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July 15, 2022

SEPTA rider fatally shot three young men after they got off buses, police say

The public transit system has been beleaguered by violence and safety concerns since the COVID-19 pandemic

Investigations Shootings
SEPTA Shootings Crime Thom Carroll/for PhillyVoice

Philadephia police charged Derrick Jones, 22, with murder for allegedly shooting to death Zamir Syrus, Justin Robert Smith and Tyheim Tucker after they departed SEPTA buses earlier this summer.

A man wanted for allegedly shooting three young men to death shortly after they exited SEPTA buses earlier this summer was arrested during a police raid in West Oak Lane Thursday, authorities said.

On at least two occasions, Derrick Jones, 22, targeted random SEPTA riders, followed them off buses and attacked them, Philadelphia Police Captain Jason Smith said during a media briefing Friday. He has been charged with three counts of first-degree murder for allegedly killing Zamir Syrus, Justin Robert Smith and Tyheim Tucker.

Police said there may be more victims, 6ABC reported. An investigation into his connection to isolated shootings is ongoing.

Jones allegedly shot and killed Syrus, 20, around 10:30 p.m. on June 28 on the 6400 block of North Broad Street. Syrus was struck multiple times in his torso, police said. 

Then, on July 7, Jones allegedly fatally shot Smith, 20, and Tucker, 21, at the intersection of 68th and Ogontz avenues. Jones fired at least 12 shots at them from near proximity, police said. Smith and Tucker were friends who lived on the same block. 

In both shootings, Jones stalked his victims after they got on the bus, police said, citing surveillance footage. He then allegedly departed the bus one stop after they exited.  

These incidents are among the latest violent attacks tied to the city's public transit system. Since 2019, violent attacks and robberies have increased by 80%. SEPTA Police Chief Thomas Nestel III abruptly resigned last week amid the uptick in crime. 

On Thursday, a man was shot multiple times on the subway platform of 15th Street Station in Center city just before 12:30 p.m. Afterward, State Rep. Amen Brown called for increased security measures on all buses, trolleys and trains.

Brown said he has continuously campaigned for an increase in uniformed police presence around areas with SEPTA services and for the introduction of an anti-crime unit.

In April, a suspect fired a gun outside of a bus station at Broad Street and Allegheny Avenue after an argument with another bus rider turned violent. 

Last year, eight people were shot one February afternoon near the Olney Transportation in North Philadelphia. During the summer, a shooting on a Night Owl bus in Center City left one man injured and prompted 15 passengers to flee for safety.

In October, a woman was sexually assaulted on the Market-Frankford Line; a month later, a Central High School student was beaten in a racially-motivated attack on the Broad Street Line. And in December, a 14-year-old boy was shot 20 times in broad daylight while waiting for a bus in North Philadelphia in December. 

In response to public concerns, City Council held a series of hearings to address safety on SEPTA. 

"We have had just such serious issues from mass shootings, drive-by shootings, while people are just waiting to get the bus, get on the train," Councilmember David Oh said in October. "Just recently, the terrible rape of a passenger, just shocking. It is beyond comprehension."  

In April, Oh introduced legislation that would withhold $10 million from SEPTA unless the transit authority agreed to hire more officers and bump pay. In June, he reversed course as SEPTA officers received the largest salary increase in over two decades.