Ralph Moralis was supposed to walk his daughter down the aisle this weekend.
Instead, less than a week before one of the most important days of his life, he was shot dead by a gunman who started firing randomly at vehicles and nearby pedestrians in southwest Philadelphia Monday night.
Five people were killed, including 59-year-old Moralis, and two young boys were wounded, authorities said.
“Ralph was a good dude, not just because he was family. Anybody that knew him knew he was good,” Tyrique Glasgow, Moralis’s cousin, said. “He taught me to do the right thing while growing up.”
Glasgow was shopping with his daughter Monday when he unknowingly drove by the area where the violence had just unfolded. He saw a crowd of police officers with their guns drawn, but said he didn’t think much of it because “gun violence is unfortunately an occurrence here.”
It wasn’t until he returned home and turned on the news, that he found out his cousin was among those killed.
“It broke my spirit,” he said.
The tragedy hit close to home for Glasgow for two reasons: Not only did he lose a beloved family member, but it was also a glaring reminder of the persistent gun violence in South Philadelphia that he’s worked for years to advocate against.
Glasgow, who got sucked into street life as a teen before turning his life around, has been shot more than 10 times in his life, CNN has previously reported. More than a decade ago, he started the Young Chances Foundation to help give young people in the area a chance for a better life and later opened a community center to support his neighborhood. (Glasgow was also honored as a CNN Hero in 2022.)
“There are no words for these feelings,” Glasgow said.
Monday’s attack was one of at least 356 mass shootings that have devastated US communities so far this year, according to the Gun Violence Archive.
Lashyd Merritt left his Philadelphia home Monday night for what was supposed to be a quick run to the corner store to get a snack, his mother told CNN affiliate WPVI.
He never came back.
“For a person who’s not out here in these streets, just going to get a snack – it breaks my heart,” Marie Merritt said.
Lashyd Merritt was the youngest of five siblings and loved his family, his girlfriend, and his job, his mother said.
“All the stuff that goes on in Philadelphia, he wasn’t a part of that. The violence, he wasn’t part of that,” she said. “He was my prize.”
In the days since her son’s killing, the heartbroken mother told WPVI there are thoughts that haunt her daily.
“I feel him saying, ‘Why me? Why me? Why me?’ I lied in the bed and I saw his face and he said, ‘Mom, what happened? What about my girl? What about you? Mom, what happened?’”
As for the suspect, she said she wants him to “rot in jail.”
“You took my son. You took my baby,” Marie said, in a message to the gunman.
The two sisters of 31-year-old victim Joseph Wamah Jr. recalled their brother’s smile, hugs, his great sense of humor and his artistic talent in a Wednesday news conference.
Wamah’s body was found in a home early Tuesday, while the others were found Monday night, authorities have said.
“I just honestly still can’t believe that he’s gone,” his twin sister, Josephine Wamah, said. “I’m going to miss him a lot. He taught my a lot about myself. He was like a second father to me.”
“I really love him,” she continued. “I’m going to find his artwork and just share it to the world for him, on his behalf.”
Her brother also held a psychology degree from Chestnut Hill College, his twin said, adding, “He was amazing.”
She recalled Wamah’s “great sense of humor,” and said she still hopes she will wake up to him telling her the past few days were just a prank.
Instead, the two sisters are left hurt and deeply angry that their brother’s life was stolen.
“I have nothing but anger,” his other sister, Jasmine Wamah, told reporters at the news conference.
DaJuan Brown, 15, made it to safety on the night of the shooting – but went back to help a friend who had been shot when he was also fired upon and killed, Glasgow told CNN.
Glasgow said he knew Brown ever since the teen was young and he had “watched him grow up,” adding Brown’s family lived down the street from his own home. Brown had also participated in Glasgow’s Young Chances Foundation, he said.
On Monday night, Brown “went back to help his 13-year-old friend” who had been wounded, Glasgow told CNN. “The friend survived but Little Juan was gone.”
Glasgow said he spent Tuesday with Brown’s family to grieve and said the boy’s mother is broken after losing her child.
Authorities previously spelled Brown’s first name as Daujan, but later confirmed to CNN the correct spelling is DaJuan.
Authorities have identified the fifth victim in Monday’s attack as 29-year-old Dymir Stanton.
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