerytown, Philadelphia on Thursday, August 20, 2020.

Aliyah and her girlfriend Brieal Andrews on her mother’s birthday at the cemetery.

A rally for Ojanae “Nae” Tamia Thompson, 19, who was found shot multiple times inside of a black BMW SUV at a shopping center on East Olney Avenue on Monday, August 16, 2021. Police placed Ojanae in their patrol vehicle and rushed her to Albert Einstein Medical Center. Unfortunately, Ojanae died from her wounds two weeks later.

“Nae was a beautiful person, inside and outside. This world lost an amazing person, whose only agenda was to help any and everyone she could,” her mother Tiffaney Flynn said. Nae’s murder is unsolved.

Kama Anderson in her North Philadelphia home. Her son Larry was killed on the 2300 block of Sydenham Street on Sunday, June 23, 2002. Larry, who was 18 at the time, was one of five people killed at six different locations that day in Philly. That year 288 were killed, 233 by a firearm.

“All the cars couldn’t even fit in the cemetery,” Kama said of Larry’s funeral. “He was very popular, very liked.” She said if her son was still alive today that he “would still be dressing fly for sure” with a wife and a couple of kids. He may have owned a business. “He would have been so proud of me. I’m no longer a gun violence victim. I’m a survivor,” Kama said.

A detective photographs the crime scene of a triple shooting at 200 W. Duncannon Ave. in Olney on Friday, July 2, 2021. Three men, ages 24, 33 and 37, were transported to Einstein Medical Center. All three were listed in stable condition. 

Philadelphia firefighters wash away blood from the homicide scene of Quenzell Bradley-Brown. Bradley-Brown was fatally shot while bringing in groceries to his Southwest Philly home on September 8, 2022. Police said it was a case of mistaken identity. 

A nearby dice game ended after two men were shot on the 3100 block of North Darien Street in Philadelphia’s 25th Police District, on Friday, December 4, 2020. A 48-year-old man was shot once in the chest and later pronounced dead at a hospital. A 27-year-old man was shot three times and was listed in stable condition.

“Don’t leave me, bro -- don’t fucking leave me, bro,” cried Briandria Wilson (center left, white shirt) at the funeral for her brother, Quenzell “Q” Bradley- Brown. Q, a married father of four, was shot and killed as he unloaded groceries from his car outside his home in Overbrook, West Philly, in September 2022. Police told his mother Taneesha Brodie it was a case of mistaken identity. A Facebook post from Briandria read, “Let it be known my brother was an innocent man. He was not in the streets, he was a family man ... just started his new job ... unfortunately he was gunned down before he could even make it to the steps of his home and died over senseless gun violence that had nothing to do with him.”

Kalima, Q’s wife, and his son, Kaizer, at Q’s funeral.

Two men were shot on the 3300 block of H Street in Philadelphia’s Kensington neighborhood on Sunday, July 4, 2021. Responding police officers located a 25-year-old man with a gunshot wound to the side and a 23-year old man with a gunshot wound to the foot. The 25-year-old man was listed in critical condition. According to 2019 data from Drexel University’s Urban Health Collaborative, the violent crime rate is roughly 30% higher in Kensington (328 violent crimes per 10,000 residents) than in Philadelphia overall (242 violent crimes per 10,000 people).

Philadelphia Police 12th District Officers outline bullet shell casings at a crime scene on the 5700 block of Elmwood Avenue in Southwest Philly on Monday, August 16, 2021. One man was killed and two others were injured.

Police remove crime scene tape following a homicide investigation on Walker Street, in the Wissinoming neighborhood of Northeast Philly on Wednesday, July 13, 2022. Daren Collins, 34, was shot and killed just after he had parked his car. “At least 17 shots were fired from a semi-automatic weapon,” Philadelphia Police Chief Inspector Scott Small said.

Police collect evidence markers near the 1200 block of North Hutchinson Street where three teenagers were shot Wednesday, August 19, 2020. All were listed in stable condition. Throughout the night, 11 people were wounded in shootings across Philly.

Laquan Hayes, 28, was shot multiple times outside the Frankford Transportation Center on Saturday May 22, 2021. He was rushed to Temple Hospital, but did not survive his injuries and was pronounced dead at the hospital. Police reported two people were killed and eight were injured in numerous shootings across the city Saturday night and early Sunday.

A 13-year-old boy and 16-year-old boy were shot at a basketball court on the 9100 block of Academy Road in Northeast Philly on Saturday, November 7, 2020. Later that night, a 17-year-old boy was shot on the 500 block of East Allegheny Avenue in Kensington. All three teenagers were listed in stable condition.

Two 23-year-old men were killed and a 3-year-old child was injured in a shooting in West Philly on Saturday, June 19, 2021. The shooting occurred just before 2:30 p.m. on the 1600 block of North 55th Street. At the scene, Ben Naish, deputy commissioner of the Philadelphia Police Department, said: “I think neighborhoods are becoming somewhat numb.”

Philadelphia Police crime scene investigators process a homicide scene at North 20th Street and Wyncote Avenue in West Oak Lane Thursday, January 14, 2021. Shortly after 8:30 p.m. police found a 28-year-old man who was fatally wounded. He was taken to Einstein Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead at 8:50 p.m.

A 22nd District Police Officer smokes a cigar as members of the Police Department’s Crime Scene Unit process a homicide scene at North Lambert and West Diamond streets in North Philadelphia in December 2021. A 36-year-old man was shot in his head and chest multiple times while sitting in his car. The victim was able to get out of the vehicle and walk about 50 feet to a friend’s house where he collapsed and died. Police do not have a description of the shooter or a motive for the homicide.

Rappers from West Philly film a rap video in summer 2020.

Members of the Philadelphia Crime Scene Unit collect evidence on the 1000 block of East Mount Airy Avenue on Saturday, October 17, 2020. At 9:30 p.m., police officers responded to the scene and found 20-year-old Yusef Nash suffering from multiple gunshot wounds to his chest. Nash was transported to Albert Einstein Medical Center, where he died that night. The case is currently unsolved.

Shanyiah Gaines-Miles, 10, died after she accidentally shot herself at home in Kingsessing, Southwest Philadelphia on July 1, 2021. “A piece of my heart is in heaven,” her mother, Chiesha Gaines said. Shanyiah’s uncle, Tyree Miles, was charged with involuntary manslaughter and related offenses. Miles, 28, who was not home at the time of the shooting, is accused of failing to secure his firearm, which he was not legally allowed to possess.

Friends and family of Jasmine Lewis celebrate her 21st birthday January 20, 2021. Jasmine was shot and killed inside her car Thursday, August 27, 2020 on the 6000 block of East Wister Street in Germantown, Philadelphia. Police told her family she was “caught in the crossfire.” Her murder is currently unsolved. 

Lewis played basketball for Lackawanna College in Scranton, Pa. when they went to the NCAA Division III Final Four tournament. “She was so hype to play basketball. She dreamed of playing in the WNBA,” her mother Karen Robinson said. Lewis was about to transfer to Queens College in New York. She would have started classes the week before she was killed.

“I can’t believe I will never physically see or talk to my Jasmine anymore. I just want to talk to her. I miss my child so much. Please, God, help me get justice.”

(Left to right) Alayah Cowan, Chyna Wooten and Shaylah Green, all of whom played basketball with Lewis, view her gravestone on her 22nd birthday.

James Watson, a 69-year-old grandfather, was inside the vestibule getting money from the ATM at Citizens Bank on the 5700 block of Germantown Avenue at 8:14 p.m. when he was approached by two suspects. One of the suspects pulled out a gun and opened fire, shooting the man once in the right abdomen and once in the chest, police said. Both suspects then fled the scene. Police arrested and charged 23-year-old Corey Thompson with Watson’s murder. “I just want to know why they did it. What was the purpose?” said Tymir Alston-Haywood, Watson’s great-grandson.

Children play along the 4200 block of East Cheltenham Avenue in the Wissinoming section of Philadelphia following a shooting investigation on Monday, July 11, 2022. Two men tried to rob another man before shooting him. The 47-year-old was listed in stable condition.

Two men were shot on the 3500 block of Emerald Street in Kensington, Philadelphia on Thursday, April 29, 2021. A 29-year-old man died after being shot multiple times in the head and chest. A 31-year-old man survived despite being shot in the chest.

Police investigate the fatal shooting of a 39-year-old man in Philadelphia’s West Oak Lane neighborhood Wednesday, September 9, 2020. At least 35 shots were fired and one of the bullets went into a nearby home where children were inside. No one inside of the house was injured. Police said two suspects drove away from the scene in a white vehicle.

A woman walks past a crime scene on the 3100 block of Kensington Avenue on Memorial Day weekend Saturday, May 28, 2022. A man was killed and a woman was injured. Twelve people were killed and 15 people were injured in Philly from early Saturday to Monday morning.

Members of the Philadelphia Crime Scene Unit work the fatal shooting of a 42-year- old black male on the 2500 block of Kensington Avenue on Monday, June 28, 2021.

Rasheed Holloway, 35, was shot multiple times inside a Honda Pilot on the 3400 block of North Marshall Street on Friday, October 16, 2020. Police transported Holloway to Temple University Hospital where he died that night. His murder is currently unsolved.

Damon Smith, 45, of Cottage Street, was shot and killed Saturday, July 30, 2022 in the city’s Point Breeze neighborhood. The shooting happened around 5:25 p.m. on the 2000 block of Dickinson Street. Police said Smith was shot five times. He was rushed to Penn Presbyterian Medical Center where he later died. A suspect was arrested on August 4, 2022 in reference to the murder.

A 20-year-old man was shot to death on the 1600 block of West Erie Avenue on Wednesday, May 25, 2022. He was pronounced dead at the scene. At least four people, including a teenager, were killed and seven others injured in several shootings in Philadelphia on that day.

Michael “Smokey” Wilson was convicted of murder at age 17 in 1971.

On Oct. 10, 1970, after he and a friend got drunk and high at a party in their neighborhood in Francesville, North Philadelphia, they went looking for members of a rival gang to get revenge on the killings of three members of their gang, the Moroccos. Wilson fired his gun into a crowd, and ran in the opposite direction. Gregory Davis, 15, was killed. “I was an angry kid, I was always rebellious,” Wilson said. From the ages of 6 to 15 years old he lived in 11 different foster homes.

In 2012, following a U.S Supreme Court ruling that declared life sentences for juvenile offenders unconstitutional, Wilson was released from prison. He now works in North Philly and gives back to the community in which he was raised. He works with Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf and Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner. “I want to save these young people, they have to know that they can make it. Has not the time come to listen to our children’s voices and hear their cry for help?” 

Tyree Little spent 21 years in prison for murdering a man.

In December 1999, Little and his friend “Nigel” searched for Walter Bryant because Nigel and Bryant’s friend were involved in a dispute over a girl. Little and Bryant got into an argument where Bryant told him, “If you have a gun, you’d better use it.” Little said Bryant reached into his hoodie pocket, and Little believed he was reaching for a gun. Little fired eight shots, hitting Bryant at least six times, including several times in the back, killing Bryant. Little claimed self defense, but there was insufficient evidence. In 2001, Little was convicted of third-degree murder.

“Because I committed a violent act, does not make me a violent person,” Little said. Upon his release from prison, Little became involved in gun violence outreach. He said he has had no contact with Bryant’s family since the trial, but has visited support groups for other families whose children have been killed. “It’s sad out here. Generations repeating themselves. A lot of kids ain’t got their fathers. And their mothers — they’re young — they don’t know how to raise a child. They got no real leadership. You can’t save everybody, but if I talk to 10 guys, but I only reach one, I feel like I semi-accomplished a mission. It’s not a good ratio, but I got something.”

Tyree Little died of a heart attack in December 2022. “The prison and streets are mourning him,” his friend Terry Starks said.

Shawn Grant, 16, was fatally shot on the 2800 block of West Diamond Street in Strawberry Mansion, North Philadelphia around 11:30 p.m Monday, July 11, 2022. He was declared dead at Temple University Hospital 15 minutes later. Police recovered 72 shell cases from two different guns. Authorities have not solved his murder. Four people were killed in Philly between late Monday and early Tuesday.

A 25th District Police Officer holds a crime scene inside a house on the 200 block of West Wingohocking Street in Feltonville, North Philadelphia on Wednesday, December 16, 2020. Police found a 32-year-old man with nine gunshot wounds and a 26-year-old woman who had been shot in the left wrist and thigh. The man died a short time later, and the female victim was in critical condition at Temple University Hospital, authorities said. Despite the snow and sleet, three people were killed in shootings between Wednesday afternoon and Thursday morning.

Gun shell casings were marked at the scene of a fatal shooting in West Philly on Monday, August 17, 2020. A 27-year-old man was shot multiple times on the 600 block of S. 52nd Street. According to police, the shooting took place at around 8:45 p.m. and the victim was pronounced dead at 9:12 p.m. Numerous people were outside when the shooting occurred, but no arrests have been made.

Police tape blocks off a crime scene on the 200 block of West Mentor Street on Wednesday, August 19, 2020, where Israel Martinez, a 34-year-old Hispanic male, was shot and killed. His murder is currently unsolved.