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May 17, 2024

West Philly man charged in 2018 shooting death of 17-year-old girl

Devin Bryant is in custody for allegedly killing Sandrea Williams. Police are still searching for another suspect, Salik White.

Investigations Homicides
Sandrea Williams District Attorney Thom Carroll/For PhillyVoice

Sandrea Williams was 17 when she was fatally shot in West Philly on May, 11, 2018. District Attorney Larry Krasner, shown above in a file photo, identified two people accused of killing her. One is in custody; the other remains at large.

Six years after 17-year-old Sandrea Williams was fatally shot in West Philadelphia, a 26-year-old man has been charged in her death, and police are searching for another man wanted for his alleged involvement.

Williams was one of three teenagers shot on the 300 block of North Simpson Street in Haddington on May 11, 2018. Investigators said she was an innocent bystander when Devin Bryant and Salik White – her accused killers – showed up on the block to target members of a rival group.

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The shooting was part of an ongoing conflict between a group from 61st and Jefferson streets, and another from 60th to 64th streets. Williams' death escalated a feud that left at least 28 people dead within a two-year stretch, prosecutors said. In 2020, 7-year-old Zamar Jones was fatally shot on his porch after he caught in crossfire about a block away from where Williams was killed, prosecutors said. 

"Miss Williams had nothing to do with these groups, which is what makes this so unfortunate," Assistant District Attorney Jeffrey Palmer said during a press conference Friday. 

Bryant, 26, surrendered to police earlier this week and has been charged with first-degree murder and related offenses. He is being held without bail. White, 26, remains on the loose. He is expected to face similar charges. 

Bryant previously was named as a co-conspirator in a string of shootings allegedly involving his brother, Dashawn Packer, but was found not guilty, Palmer said. Packer is in prison.

Williams came to Philadelphia from Jamaica at age 5 and spent time living in Haddington and Mt. Airy. Naisha Rhoden, her aunt, said Williams wanted to join the military to help take care of her grandmother during her retirement. Rhoden said her family has held a memorial every year for Williams. 

"When (my sister) called me, it was like the night that Sandrea died," Rhoden said. "That same tone, that same scream, it was a sigh of relief at this point." 

Investigators said they continuously worked the case over the years, slowly gathering ballistic evidence, cell phone data and other evidence. There was no major breakthrough that led to the charges, Palmer said. Rather, he said it was a "very piecemeal, painstaking, non-stop investigation for six years." 

"We need to remember that every cold case is a hot case," District Attorney Larry Krasner said. "Every cold case is a case that can be solved. Sometimes it will be with the forensics that we're hoping to see and sometimes it will just be with a whole lot of people who care doing a lot of hard work for a long time."