Police are investigating attacks on residents and one employee of a drug and alcohol recovery center for trans and gender-variant individuals. Morris Home residents, one employee and several individuals unrelated to the home reported attacks involving firecrackers, an M-80 and paintball guns this month.
On July 4, a Morris Home employee was waiting for a trolley across the street from the facility when a group of juveniles started throwing firecrackers, Lt. John Walker told PGN. Police were unable to identify the juveniles as of presstime.
In a separate attack around 4 p.m. July 6, four transgender residents of Morris Home reported seeing a gray Infiniti drive around 50th Street and Woodland Avenue. People within the car fired paintballs at the residents, who initially believed they were being attacked by real gunfire, while they were sitting on the porch. Three people were hit with paint while the fourth person went into the house unharmed. The victims reported seeing two separate individuals being shot at as well. They also later told police some juveniles threw an M-80 on the porch the previous day.
This attack occurred about a half-hour after a couple reported being shot by paintballs by people within a car matching the same description on 42nd Street and Baltimore Avenue. In that instance, one woman was hit, but her boyfriend was not. The boyfriend told police that he saw people within the car laughing as they shot at two other individuals.
The two additional people in both July 6 attacks did not report the situation to the police and Walker said he is urging them to come forward so detectives can get a more accurate description of the car and suspects.
“We don’t see anything prior to these dates of [July 4th] but this may be the start of it so we want to nip it in the bud at this point and get the resources to help everybody so they can live freely, live the way they want to live and not be harassed by the people who are ignorant, rude and lack understanding,” Walker said.
Walker added that these incidents are not currently being looked into as hate crimes and believes the three attacks involving Morris Home residents and an employee are unrelated to each other. However, he said police are conducting in-depth interviews with the residents to see if there have been any issues with other attacks.
Additionally, police are working with the Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations to ensure Morris Home residents feel comfortable reporting any harassment or violence to police, Walker said.
“We want to open up those lines of communication to make sure we don’t have a problem there at this point,” Walker said.
City Director of LGBT Affairs Amber Hikes told PGN in an email that her office is working closely with the Philadelphia Police Department and residents of Morris Home “to investigate these incidents and increase the safety and security of our community members.”
“The history of the attacks on the residents of Morris Home are harrowing reminders that transphobia and hatred are alive in our city and threaten the safety and well-being of the most vulnerable among us,” Hikes said.
Hikes declined to go into details about further history involving attacks. Morris Home Director Laura Sorensen did not respond to a request for comment.