Taking on the City’s Gun Crisis

by longformphilly


Tara Murtha | Philadelphia Weekly | April 2012

Midnight comes and goes. For the first time in 11 nights, the city of Philadelphia has gone a full day and night without a homicide.

The relief doesn’t last long. Just before 1 a.m., the scanner resting in photojournalist Joe “Kaz” Kaczmarek’s lap crackles to life: report of shots fired at 40th Street and Girard Avenue.

Kaz has been driving around the city with journalist and fellow crime-scene vet Jim MacMillan for hours when the call comes in. They’re a few miles away. Kaz turns around and floors it. “Right now the heartbeat is going,” he says. MacMillan co-pilots, calling out when it’s clear to turn.

The car barrels west on Girard toward a bright blur of blue and red flashing lights. When they get within a few feet of the scene, Kaz slams on the brake and holds the wheel with his left hand while he grabs for his camera with the right. The camera clicks in rapid rat-a-tats as cops heave a bleeding man into the back seat of a police cruiser. A woman is heard yelling, “Where the fuck are you taking him?” over and over as the cruiser lurches backward, skids out and speeds east down Girard, siren screaming.

“I feel sick,” MacMillan says.

Writer bio: Tara Murtha wrote for Philadelphia Weekly for five years from 2008 to 2013.

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